Since 2005 there have been significant changes to the social, political and economic landscape not only in Australia, but throughout the world. The GFC affected donations quite significantly in Australia with the total amount donated and claimed as tax-deducible donations falling 10% from 2007-08 to 2008-09, and then falling a further 5% in 2009-10. While the amount donated then proceeded to rise, the percentage claiming tax-deductible donations has fallen every year since 2011-12 and currently sits at 33.4%. In 2004-05, when the first Giving Australia was conducted, 37.35% of taxpayers claimed tax-deductible donations.
But perhaps the biggest development since 2005 has been the advancement in technology. It has transformed giving by changing the way we communicate information, research and monitor organisations, make payments and contributions and the way we are able to form online communities.
Technology provides greater ease and efficiency in communicating information on the activities, goals and effects of organisations and causes to existing and potential givers and volunteers. Social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, were identified as those tools most important for wider engagement and had the potential to attract a broader giving and volunteering audience. Aside from organisational communication, younger individuals reported drawing on technology and social media to communicate with peers and wider communities of interest to share information and mobilise action. Making these types of information available online helps donors to inform themselves and engage with a topic, as a precursor to relationship building. Communicating information about the NPO, cause or initiative is a foundational task in a prospective donor having trust in the initiative/organisation and having a relationship with the organisation.
Technology makes giving easier, a key element to increasing donations. But it also allows potential givers to undertake research on causes. It can be a double-edged sword, with negative stories about certain organisations directly affecting a person’s willingness to give to them.
I just happened to look online at [NPO] and read a whole bunch of bad comments from supposedly ex-employees and disgruntled ex-employees that implied that new management had come in, programs had been cut and a greater percentage of money was going to marketing and a lower percentage of money was going to actually doing what they said they were doing. I don’t have time to look into that, they just got chopped from the list. They’ve probably lost $700 to $1,000 from me. Is that fair? I don’t know (Focus Group -young HNWI).
Other concerns about technology were raised including a ‘digital divide’ between younger and older Australians which could make it difficult to decide which media to use if trying to target a wider audience. Many organisations lacked the ability to fully leverage the scale, scope and efficiencies offered by technology and poor technology use was seen as worse than no technology use in many cases.
Alongside the many benefits of technology and social media, participants also highlighted concerns related to security, the cost of upkeep and the de-socialising effects of excessive de-personalised communication. The implication was that organisations need to invest time and effort keeping their websites and other social media outlets up to date, engaging and monitoring this to retain a level of ‘quality’.
Recognition of the benefits of technology and social media aside, there remained a strong view that face-to-face relationship building and communicating will remain just as important in the future as it did in the past. Online and digital giving offered many opportunities for initial connections, but to retain these givers, an ongoing relationship was necessary and personalised communication was required.
To read the latest Examination of Tax-Deductible Donations Made By Individual Australian Taxpayers in 2015–16 , go to https://eprints.qut.edu.au/119001/
To read the full reports and factsheets, go to https://www.communitybusinesspartnership.gov.au/about/research-projects/giving-australia-2016/