Can collective giving change the way Australians contribute to charity? - ABC Radio

By Nick Grimm

The Funding Network event in Sydney


The way that Australians give to charity is changing, with the days of rattling tins on street corners becoming a thing of the past.

About eight in 10 Australians gave a total of $12.5 billion to charity in 2015, down from a decade ago, according to new research.

It means charities and community organisations are having to come up with more creative ways to raise much-needed funds.

Associate Professor Wendy Scaife from the Queensland University of Technology studied the nation's giving habits for research commissioned by the Australian Government.

"What we were finding, and this is evident too in other types of giving data that we're looking at, there are fewer Australians but those who are giving are giving more," Dr Scaife said.

"It certainly does [mean charities need to innovate], and certainly one of the trends I would highlight is collective giving.

"We heard this 10 years ago as well, that people really enjoy giving as a group, whether that's as a family or a workplace."

What is collective giving?

Punters raise their hands at The Funding Network charity event


Collective giving encourages groups of people from different backgrounds to contribute to charity in an interactive, social setting.

There are no plastic buckets collecting loose change and no cold-calling from call centre operators — instead participants come to pledge donations for the causes that present themselves at organised events.

At one such event in Sydney, the pledges flew thick and fast from the small crowd gathered inside the headquarters of the Macquarie Group investment bank.

On stage was Bernie Shakeshaft, who runs Armidale-based BackTrack, an organisation that supports local disadvantaged youth.

"$30,000, that's a whole year that those kids have got somewhere safe to stay," Mr Shakeshaft said.

Joining him was one of the program's success stories, 17-year-old Tyson, who escaped a life of drugs, crime and violence.

"I'm sharing this story with you guys tonight because there's kids back in Armidale in BackTrack that are going down this path," Tyson said.

Sebastian Robertson, chairman of the non-profit organisation batyr, which works to provide mental health counselling and awareness programs in Australian schools, also delivered his pitch.

"If we're able to raise $25,000 here tonight, we can train another 25 young people," Mr Robertson said.

Social element helping Australians give more

Audience members at The Funding Network event in Sydney


After the pitchers left the room to wait nearby, the donations — from $100 up to tens of thousands — began to roll in.

Tyson said he was gobsmacked by the generosity of audience members. "Not only has it changed my life tonight, it's changed all them young boys back at BackTrack now," he said.

Batyr managed to raise more than $140,000 with Mr Robertson's pitch.

Dr Scaife said her research showed the innovate practice of collective giving was working.

"[Collective giving] multiplies the enjoyment of what people are doing, to be able to talk it over with like-minded people," she said.

"The social element of actually being in the room with people who've got the same values, or people who extend your thinking or being able to also extend your own education about what the needs are in the community — I think that all comes together to make collective giving or group giving something that we will see a lot more of, and we've seen a palpable change in the numbers of people that are giving in this way."

Read the full article and listen to the broadcast of TFN's Sydney event here.