As I write this Australia is on fire. People are losing their homes, sadly some have lost their lives and our wildlife is being burnt alive, some species perhaps to extinction. It’s a disaster zone and people are scared, angry and devastated. 

5.9 million hectares have been burned across Australia and Ecologists at Sydney University have estimated over 800 million animals have been affected in Australia since September, and it’s only the start of January. 

I have a close friend who is a volunteer firefighter in Tasmania and will be deployed to assist with the fires later this week. I’m scared for him and his family.

I live in Tasmania which has seen its fair share of devastation by fires, but currently is not experiencing anything as bad as the mainland states. There is no escaping it though, every time I look at my Facebook Newsfeed or turn on the TV there it is. It’s confronting and leaves me sad, scared for my country and wanting to help.

That’s the silver lining with tragedies, you get to see the true human spirit come out as people rally together to help. I’ve watched videos of everyday Australians running into burning areas to rescue Koalas or stopping to give animals drinks on the side of the road. Wildlife rescue centres are doing amazing work rehabilitating our affected animals and people all over Australia, and the world and pulling together to help. They are making swaddles and pouches and collecting supplies to send where they are needed. 

The most amazing thing is how quickly people have opened their wallets and donated. Australian comedian Celeste Barber has shocked everyone, including herself, with the success of her Facebook fundraising campaign. Celeste’s mother in law is directly affected by the fires, so she set up a Fundraising post via Facebook with a target of $30,000 “Want to join me in supporting a good cause? I’m raising money for The Trustee for NSW Rural Fire Service & Brigades Donations Fund and your contribution will make an impact, whether you donate a lot or a little. Anything helps. Thank you for your support.”

At the time of writing this, a mere 3 days after the fundraiser started, it is sitting at $32,361,031 and rising. The fundraiser has been collecting $1,000 a second via Facebook! 

This is what makes Facebook truly amazing. Think about how different things would have been without social media. Fire affected communities would have to rely on News Updates via TV and radio. The rest of the world may have seen the fires on the news but that would have been it. 

Social media is a real-time glimpse into what people are experiencing and the message reaches far and wide, very quickly.  People all over the world have contributed to fundraisers and rallied together to help Australians affected by the fires. I wonder if this would have happened without the constant reminder in their News Feeds?

Facebook has allowed people to stay in touch with friends and family and keep updated on how they are. People in disaster zones can mark themselves as safe so people can quickly be reassured they are OK.

One thing that has come up for some people running their own business, is how do they go about business as usual when people are suffering, and if they want to help, how should they go about it? 

Now the following is just my opinion on how to best use your business to help and at the end of the day you need to do what feels right for you. You can read this post on how to carry on business in a crisis.

I feel that if you are wanting to help with the bushfire appeal, or any disaster fundraising efforts, there are some rules to follow to make it a genuine, helpful donation and not a profiteering sales pitch. 

Are your intentions genuine?

This one is easy to cheat but I want you to ask yourself, am I offering this to get more sales? If the answer is yes then don’t do it. In times of tragedy, we don’t need people using the disaster to generate sales.

Know where your money is going, and make it clear

If you do decide to help then pick a legitimate charity or cause to donate to, do your own research and ensure the money is going where it is needed without a large percentage removed for admin costs. Ensure the charity aligns with your own values.

When promoting your offer ensure you clearly state where the money is going, when and how it will be donated.

Being vague like money will be donated to a bushfire appeal, or people affected by the bushfires, can look spammy and leave people wondering if the money will be genuinely donated or not. 

Keep proof of donation / be transparent

Make sure you keep all proof of your donation so you can show transparency. If people lose trust with you, there is no coming back from that. 

Donate then tell

If you want to make a genuine donation to the bushfire appeal and your motives aren’t to get more sales, then make the donation first. You can then tell your community that you donated $X to the XYZ organisation because you believe in the work they are doing. You can then encourage your community to donate also and provide the relevant link. Again, consider your intentions here. If you are doing this for the PR, then don’t. But if you are doing it to raise awareness for the cause and encourage others to donate, then that’s fine. 

Donate all or nothing

Profiteering at a time like this really bothers me. I believe if you genuinely want to use your product to generate sales so you can donate more, and people get something for their donation then a 100% of profit model is the way to go. If you can afford it 100% of revenue is even better. 

