Changing charity


May 30, 2014

These days people associate charity with facial hair, running or riding around the country or even the world.

Charitable organisations adopt big media campaigns, hold events or perform outrageous stunts in order to capture people’s attention.

But this wasn’t always the case. A decade ago people thought of charity as giving to the Salvations Army’s Red Shield Appeal or dropping old clothes into the Good Sammy’s bin.

Good Sammy's relies heavily on its clothing bins

With the charity landscape changing so much, long-running charities such as Good Sammy’s and Foodbank may have to rethink how their organisations operate.

Marketing lecturer at Curtin University, Min Teah, says charity campaigns are becoming less traditional.

She says more and more charities are adopting new media campaigns in order to raise awareness.

“People are so active on social media these days, if a campaign doesn’t have some element of social media it’s just not going to be seen by enough people,” she says.

“The reason Movember is so successful is because it has all the elements a good campaign needs.

“It uses social media in a fun way to promote a very serious issue which allows people to have fun but still help at the same time.”

The introduction of new media has offered a platform for more and more causes to be heard.

However, Commercial Manager at Good Samaritan Industries, Debbie Cameron, says that not all charities need to adopt new media strategies in order to remain relevant.

“Our business model doesn’t really have a need for a shift to the online medium,” she says.

“About 75 per cent of our revenue comes from our stores.

“Most of our customers are pensioners or people that don’t really use social media so we haven’t seen a need to utilise that space heavily.”

The introduction of new and social media has not gone unnoticed by Mrs Cameron and other managers at Good Sammy’s.

“We have a Facebook page and we tried twitter but we didn’t really maintain the account so we just stopped using it,” she says.

“We tried opening an online store as well but it was far too labour intensive for the kind of work that we do.

“We’ve been operating for nearly 55 years now and we’re still going pretty strong.”

Good Sammy’s relies on donations to its stores and clothing bins around Perth in order to survive.

Donations have remained steady over the past few years and Mrs Cameron sys that will remain the case for some time.

Similarly, Foodbank WA, which is the state’s leading hunger relief agency, has noticed the increase in new media charitable campaigns in recent years.

Foodbanks Communication and HR manager, David Warren, says the new campaigns are forcing more traditional charities to rethink how they do things.

“It does put a lot of pressure on charities to come up with their own unique character in terms of fundraising and events,” Mr Warren said.

“We’re lucky to have some good corporate supporters who conduct events for us, to help us raise money.

“Our partnership with the West Coast Eagles has really helped to raise the profile of Foodbank.”

Although corporate partners and existing campaigns are still bringing donations to Foodbank, Mr Warren says it is now much harder to get people to donate.

“I thinks it’s a lot harder now to get donations,” he says.

“Because there are so many campaigns out there we see a lot of duplication.

“People think: ‘Well, I’ve already supported hunger so I’m not going to give you more food or money’, when in actual fact they may have given to another similar organisation.”

While attracting donations and remaining unique may have become a little harder for Foodbank, David isn’t at all disappointed about the way charity is heading.

“I think the fact that it’s now easier than ever to have your message heard is a good thing,” he says.

“The fact there are people out there willing to run a marathon in order to be heard is great.”

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