Young people are some of the most frequent givers to charity – Now social enterprises are getting creative to reflect this

This story first appeared on The Vocal on December 13, 2016. Image courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo.

New research suggests that Australians are a pretty generous bunch when it comes to giving to charity, with 61 per cent of us donating around $500 a year, in addition to volunteering and advocating for charities and not-for-profits (NFPs). Young people are some of the most frequent givers, with a third of those aged 25–29 donating every month. The research, undertaken by Chaos Media in conjunction with Roy Morgan, offers an insight into how and why Australians give.

Why Australians are big on giving

When it comes to why we give, the biggest reason turns out to be trust in an organisation. Whereas the biggest motivator to avoid giving is a lack of awareness – either of the charity or its cause.

“Strong motives for people to donate are trust in the charity or NFP organisation and the offer of a longer-term solution that will solve the cause they represent. Most Australians want to see a solution and an end to the issue that is being represented, this is particularly so for younger, better-educated donors and those Australian-born donors,” says Glenda Wynyard, co-founder of Chaos Media.

As a nation we’re a rational lot too, with over half (56 per cent) saying they use their heads over their hearts when it comes to charitable giving. For every dollar donated to an environmental cause, three were three donated to animal causes, and seven to human causes.

Rise of the social enterprise

With 54,000 registered charities in Australia bidding for some $6.8 billion dollars in donations and bequests annually, and 80 per cent of the sector’s income going to the largest five per cent of charities, it’s a highly competitive space.

As a result, Australian charities and NFPs are exploring new ways to stand out and raise funds. Social enterprises – often operating as an alternative or complement to the traditional donation-led model – are one of them. In fact, a 2016 report – which estimated there’s around 20,000 social enterprises in Australia – found there’s been big growth in the social enterprise space in recent years, with close to 34 per cent of their 2016 study sample being social enterprises aged between two and five years old.

“At this time of year there are lots and lots of charities out there asking for money – and they are all doing great things – but how do you do things a little bit differently? You need to look at what the traditional model is and ask, how can we do what we are doing by positioning ourselves a little differently?” says Rob Caslick, co-founder of social enterprise Two Good, who believes creativity is important to standing out in the NFP space.

Two Good is a great example of an innovative concept put into practice. The social enterprise, which operates in Sydney and Melbourne, make and sell celebrity chef-designed lunches where for every lunch sold, one is donated to a domestic violence shelter or soup kitchen. Currently on the menu are meals by Maggie Beer, George Calombaris and Mitch Orr.

They also employ the women from the shelters to make the meals they sell, and regularly run seasonal campaigns to further support their work. Their current Two Good Brew Christmas campaign, where for every tea (created in partnership with premium organic tea brand, Ovvio) another is donated, is one such example.

“Our challenge is how do we stay true to the Two Good model but also create an engagement piece? There’s only so much you can do two of. It’s important to come up with different strategies and ideas that will still resonate with our customers,” Caslick notes.

Mission over money

Social enterprises are also one of the ways Sydney’s The Wayside Chapel generate funds to support their work. With community service centres in Kings Cross and Bondi, they help some of the city’s most disadvantaged, including those facing homelessness, addiction and mental health issues.

“What we are looking at doing is building some businesses where our real focus is on supporting our mission, building community-based businesses that bring people closer together, and also provide real opportunities for employment for the people who tend to come to Wayside for help, ” says Julia Bowen, Wayside Chapel’s social enterprises manager.

It’s a sentiment that’s true to many Australian social enterprises, with the report also finding that ‘creating meaningful employment opportunities for people from a specific group’, and ‘developing new solutions to social, cultural, economic or environmental problems’ were the two biggest missions of (both at 34 per cent) of the enterprises profiled.

While Wayside’s ops shops have been in operation for years, it’s their unique approach to more recent projects that make them stand out. This includes their books, which are released every few years and celebrate and profile their communities – the latest of which is coffee-table book Waysideto the two apartments above their Bondi centre, which they turned into stylish Airbnb rentals with the help of Wayside ambassador and interior stylist Jason Grant and opened in October. All profits generated from the projects are put back into supporting Wayside’s services and programs.

“I have worked at a number of large corporate organisations over the years and this is the only organisation where you can ask absolutely any staff member or volunteer – of which there’s around 600 to 700 – and they will tell you what our mission is: creating community with no us and them. It’s what we do and everything we do – especially the social enterprises – that’s why it has to be about that first and then about making money second,” Bowen says.

Next year, Wayside is set to open their next social enterprise, a restaurant. “The reality is anyone can set up holiday apartments. Anyone can set up a retail store. Anyone can do a restaurant but if you are doing it because you are supporting a mission you’re bringing something better to it than just making money. We surveyed people and they want this. They are very prepared to come to a place where they feel like they are contributing to a community rather than just getting a meal or staying in an apartment.”

How to help

With so many causes seeking support, we should research, ask questions and seek out those that resonate with us, and whose mission, work and outcomes we trust and believe in.

Learn more about charities and social enterprises that you might like to support financially at Give Now and the Social Traders Social Enterprise Finder, or visit Volunteering Australia for volunteering opportunities.