Anthea Iva

 

Cherie Smith MFIA, CFRE, Individual Giving Manager, RSPCA Queensland

In the past three years Australians have experienced significant bushfires that have impacted all states, rain events that led to mass flooding and the COVID-19 global pandemic. If we weren’t directly impacted by one or all of these, the constant news coverage and social posts were enough to leave us feeling helpless.

As an animal welfare charity, RSPCA Queensland is on the front line as an organisation with the resources to respond to a natural disaster. In February 2022, when Southeast Queensland started to flood, our Brisbane Wildlife Hospital received an influx of wildlife affected by the rising water levels. The hospital staff, volunteers and other RSPCA teams were working 24/7 to find, triage, rehome and rehabilitate the animals. 

Our community of supporters and donors are passionate animal lovers and animal welfare is something they care deeply about. RSPCA Queensland is aware that some of the work we do can be confronting. People may not be able to watch coverage of animals in life-threatening situations which means our communications and stories need to be carefully balanced. If we only focus on the negative aspects of an animal’s situation to solicit donations, rather than the outcome that was achieved, our supporters may feel frustrated and that their contributions are not achieving change. 

The aftermath of a natural disaster can last weeks and months and it’s not just wildlife that are affected. Many of our supporters will also be left with a long road ahead to re-build their lives. We work to ensure all our supporters receive updates that their contributions led to positive impact. Storytelling through impact reporting is a priority. This focus ensures the donor continues to see their concern for animal welfare is being prioritised. It is imperative that we live and breathe long-term relationship fundraising principles by demonstrating both gratitude for their previous support and empathy for their current situation. 

 

Lisa Cheng  Executive Director, Marketing and Fundraising, Lifeline Australia

What has been reinforced for us at Lifeline during these last few years, both off the back of natural disaster and the pandemic, is that our supporters have their own lived experience of mental health and suicide and that we must consider this in the design and delivery of our supporter journey development. 

Starting from this position has only helped us to strengthen our relationship with our supporters and to shift it considerably to one of shared value. It starts with perhaps some obvious things such as ensuring we include content warnings on the communications we are sharing with them,  to developing tools and content specifically designed to support them, through periods of emotional distress. 

I can think of two good examples where we have cared for supporters in different ways whilst fundraising, which received a really positive response. The first example was during the floods in NSW, where we were very proactive in identifying those regular donors who lived in the affected areas and took the decision to pause their regular gifts during that period and communicated directly to them with this message along with a link to resources that would help them manage their mental wellbeing during a really difficult time. In the second example we worked with our corporate partner NIB to stand-up a landing page of resources and tools for their customers who were impacted by the Tsunami in Tonga; this was delivered both in English and in-language. 

Both examples have helped us to understand how we can support our donors’ mental health and give them a unique and authentic supporter experience. This approach has enhanced our fundraising capability and improved our engagement with supporters. 

 

Elise Cameron Senior Manager – Community & Supporter Engagement, WWF-Australia

We aim to put our supporters first at
WWF-Australia. This means taking the time to understand their interests, preferences, and increasingly how natural disasters
like bushfires and floods are impacting
their communities. 

Our conservation team is working across Australia to help restore wildlife and habitats and build our resilience against climate-driven disasters. When a disaster strikes, our initial response is to remove supporters who live in the affected area from fundraising communications and any geo-targeted advertising. However, we feel it’s still important to communicate with these supporters to let them know we are supporting their community and their previous donations have enabled us to take quick action. 

The scale of Australia’s bushfires during the summer of 2019-20 was unprecedented and the impact on our forests and wildlife was immense. Over 12 million hectares of forest and woodlands were burnt, and nearly three billion animals impacted. This pushed a number of threatened species, including the koala, closer to extinction. The global response to this crisis was immediate and overwhelming. We were touched by the generosity of supporters and partners across Australia and around the world. 

Throughout the fire emergency and during the ongoing recovery, we ensured supporters were updated on our response and how their donation was making a difference. We did not make active asks to affected communities, but donations did still come from bushfire areas. I think this demonstrates how resilient, generous and passionate Australians are about nature.  

Out of the ashes of the bushfires, our vision to Regenerate Australia was born. We implemented a disaster response framework to respond urgently to fire-affected areas, protect and restore what remains, and future-proof Australia’s landscapes. Although we are three years on from the bushfires, our long-term restoration work continues and this wouldn’t be possible without our incredible supporters.