OPINION: Charity more important than ever

CONTRADICTION: People are giving more  at a time when  unemployment and the cost of living is rising.

CONTRADICTION: People are giving more at a time when unemployment and the cost of living is rising.

DO you donate your time to a non-profit organisation? Or money to charity?

By world standards, Australians are a generous mob when it comes to donating money to charities, and time and effort to non-profits.

But what do you expect to receive in return?

A green light for a development application? A loosening of a regulatory framework; a change in legislation; information regarding a tendering process; an empathetic ear? Or someone to look away?

Maybe you expect nothing more than a warm, fuzzy feeling when your head hits the pillow, knowing that your contribution made someone's life a little better.

While the ICAC focused on (corrupt) giving and taking, and the federal budget was all about taking, two new reports highlighted the terrific capacity of Australians to give generously to those in need.

National Volunteer Week celebrated its 25th anniversary and acknowledged the important and ongoing contribution of 6 million Aussies who sacrifice time and money to help those in need or those who are less fortunate.

And one of Australia's big banks released its fourth annual charitable giving index.

It is rarely unreasonable to argue with any bank's motivation or methodology for calculating just about anything.

It's of little comfort when you read the fine print around the charity index, which advises the bank does not warrant or represent that the information, recommendations, conclusions or opinions are accurate, reliable, complete or current.

Not a great deal of wriggle room in that non-guarantee.

The sceptics will suggest a bank's charitable giving index is about utilising data to trawl through customer records to achieve an outcome that is as much about their own brand building and customer engagement than it is to provide charities with a useful snapshot of donor behaviour.

Nevertheless, the charity giving index found our nation's donors dug deep in the year to February 2014.

The average annual donation per donor for all charities in that period is up $13, to $315.

That, according to the index, was despite Australians facing below trend economic growth, growing unemployment and general anguish stemming from an escalating cost of living.

That anguish is not misplaced.

A World Bank report, released a fortnight ago, shows Australians are living in the most expensive G20 economy in the world and the nation ranks as the fourth most expensive economy - out of 177 countries.

Despite that, the charitable giving index found overall giving in Australia had grown by almost 19 per cent since December 2010.

A point of interest in the index is that donors from higher income postcodes donate the most in dollar terms but not the most relative to their incomes.

I dips my lid to those residing within the Sunshine Coast hinterland postcode of 4552.

While the good burghers of Mosman (NSW postcode 2088) enjoy the nation's highest taxable income of $145,900, (three times the national average ), those from 4552 donated nearly twice - in terms of percentage - as much of their taxable income of $38,800.

ACT denizens topped the tally sheet for generosity, with an average annual donation of $121 per person, nearly $55 higher than the national average.

When giving is broken down into age groups, Aussies north of 65 give the most money to charities. On average, seniors sign over $388 per person.

Humanitarian services head up the market share (33 per cent) of organisations to which Australians direct their donations.

Maybe that knowledge spurred the federal government to strip $7.6 billion from economically disadvantaged countries in last week's budget and leave essential assistance to already-financially stricken aid agencies that will have no option but to increasingly rely on the individual generosity of Australians.

But it's not only the international humanitarian agencies that need our donations.

Many Australian charities - despite the charity giving index showing a rise in donations - are struggling to meet upward demand for assistance.

More than 55,000 people in the Hunter sought assistance from the Salvation Army in the past year.

This coming weekend the Salvation Army will be doorknocking for its annual appeal.

In the new nation of Ozterity that was declared in Canberra last Tuesday night, charities are going to need more Australians to give and more Australians are going to need charities to give.

Spare a dollar, mate?

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