Giving across the nation has started to recover after the twin impacts of the bushfires and the first stage of the COVID-19 pandemic the annual JBWere NAB Charitable Giving Index reveals, but there were signs that the recovery plateaued with the reintroduction of last year’s lockdowns.
Nonetheless, the Index report observes that the lockdowns are expected to be only a small impediment to a fuller recovery.
“Consistent with past major falls in giving during recessions or the global financial crisis, recovery tends to be fast,’’ the report said. “While donor numbers also recovered, they were more affected by the reintroduction of lockdowns in mid-2021.’’
There was a decline in giving between 2019/20 and 2020/21, which measured against past trends amounted to a fundraising income loss of almost $1 billion a year. But there was a shift, which the report describes as “…a significant recovery’’ around December 2020.
Senior Consultant in Philanthropic Services at JBWere and Philanthropy Australia board member, John McLeod, said the timing of that recovery suggested that donors and charities had reached an understanding of what their new pandemic models of giving would look like.
“Donors had nothing in front of them to consider, and charities didn’t have any events, for example, so it took time to work out how best to proceed,’’ he said. “By December 2020, that was a bit clearer.’’
The Charitable Giving Index also provides other insights into how the pandemic has impacted giving around the country: not surprisingly, health, and particularly mental health, emerged as cause areas that were well supported during the pandemic.
Mr McLeod said health was the only sector that recorded an increase in value and in the number of donors. The strongest gains within the health sector were in mental health, reflecting the broader awareness of mental health issues during the pandemic.
There were also good recoveries recorded in giving to culture and the arts, the environment and religion.
The report also found the gap in charitable support between metropolitan and regional giving had narrowed. The report speculated that regional Australia was less effected by lockdowns and was therefore able to continue to hold face-to-face events, but that it was too soon to tell if the city-exodus for a Sea Change and Tree Change lifestyle helped boost regional giving.
What is clear from the report is charities’ growing reliance on government funding, which will inevitably increase significantly once the data from the pandemic support payments is compiled in future reports.
Mr McLeod said government support for the sector has been growing since 2014 and reflected how much government outsourced what it once did to charities. But the margins for charities were small. He said charities faced the continuing challenge of being “…reimbursed, rather than rewarded.’’
“They don’t get paid the real value of what they contribute to society or for the impact they have,’’ he said.
There is anecdotal evidence, however, that some charities have received solid non-government support during the pandemic – their donor numbers have decreased but the value of donations has gone up. And the 2021 GivingLarge report showed Australian corporate philanthropy continued to grow, with a record $1.6 billion donated last year.
While there is still some uncertainty, The Charitable Giving Index forecasts that on the basis of the identified recovery, the fundraising totals this year should reach the previous high of 2019.