How the rise of social fundraising led to over $200 million in donations for Australia


Amy Hacon, Account Manager at Legacy Communications

Originally published in Magazine, March 2020 Issue

We now live in a world where one misused word can result in a life sentence. A world where people are tiptoeing around each other and praying something isn’t taken out of context and becomes the next big viral hit. But what if all this social pressure and power of persuasion was actually used for good?

Apparently unthinkable things can be achieved, unthinkable in the form of over AU$200 million and counting, all for the good of the planet.

We’ve all heard about the devastating bushfires in Australia that have reportedly killed over a billion animals, claimed 28 lives, destroyed 3,000 homes, burned through 25million acres of land and left people distraught and helpless. Fires that have been out of control since July 2019, yet five months later are only just beginning to get some substantial support. Why? Because people started to put the social pressure on.

Australian comedian, Celeste Barber, noticed some of the country’s richest weren’t among the early donors, so she took to Twitter sharing a link to her fundraiser for the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS), urging the top 0.01% to participate.

“Hey billionaires, Notre Dame burning down sucked. I get it. Times that by a trillion and that’s what’s happening in Australia”. “Feel free to flick us a quick couple of million. You make it seem pretty easy.”

The tweet went viral and her fundraiser for the NSW RFS has become the largest Facebook fundraiser to date, with an ever-increasing AU$51 million (€31.7 million) in donations from people across the world. The fundraiser has helped raise much needed funds and helped prompt businesses, celebrities and upper class to make a contribution resulting in a total of more than AU$200 million donated to bushfire fundraisers.

The true power of social media? Or the true power of social pressures?

In Dublin, businesses and influencers got on board to help the cause after seeing all the devastation through social media. Sustainable Fashion Dublin hosted an event with clothes donated by well-known Irish influencers with all profits going towards the Australian bushfires. The event raised €4,340 and received a huge traction and kudos on social channels.

On a global scale, both indigenous and international businesses have become part of the social media fundraising conversation. Australian brand, Bondi Sands, donated $100K to the cause and announced they will be selling reusable cups and bottles with 100% of proceeds donated to the Red Cross to support bushfire relief.

As social media has become a key outlet for people and businesses to have their stories, opinions or messages heard it’s also become a successful platform for fundraisers to gain maximum targeted reach with minimal effort. As a Kiwi living in Ireland and seeing the devastation in Australia, it really hits home. A social fundraiser helps eliminate the challenge of distance and enables anyone to make a contribution and feel more connected to the cause.

In Ireland, social fundraising has taken off beyond expectations. Before Christmas we saw Irish influencer, Rosie Connolly, raise an impressive €287,636 for Irish Children’s Hospitals all through a simple incentive fundraiser. Anyone who donated €5 went in the draw to win an original Gucci bag.

With more fundraisers popping up each day, is this just the latest social ‘bandwagon’ or are we actually seeing a societal shift of people being more generous towards these much-needed causes? Could the Gen Z influence on ‘doing good for the planet’ be encouraging us all to be more giving?

Facebook were ahead of the curve recognising this social fundraiser opportunity by introducing its own fundraising dedicated tools five years ago. According to the Sept 2019 figures report from Social Media Today, users have collectively raised over US$2 billion for a variety of causes through the platform tools. A staggering US$1 billion of that total has been raised simply through birthday fundraisers.

To further leverage this need for social donations, Facebook recently announced its fundraising stickers for Instagram Stories will soon be expanded from the US to Europe. With Instagram users being digitally savvy and socially aware this launch could be a major gamechanger for brands and non-profits in Ireland.

As the scale and quantity of fundraisers start dominating people’s social feeds it sparks questions around whether people are still donating for the good of the cause or if social pressure is becoming too much and people simply want ‘to be seen doing good’?

The results speak for themselves, with more funds being raised for causes than ever before, maybe these public social pressures are actually a positive move that we desperately needed to give hope during desperate times.

Social pressures or social good – it’s anyone’s call, but either way it’s making a significant impact across the globe.

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