Mrsdave is a regular volunteer for the Red Cross Telecross program, where she phones someone each day for a month to help people who are at risk of suffering from social isolation. Because of this she was approached to participate in the Red Cross Calling appeal this March and was psyching herself up to go door knocking. Today she received a letter telling her that the appeal is cancelled.
The Red Cross has decided that in light of the enormous publicity surrounding the bushfire appeal there was a danger of causing confusion by holding another fundraiser so soon. I think they would also be cognisant of the fact that many people may not feel they have the capacity to give any more to charity as the economic climate becomes increasingly gloomy.
While the decision is understandable, and it is difficult to argue the case for proceeding with the regular appeal, I do worry about the consequences of this for Red Cross’ other programs. One of the points that Ross Gittins raised in his article last week is a fear that giving to a high profile charity like the bushfire appeal can reduce our giving to other charities. Right now we can see this in action as many people in northern Australia suffering from flooding, who may be in just as much difficulty as those who have suffered losses in the bushfires, have been largely ignored as the fires became a media juggernaught.
So what about all of the other programs that the Red Cross runs that may be short of funds because of the canceled appeal? I very much doubt that any left over funds from the bushfire appeal will be diverted to other projects after the PR disaster that followed similar actions after the Boxing Day Tsunami appeal. In this financial climate it’s not just individuals who are cutting back on their charitable giving, but businesses too. Those who do give will undoubtedly want to be associated with the bushfire appeal and the surrounding media, much as we are doing individuals.
Let’s make sure that we all remember that charity should not be a one off event, prompted only by disaster. Charitable giving or volunteering is a vital part of building better communities and a more equitable society.