7 March 2023

Charities are doing it tough too: Vinnies launches new fundraising program to cope with rising costs

| James Coleman
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Vinnies night patrol van

The Vinnies Night Patrol van in action. Photo: James Coleman.

If 50 people donate $2 every week, Vinnies could provide warm blankets, a meal and a fresh change of clothes for a person experiencing homelessness every week.

For 100 people and $10, two families could stay in their homes and avoid eviction because they can’t afford the rent.

The St Vincent de Paul Society (aka, Vinnies) Canberra/Goulburn has launched a new program to help raise money at a time when it’s needed more than ever on both sides of the border.

The ‘Workplace Giving’ program allows employees of any business within the region to make a regular donation directly from their pre-tax salary. Employers pay this directly to Vinnies.

The money will then go towards the 20-plus programs run by the Catholic-based charity across Canberra, Queanbeyan and Goulburn, including refugee and migrant assistance, respite camps, emergency relief and homeless services in the form of the night patrol vans, soup kitchens and the home service.

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Vinnies CEO Lucy Hohnen describes it as a way local organisations of all sizes can become part of the Vinnies family and “know they are contributing to those in need of assistance in our community”.

“Whether it’s $5 or $20 a month, multiply that by hundreds and thousands, and we have an ongoing, valuable source of funding to put back into our community.”

As interest rates rise to battle inflation, everyone faces rising living costs and charities are especially vulnerable. Donations drop just as the need goes up. Vinnies hopes Workplace Giving will make it easier for more people to donate.

“The current crisis is generating unprecedented levels of need in our community, which directly impacts the scale and the nature of the assistance we’re able to provide,” Ms Hohnen says.

“We need more funds so we have the resources and flexibility to respond to those in need.”

Lucy Hohen and Andrew Leigh

St Vincent de Paul Society Canberra/Goulburn CEO Lucy Hohnen and Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury Dr Andrew Leigh. Photo: James Coleman.

In the past financial year, Vinnies gave out more than $9 million in food and fuel vouchers for medical bills, rental support, white goods and electricity bills.

At the same time as Vinnies is paying out more, Ms Hohnen says it’s costing them “more to keep the lights on”.

“We run a very tight ship here, but our operating expenses are increasing across the board. This program will go a long way to meeting these needs into the future.”

For years, Canberra has ranked high when it comes to the number of donations made to charities, but current circumstances are now hitting local generosity. Federal Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury Andrew Leigh says the Albanese government has set the “big goal” of turning this around.

“I have taken this job with a government which has the ambition to double Australian philanthropy by 2030,” he says.

“Over recent years, we’ve seen a drop in the share of Australians who are donating to charity, who are volunteering, who are participating, who are joining community groups. We want to turn that around and boosting giving is an important part of that.”

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It’s understood Mr Leigh has been in talks with Vinnies over the Workplace Giving program for some time and describes it as giving employees “the satisfaction you’re donating to charity every time you get your payslip”.

The Canberra Southern Cross Club (CSCC) is among the first businesses to pledge their support. Chief Operating Officer Matt Walshe says all their employees will be encouraged to donate from the beginning of the new financial year in July.

“I can’t recall a time when our organisations haven’t aligned on our community focus.”

In addition to asking for donations from their pre-tax salaries, employees can donate their ‘points’, which they ordinarily claim on a free meal each day.

“There’s potentially an option where staff could choose to convert their points into dollars and donate that too.”

With more than 600 employees across the three clubs in Tuggeranong, Woden, Jamison and the Yacht Club, Mr Walshe is hopeful many will participate.

“There’s a good proportion of permanent part-time and full-time employees, and if you translate that into a dollar figure, that’s quite substantial.”

For information about the Workplace Giving program, or to join, visit the Vinnies website.

Original Article published by James Coleman on Riotact.

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