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Northern NSW Floods…

Key tips for getting money to those that need it!

Over the last few weeks, Southern Queensland and Northern NSW have been devastated by 1 in 500 year event floods. Lives have been lost, homes deemed inhabitable and properties damaged. 

In events like this, it is those most vulnerable that bear the brunt of the impact and find it hardest to bounce back. For example, homes that at most risk from natural disasters have excessively high insurance premiums (or are in some instances are uninsurable). Owing to this fact, these houses are generally low-cost, and can be attractive to those on low incomes. When a natural disaster hits, owners are left with nothing: no house, insurance payout or backup plan. It can take decades to recover their losses. 

Giving in times of emergencies is complex. There are vulnerable people that really need assistance, there are those that want assistance and those that will exploit the disaster for their own benefit. There are assistance programs that genuinely lift people out of crisis and there are programs that don’t work and instead create long-term dependencies. Our job is to help you get money to those that really need it, and make sure that assistance is given in a way that provides opportunities for genuine recovery.

Here we outline some tips on getting money to high-quality organisations that get help to those that need it. 

What not to do

1. Don’t get caught up in celebrity fundraising campaigns. It is incredible how much money a celebrity ambassador or social media star can bring to a cause. However, we often see these fundraising campaigns fail dramatically. Why? Rarely do these celebrities do the due diligence to know how funds will be used, or know what is even possible. Time and time again we see money getting stuck due to legal or logistical issues. For example, the distribution of funds in Celeste Barber’s bushfire campaign was halted until lawyers worked out in court how the money could actually be used. Instagram influencer “Quentin Quarantino” raised over $7.2 million to help people flee Afghanistan, but despite great plans, couldn’t work out how to actually evacuate people.

2. Don’t always trust the journalists. Credible news outlets will often present a list of charities that are worth supporting during emergencies. Don’t assume that the journalist has undertaken due diligence on these charities. We have seen extremely low quality charities on these lists: some with no transparency on how funds are used, some that end up being investigated by the regulator for poor practices and some not even registered charities. 

3. Don’t blindly support a crowdfunding campaign: There are a range of crowdfunding platforms that make it easy for everyday people to raise funds to help them get through tough times. Sometimes it can be really nice to feel like your money is going to a real person in crisis. However, these personal campaigns are easy to forge. Those in real need (like the elderly and disabled) typically don’t have the skills, resources or capacity to set up a fundraising campaign. Added to that, some crowdfunding platforms have been known to hold out payment to those running the campaign for legal or politically motivated reasons, as with the Hillcrest Jumping Castle and the Canadian Truckers. These issues are not universal on all platforms so make sure you check the platform’s policy before blindly handing over your cash.

What to do

Don’t despair, there are plenty of well-established ways to get your money to those in need. These methods are tried and tested. Although they may not have the hype or excitement of the latest crowdfunding campaign, they will help you have confidence in knowing your donation is making a difference.

1. Give to high-quality national charities. There are a handful of big-branded national charities that are experts in emergencies and in getting assistance to those in need. How do you know which one to choose? Look for the following:

    • A dedicated fund. Make sure that funds for the natural disaster are directed towards a specific disaster-relief fund and are not redirected to other programs.
    • Clear lines of accountability. Who is in charge of the charity? What are their skills, background and experience?
    • A track record of transparency. Are they transparent about how much was raised in previous disasters (like the bushfires)? Can they show how that money was spent?
    • Dedication to evaluation and improvement. Does the charity show how they are improving the outcomes of their disaster assistance program?

2. Find local community groups. Usually, in every community there are a handful of active community groups that take initiative to help out during emergencies. Sometimes they are schools, sporting clubs or rotary clubs. Those that are active are different in each community. The best way to find these groups is by trolling the local community’s Facebook page (like a buy-swap-sell or noticeboard page) and asking the question “which groups are active in supporting those in need right now?”. This isn’t particularly scientific, but these local community group pages are a hive of information for what is happening on the ground. You can verify responses and the integrity of the local community group by checking their charitable status on the ACNC


Giving in times of natural disasters is emotional. It’s really easy to get caught up in the latest fundraising campaign that tugs at your heart strings. However, time and time again we see these emotionally provocative campaigns fail to deliver. The best way to get money to those in need is by finding credible institutions with a track record of delivery. If you need help with finding a high quality charity, contact Seedling today. 


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