More than 1 in 2 Australians have lost some trust in Aussie-based charities

A survey has revealed the charity sector may need to further strengthen its communication with the public to regain trust in how donations are distributed, following the 2019-20 Australian bushfires. The bushfires saw an outpouring of charitable donations totalling over $640 million, but their slower-than-expected distribution saw widespread criticism.

The survey reveals that 59% of Aussies still lack some trust in Australian-based charities and 58% would be more willing to donate to overseas causes in the future. The findings were derived from a survey of an independent panel of 1000 Australians, commissioned by money transfer comparison platform Send Money Australia. The full results can be found here.

Why have Aussies lost trust in local charities?

The devastating 2019-20 bushfires killed 33 people, killed or displaced nearly three billion animals, destroyed more than 3000 homes, ravaged 17 million hectares of land, and severely limited the peak tourism season on which the Australian economy heavily relies.

Due to the catastrophic destruction and record-breaking number of donations, there was increased demand and scrutiny from the Australian public and donors who expected their money would be allocated swiftly to people in crisis. In fact, the Fundraising Institute of Australia found that 88% of donors expected funds to be used within a few months.

The community frustration at the time prompted a governmental inquiry into the handling of donations, with its review reporting a “significant gap between public expectation of how bushfire donations should be spent and how rapidly the money could be distributed.”

From the survey, Send Money Australia found that more older Australians had lost some trust in Australian-based charities in the last two years: with results showing that 62% of over-55s had lost trust, followed by 56% of 35-54-year-olds and 58% of under-35s.

Despite NSW accounting for 81% of the $2.32 billion in national insurance claims due to the bushfires, Queensland is the State that has most lost faith in Aussie charities (68%), followed by 61% of Victorians, 56% of NSW and WA residents, and 50% of South Australians.

What causes most appeal to Aussies?

Send Money Australia also sought to discover whether some of the faith lost in Australian-based charities would motivate Aussies to donate their money to overseas charities in the future and found that 58% of Australians would. Respondents were asked to specify the causes they would donate to and were presented with a list of seven options.

  • Hunger and malnutrition
  • Infectious diseases
  • Refugees and those impacted by war
  • Human trafficking
  • Sustainability and environmental causes
  • Clean water and sanitisation
  • Other causes

More than a quarter (29%) would donate to charities that fight hunger and malnutrition overseas, 27% would donate to refugees and those impacted by war, 25% to improved water conditions and sanitisation, 23% to sustainability and environmental causes, an equal 21% to fight human trafficking and infectious diseases, and 6% to other causes not listed.

Under-35s are significantly more likely to transfer money to overseas charities (75%) compared with older age groups: only 40% of 35-54-year-olds and 55% of over-55s. Despite their typically lower income, younger generations may be more tech-savvy and may be more comfortable making online payments overseas, including money transfer platforms.

Send Money Australia compared responses across the major States. It found Victorians are most likely to shift donations to overseas causes in future: 61% chose this cause, compared with an equal 58% of NSW and West Australian residents, 56% of Queenslanders and 54% of South Australians. The full results, with age and State breakdowns, can be found here.