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Fred Hollows Foundation: Charities face tough year ahead

The Fred Hollows Foundation is warning 2020 could be one of the toughest years in recent memory for Australian charities due to a combination of the coronavirus, a weakening national economy and an outpouring of support for the bushfire crisis.

The organisation’s CEO Mr Ian Wishart has acknowledged a difficult few months for Australians, culminating in unprecedented levels of support for bushfire causes.

Specifically, more than $500 million has been reportedly donated to charities, including more than $50 million to an online fundraiser run by comedian Celeste Barber and $70 million from mining magnate and philanthropist Andrew Forrest and his wife, Nicola.

Wishart said it would be fantastic to see the bushfire tragedy unlock another trend of charitable giving where people considered what other causes they could support in the year ahead.

However, he is concerned this year could be one of the toughest “in a long time” for all Australian charities because of the natural disaster and other uncontrollable factors.

“What we can’t yet quantify is the impact of things like the bushfires, the coronavirus and the weakening Australian economy. This is no doubt a major concern for Australian charities, including ours,” he said.

“The reality for charities in Australia is that for a number of years, regardless of what they do on the ground, they have seen numbers of traditional donors getting older and not being able to give at the same levels. That, combined with the tough economic environment, has seen a decline in charitable giving.”

Former Victorian premier John Brumby, who chairs The Fred Hollows Foundation, has spoken publicly about his concerns that the outpouring of donations for the bushfire appeals has made it a “tough environment” for charities.

In light of this, Brumby proposed the government may need to start reversing cuts to the foreign aid budget to meet any shortfall.

Wishart added: “There’s been an enormous outpouring of support – more than $500 million – and it’s amazing to see Australians banding together to help communities recover and rebuild.

“We have seen similar displays of incredible generosity in other terrible disasters, like the Indian Ocean Tsunami, when the Australian public lifted and got behind massive fundraising appeals. What we saw then was sustained giving, where the Australian people supported the devastating tragedy but also continued to give to other important causes.

“But we know Australians will do what they can and we thank our amazing supporters for their incredible ongoing generosity.”