Now I understand people still need to make a profit during times of tragedy and can’t afford to just give up all their earnings so ways you can do this are either do it on just one product or just for a set period.

One of our students Kim from Burbridge and Burke has done this beautifully. They created a special product, Koala studs and are donating 100% of profit to NSW RFS. So far they have raised over $3,000 in just 48 hours!

My personal belief is donating a small portion of sales looks salesy and you are still making money off the disaster which to me feels yucky. There is nothing wrong with continuing business as usual though, making sales, making money and then using that to donate a lump sum to your charity of choice. You can then use the donate then tell model. 

Other Ways You Can Help

 

Set up a Facebook fundraiser post

This is what Celeste did and as you can see it can go a long way. Setting up a fundraiser post is easy, and the not-for-profit organisation is already registered through Paypal so the money automatically goes to them, so you don’t need to do a thing.

There is a fine line here. If a fundraiser exists for the charity of your choice, share and donate via the existing fundraiser. Again, it comes down to intentions. If it looks like you are doing it to raise awareness for your brand, it can feel yukky. 

To set up the fundraiser simply create your Facebook post

The organisation must be registered with PayPal giving to appear.

I suggest including a story as to why you want to support this particular organisation and encourage people to help.

Collect Donations

Add a donate call to action to your checkout. You can say your business is supporting the XYZ charity and you would love if they could help. Then allow them to provide a donation as an add on to their purchase. Ensure 100% of that donation goes where you said it would.

Donate goods

If you have supplies that may help a charity, or people affected by the bushfires consider donating goods rather than money. Please be careful with this one as many relief centres simply can’t process any more items. Do your research and find your local food bank or animal rescue centre and donate things that they actually need. 

Educate your audience

If you’re not in a position to donate, educate your audience who may be. Find your favourite charities who are doing good things for those affected by the fires and tell them why you like them. Share stories and posts from charities and organisations. Spreading the word via social media is the reason why so much money has been raised so show your support in this way if you can’t financially.  

Support businesses affected by the fires

While many of us are trying to do our bit to help, others are directly affected by the fires which makes it very hard to continue running their business. Look for businesses affected and support them. Purchase their items, with no expectation to receive them any time soon, if at all. Keep their income going as they may rely on this to support their family during this difficult time. 

Fires are not the only crisis going on right now either, many towns are affected by drought. The #BuyFromTheBush initiative lists businesses in these affected areas, many of which are also affected by the fires. You can find businesses to support at https://www.buyfromthebush.com.au/

Once the fires are over, visit the affected area. Buy their petrol, stay at their hotels, eat at their restaurants and cafes and go crazy at their shops. One of the worst things that can happen to affected towns is that their economy dies in the aftermath. 

Where you can donate

If you are looking for an organisation to support here are some I like:

NSW Rural Fire Service

Donations to the NSW Rural Fire Service directly benefit the volunteer firefighters on the frontline.

https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/volunteer/support-your-local-brigade

Victorian Bushfire Appeal

The Victorian Government has partnered with Bendigo Bank and The Salvation Army to establish the Victorian Bushfire Appeal. 100% of donated funds will go directly to communities in need.

https://www.vic.gov.au/bushfireappeal

Wires

WIRES Is Australia’s largest Wildlife Rescue Organisation. In December alone there were over 20,000 calls to WIRES 1300 line, a 14% increase on last year, and volunteers attended over 3,300 rescues.

https://www.wires.org.au/donate/online

Koalas In Care INC

This is a non-profit organisation and a registered charity run by volunteers. They have been helping rehabilitate Koalas affected by the fires.

http://www.koalasincare.org.au/pages/donation.htm

To everyone affected by the fires, my thoughts are with you, please stay safe.

To our firefighters and their families, we can not thank you enough.

Suggested Reading: Business In A Crisis: Business As Usual?

Replay of the live chat we had about this topic in our Facebook Group.

Written by Karyn Parkinson

Karyn AKA Karyn with a Y is a Facebook ad specialist with a side dose of eCommerce marketing, particularly website optimisation.

When she's not behind the computer you'll find her at the beach with her fur babies or on the roller derby track as Pink Fury!