Opinion: Hot issue - Will the tsunami have a long-term positive impact on fundraising?

A recent Institute of Fundraising survey has revealed that just over half of those charities that hold a view on how the Asian tsunami will affect them in the longer term predict that the impact on their fundraising will be positive.


No one could fail to be moved by the unprecedented display of compassion and generosity by the British public in response to the tsunami fundraising appeals. From discussions with colleagues around the sector, many of us think it's simply too early to tell whether this will have a positive or negative impact on the sector in the long term.

However, like many other organisations not involved in emergency relief or related causes, Cancer Research UK has experienced some small knock-on effects and seen income diverted from some of our local and corporate activities, although most of our income is of a planned, longer-term nature (such as legacies and committed giving) and so is less vulnerable.

At the same time, it's been exciting to see that so many young people have given to the tsunami appeal, and the huge numbers of people donating online or by text for the first time. What is clear is that the long-term effect of the tsunami appeal will challenge the voluntary sector (charities and their representative bodies alike) to take the heightened levels of public goodwill and trust in our work seriously; it's through this that we can transform the future of fundraising.


In the short term, the impact of the tsunami on fundraising for the World Land Trust has been disastrous, with a very noticeable and significant fall-off in public donations in January and February of this year.

However, in the long term, the tsunami could well have a much wider significance for the environmental charity sector because it appears to have alerted people to the more serious implications of environmental degradation.

This is borne out by the fact that, shortly after the tsunami, we received an unsolicited donation that the donor specifically asked be directed towards mangrove replanting.

Mangroves are an important buffer between land and sea and act as 'shock absorbers' for typhoons and hurricanes. The United Nations has reported that they could certainly have reduced the recent tsunami damage.

The World Land Trust has been involved in mangrove restoration for more than a decade, specifically in the Philippines, and now that the value of mangroves has been brought to the forefront, we are expecting public support for more long-term measures once the immediate problems of the tsunami have been resolved.


I am amazed that anyone could feel a positive impact. We are a small regional charity and have been brought almost to our knees by it. It may even be the death knell for ourselves and others - traditionally, January and February is a lean time anyway, but we usually scrape by with the thought of new budgets and fundraising events ahead in the spring.

It is wonderful that people feel inspired to do great things for those less fortunate than themselves, but there can only be so much 'sipping from the same spring', and people who are happy to do one event per year for charity will not do two because they have chosen a more pressing cause.

Because the tsunami is so worthy of people's help, there is nothing one can say except that the damage wrought by such disasters should be funded some other way if it is not to create other disasters closer to home.

It might be a good idea to establish a contingency fund for organisations that are supposed to represent the giving wishes of the community, such as a Lottery Disaster Fund. Many charities such as ours are self-funding services that should be funded by the Government anyway. Further depletion of our meagre resources is not good news.


The tsunami appeal has helped raise awareness of World Jewish Aid and our work in the Jewish community, the aid community and the general public.

They have seen what we do: raise aid and development funding from the UK Jewish community for those in need, regardless of their religion or ethnic origin. Greater recognition has led to donors offering to support us more generally.

I hope this holds true for many other organisations involved in the appeal.

The concern, and one that we share, is the impact the tsunami might have on charities not involved in emergency relief. In general, the charities involved in the tsunami appeal in the UK have been careful to highlight the need in other parts of the world for our financial assistance, so there is greater recognition of global need. This could lead to greater donor buy-in of what we are all trying to achieve. If people see concrete achievements in the tsunami-affected areas, then it will be easier to retain their trust for all the work we do.

I think the greater recognition of the work that aid agencies do as a result of the tsunami appeal will lead to increased fundraising potential.

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