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What can charities do for bushfire affected small businesses?

- January 23, 2020 2 MIN READ

We know that the generosity of Australians and indeed many people from overseas has provided some $600m for support to those affected by the current bushfire crisis. Funds for the people, families and the families and employees of small businesses that operate in these communities, writes Peter Strong CEO COSBOA.

We also know that legally charities cannot contribute money to businesses, and that makes sense as it would be an odd thing to donate money to an organisation whose aim is to make a profit.

 Yet there is a critical question as to whether those that were donating were doing so with the belief that they were also contributing to helping small business owners in local communities. Such a view probably does not justify a change in the rules governing the operation of charities, however, we also know that the best way for communities to recover is for things to return to normal, if possible, as soon as possible.

 That means that members of the community, that is the customers who patronise small businesses, are economically supported and don’t lose their employment. This, in turn, means that they have money to spend with their businesses in their local communities and support local economic prosperity.

So, what could charities do?  First of all, they must remember that small business operators are also people. They have families. We would be aghast if someone was declined support because they ran a home-based business or owned a café or real estate agency. These are real people with families. Certainly, do not give donated funds to a ‘business’ but we must make sure that the self-employed are not excluded from charitable assistance. Our understanding is that the self-employed are eligible for the Disaster Recovery Allowance from Centrelink so we expect they will also be eligible for support from charities.

Other ways charities can use the large sums of money that have been donated to better support the communities impacted by bushfires include:

Support of sporting clubs. These clubs often involve the self-employed on their boards and seek donations and sponsorship from businesses, so supporting the club would help the self-employed concentrate on their business viability. 

Support for other not for profits and local charities such as Rotary and Lions and other service clubs.  Again, these often involve small business people providing support on the board of management and donating funds. Local NFPs and charities are best placed to deliver what is required for the community.

Ensuring that people affected receive vouchers they can use in a local business would also be very helpful. We know a lot of charities provide direct food and resources to individuals, but this means that households don’t purchase food and other products from the local businesses that are the life-blood of their communities.

Charities should ensure that the donations that have been made are passed through to the affected communities as quickly as possible – preferably in the form of cash and vouchers that can be spent with their local businesses that keep jobs secure.

Looking after the whole community includes small and micro businesses.

Are you looking for assistance with bushfire recovery or relief? Check out these options