Aussies open alms for charitable giving, reveal priorities

Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

Charities may be feeling more optimistic this year, with recent data from NAB’s Charitable Giving Index suggesting a reversal of fortunes after philanthropic donations dropped in both 2020 and 2021 by almost $1 billion each year. 

The findings come by way of NAB-owned wealth management service JBWere, and are derived from NAB’s electronic funds transfer data. It indicates the recovery began in December 2020, the trajectory of which is estimated to continue surging to pre-pandemic levels in the 2021/22 financial year. 

Previously, the charity sector saw an increase in total donations of 60%, or $4.2 billion, between 2014 and 2019, with strong support from Australians after the bushfires of 2019/20.

John McLeod, co-founder of JBWere’s Philanthropic Services, said the drop in donations stemmed from pandemic-related hurdles.

“Our previous report highlighted an unprecedented fall in giving after the 2019/20 bushfire support, caused mainly by COVID and the inability to hold fundraising events,” McLeod said. 

“It’s fantastic to see that giving is back on the rise with the recovery seen throughout 2021 expected to continue through the new year.” 

Animal protection organisations have seen relatively consistent donations off the back of bushfire support, but the health sector came out on top. It saw an increase in total donations and bequests of 51% and a total income increase of 34%, according to the index, with mental health organisations receiving the strongest support. 

“Apart from a small dip at the outset of COVID, health was the only sector to see new highs in giving post COVID in both value and number of donors,” McLeod said.

The data also indicates a trend of recovery for the culture and arts, environment and religious sectors. Environmental charities too saw an increase in support in 2020, with a small fall during the pandemic. JBWere suggests the start of the recovery was boosted by a focus on the COP26 summit in 2021.

Data released by the Australia Institute in the 2020 Climate of the Nation report, reveals eight in ten Australians are concerned climate change will result in more bushfires. It found 59% of Australians would prefer to invest in renewable energy to boost economic recovery, over the 12% who prefer gas.

If you’re a part of the growing majority of Australians looking to renewables for the future, then read on. We’ve found some ways in which you can use your money more ethically, including choosing super funds which invest in renewables, and changes to your everyday banking and spending habits.

How to use your money ethically 

As they say, you vote with your dollar. How you spend your money has a very real effect on the kinds of decisions big businesses and corporations make. The same can be said for banks. That’s why, in our current climate, ethical banking is something you should be considering. 

Here are some ways in which you can make your priorities clear and align your ethics with your financial decisions:

  • Ethical banking and savings accounts. Opting to go with an ethical banking provider that chooses not to invest in fossil fuels for your everyday banking and savings accounts is a great place to start. Saving money while staying ethical not only helps you on your own path to a financially stable future, but it could pave the way for an environmentally sound future for everyone. 
  • Renewable and carbon neutral utilities. The government provides a GreenPower Program, which helps electricity providers find accredited Australian renewable energy generators on your behalf. All you have to do is ask them to purchase electricity from sources like wind, solar, water and bioenergy, rather than harmful status quo sources. At the moment, you’ll be paying a higher premium due to low demand, but that’s all the more reason to get everyone you know onto options like this. A carbon neutral plan will help offset your carbon footprint and will likely be cheaper than a renewable energy plan, with most providers letting you opt-in free of charge. 
  • Sustainable super funds. While pretty much every working Australian has a super fund, not everyone knows exactly where their money is going. Ethical super funds generally focus on investing your money into areas with positive social impact, like renewables, and divest away from things like tobacco, fossil fuels, and firearms. 
  • Claiming tax deductible donations. Using your money ethically doesn’t only come down to environmental considerations. Many charitable donations are eligible for a tax deduction if they’re over $2. They’re known as deductible gift receipts (DGRs), and you can find out which organisations are eligible through the Australian Business Register.
  • Don’t trash it, treasure it. From donating and purchasing second-hand clothes, to re-using boxes and shopping bags, reducing the amount of waste you ship off to landfill can save you money in the long run. And as you’d hope, increasing your involvement in the circular economy benefits everyone.