Online donations facility GiveNow has launched a new appeal to help ensure disaster-ridden communities are supported long after the tragedy fades from the front pages of newspapers.
The GiveNow Help Later appeal, supported by the Our Community Foundation, is now accepting donations that will be distributed to community organisations working in affected regions in the months and years following an emergency.
GiveNow executive director Kylie Cirak said she believed a belated injection of funds could make all the difference to the recovery of such communities.
"Australians respond generously when disasters occur and it really proves that we haven't lost the good old Aussie spirit of helping out a mate," she said.
"But it's a sad fact that our generosity can at times be misplaced and unintentionally undermine recovery efforts and community resilience."
Ms Cirak said while disasters such as floods and bushfires inspired strong emotions and a keen desire to help those affected, resulting in an initial influx of donations, communities were often left to fend for themselves once the funds dried up.
"Disaster relief continues well after many donors have shifted their attention to another crisis, which sadly seem to be becoming more common than ever," she said. "This is why we believe GiveNow Help Later can make a real and lasting difference."
The National Guidelines for Managing Donated Goods, funded by the Federal Government and designed to help people respond more effectively to the needs of disaster-affected communities, recommend that donations of money should always be the preferred option where a need for public assistance is identified.
"Money is the most useful donation because it provides flexibility and choice to meet immediate needs. It also circulates in the affected community, stimulating faster recovery for the local economy," the report said.
Money also promoted self-directed recovery, empowered people by promoting personal decision making and reduced the complicated, costly and time-consuming process of managing donations of physical goods, which were often received in enormous volumes.
"Authorities responding to disasters must manage these donations, which are often impractical or exceed community needs. This sizable task can include the need to transport, store, sort and deliver donations as well as dispose of unneeded or inappropriate goods," the report said.
According to a scoping paper which recommended the development of the national guidelines, the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires resulted in more than 40,000 pallets of goods being donated from across Australia that took up more than 50,000 square metres of storage space.
That is more than twice the size of the Melbourne Cricket Ground arena.
"The cost for storage, staff and transport amounted to more than $8 million. Services in the fire affected areas were severely stretched as a result of donations of goods arriving without warning and without resources to sort, store, handle and distribute," the paper said.
The Our Community Foundation will hold funds donated to the GiveNow Help Later appeal for a period of six to 12 months before working with community groups to determine where they are most needed. Distribution will occur bi-annually, where funds allow.
Ms Cirak encouraged donors to examine their personal giving plan and consider including a regular donation to the appeal as a way of contributing broadly to disaster relief efforts.
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Kylie Cirak | 03 9320 6800 | 0400 104 091 | firstname.lastname@example.org