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6 min read

Funding Australia’s bushfire response: Update

Profile of Louise Kuramoto
Written by Louise KuramotoPosted on 4/2/2020

Little under a month ago, we shared a list of organisations and projects in need of support as they carry out much-needed relief and recovery activities in and around our bushfire-affected communities.

The fires in Australia that began in October, hit their peak in January and continue today are devastating in so many ways; from the loss of lives, livelihoods and homes, to mass landscape destruction and species extinction, we are truly a country on its knees. It’s times like these that remind me just how special the ACF community is and how privileged I am to work for an organisation that gives me, and so many others, hope for the future. In times like these we rally, and we do so with deep thought, compassion and generosity. I wanted to send a heartfelt message of gratitude to you all for the contribution you make in building this special community.

Twenty-one sub-funds have contributed almost $710,000 towards 22 organisations supporting the bushfire response. These organisations are doing critical work across emergency relief, environmental conservation, fire services, mental health and wellbeing, recovery and resilience, systems change, and wildlife welfare and conservation. And we know that this figure is much larger due to the many donors who also chose to give independently of their ACF fund.

Giving in a time of a disaster is so often driven by emotion either during the disaster or in the immediate aftermath and the rise of social media in collecting donations at this time has transformed the fundraising landscape as ACF’s Philanthropy and Engagement Manager, Georgia Mathews, recently told Pro Bono News. This evolution of interconnectedness and grassroots fundraising is positive overall, however, it can be fraught with unexpected issues resulting from a lack of understanding of the community sector and tax law.

This evolution of interconnectedness and grassroots fundraising is positive overall, however, it can be fraught with unexpected issues resulting from a lack of understanding of the community sector and tax law.

There are some golden rules to funding in a disaster context, below are a few for thought.

DISASTER RECOVERY IS A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT

The toughest times for these communities will be 18 months to two years after the disaster when the media attention has long gone. This is the time when communities will need critical support to focus on rebuilding their homes, businesses and community resilience. When considering your funding options, it is wise to pause and think about the longer term. The Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal has developed a Disaster Resilience and Recovery Fund for this purpose: to ensure funds are available to support the needs of communities that typically emerge 12-18 months after a disaster event.

A COMPLEX SITUATION INVOLVING MANY STAKEHOLDERS

Supporting these communities well takes time and a high level of expertise, it is unreasonable to expect these organisations to invest their staff and resources to work in these situations without taking any overheads to fund the operation, up to 10% of funding spent on administration in a disaster situation is entirely reasonable and required. Whilst every effort should be made to get funding into the hands of people who need it as quickly as possible, it is also unreasonable to expect funding to be distributed immediately. To ensure funding gets to where it’s needed most, there is minimal double-handling and the process is fair for all, organisations need to assess the need and set up robust systems and processes, these activities take time and should not be rushed.

However you choose to distribute your support, please ensure the organisation has the capacity to administer the funds and has a proven track record in supporting communities in this way.

A VARIETY OF TYPES OF ORGANISATIONS ARE REQUIRED TO SUPPORT THE NEEDS OF THESE COMMUNITIES

We need large national organisations with the infrastructure, processes and systems to respond at scale, as well as small, nimble organisations that can fill the cracks and respond in an agile way to individual needs. However you choose to distribute your support, please ensure the organisation has the capacity to administer the funds and has a proven track record in supporting communities in this way.

CASH OVER GOODS

As well intentioned as material donations are, they can often hinder rather than help the recovery effort, particularly immediately after the disaster. Material donations require transportation into the disaster zone, often congesting roads that emergency vehicles or residents are using. They require warehouses to store the goods and army loads of volunteers to sort through and distribute the goods to people in need.

COLLABORATION IS KEY

Federal and state Government funding will continue to flow throughout the coming months with further announcements to be made. Philanthropy, the community sector and Government are in conversation about how we best work together to achieve the most with the collective resources we have.

WHAT AREAS ARE OUR COMMUNITY FUNDING?