Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why the 'flood levy' shouldn't harm good fundraising

It’s been a horrible start to the year for Australia, in particular the state of Queensland. We’ve been hit with some of the worst floods in our history and one of the more brutal cyclones; all while other parts of the country suffer through bushfires and heat waves.

With the impact of the floods likely to be in the billions of dollars, the federal government has introduced a 12 month flood levy, which increases personal income tax (by around 0.75%) for a year, for those earning more than $50,000. The levy is designed to help rebuild Queensland’s infrastructure ruined by the floods.

In the aftermath of the announcement, my friend Cam asked me what I thought, and whether I expected charitable support to be impacted by the levy? Did I believe that by the government ‘forcing’ people’s hands to support would be to the detriment of Aussie charities?

I really don’t think so. For two reasons:

People tend to give above and beyond what they normally would in emergency situations

Last year we had a Canadian client due to lodge an appeal the day after the Haiti earthquake. My client rang me in a panic wondering whether in fact we should post the appeal, or delay it.

My response was a categorical yes. The Haiti situation was horrendous, beyond belief. But the kids we were appealing on behalf of needed help. Their situation hadn’t changed one bit. It couldn’t wait.

So the pack went out, net income increased 25% from the previous year’s appeal. It was a strong appeal. No doubt some of those donors also reached into their pockets to support organizations working in Haiti. But they didn’t forget the kids that also needed help locally in Canada.

I believe the same will ring true after the floods. But a word of warning the next time this happens (and it will happen, disasters are occurring more frequently). Don’t offer an excuse as to why donors shouldn’t or don’t need to respond. Good appeals for support are about clarity and need, not easy ‘get outs’. So avoid wording that mentions conditional support, like “I know you’re probably helping in the aftermath of X, but we also need your help”. That provides an excuse to switch off.

We saw a similar situation as part of the economic meltdown a couple of years back. All of the direct response testing I saw showed what we intuitively thought. Mentioning the recession suppressed response.

People give when they see that something needs support, not when they’re presented a raft of excuses why they shouldn’t.

This was about infrastructure, not people

The flood levy is about rebuilding a state’s resources. Roads, buildings, technology. Decimated by a natural disaster.

Whilst that indirectly helps individuals, the levy isn’t about handouts to those affected.

Hence why I believe it won’t affect charitable support, assuming of course it’s backed up with damn good fundraising.

My advice to those fundraising post emergencies is to continue doing what you were planning on doing. Good results follow good practice.

And that’s what I told my mate Cam.



Tara Lepp said...

Hi Jonathon, I agree with you completely. We should never provide our donors with reasons why they shouldn't give, some of them can create their reasons themselves. If we present a real need and case for support, they will continue to give.

Jonathon Grapsas said...

Thanks, as always Tara, for your comments.

It's easy to provide excuses, but it waters down/dilutes what we're asking for.