When you spend a lot of time asking people for their help, it’s satisfying to come back with some really good news, and that’s just happened as the Hands Across Canberra Recovery Appeal concludes.
The Appeal’s goal was to raise $400,000 in matched funds for the 250 local Canberra charities with whom HAC works. These are not major national or global entities, but small local organisations helping vulnerable local people.
HAC’s CEO Peter Gordon says the impact of COVID-19 was profound on local charities already battered by bushfires, floods, hail and drought.
“When the pandemic hit, demand on the charitable sector went through the roof just as their ability to raise funds and use volunteers went through the floor,” he says.
In March, HAC, the Snow Foundation and the John James Foundation launched a rapid response grant round of $500,000. Peter Gordon says the support was immediate and overwhelming, but also that there was much more to do.
“But what COVID-19 also showed us was that the community sector needed the ability to completely change from dealing directly with clients to using technology.”
And, he says, that need won’t disappear any time soon.
Faced with increased demand, decreased fundraising and volunteering opportunities, and a huge shift in service delivery, support from Canberra’s community foundation became crucial. Hands Across Canberra provided a megaphone for the sector’s needs through the Recovery Appeal.
Matched funding, through the generous support of the Chief Minister’s Charitable Foundation and Aspen Medical, was critical to the appeal’s success. And every donation over $2 is tax deductible.
Organisations that had never actively participated in fundraising, like the Women’s Legal Centre, which provides assistance to women who cannot afford a private lawyer and do not qualify for Legal Aid, put up their hand for help.
They found that COVID-19 created a lot of uncertainty for their clients, from worries about the effects of the pandemic on parenting arrangements to protecting the safety of their kids. The centre needed to respond fast with increased legal advice line access among other measures.
Rebus Theatre also needed help. Rebus uses the theatre to examine the challenges faced by people with a disability, mental illness or marginalisation through classes and workshops, workplace training, and creative projects that raise awareness about a range of social issues.
Peter Gordon concedes that raising the funds wasn’t going to be easy in a community where there was a lot of negativity about donations, especially in the wake of the Black Summer of bushfires.
“We know Canberrans are generous people, despite all the national noise about where donations were going,” he says.
“We also know that Canberrans will look beyond our community and give to national causes. But we were faced with a situation where the need right here at home was urgent and very real.
“This was a time to step back from the national news and noise and focus on how to care for our own community. Our message was, let’s tend to our own needs and that message was very well heard. We got strong local cut through.”
The Canberra Recovery Appeal stands at just shy of $410,000 at the time of writing. The results have delighted everyone involved with the appeal, not least the many charities who are now more likely to survive thanks to the funding lifeline.
“The kindness and spirit of giving of the Canberra community has really shone through during this especially cold winter. The way that the charities and organisations have been so active in participating and supporting one another has truly been heart-warming,” Peter Gordon says.
If you’d like to add your support, visit Hands Across Canberra.