Charity appeals beat political fundraisers

Kind-hearted donations flow in despite economic climate

Four fundraising appeals over the past two weeks saw just over €5 million flow from one set of pockets to another.

Malta’s middle class, which forms the backbone of such fundraising appeals, can definitely afford to donate €20 or €30 once a year

The record €3.3 million raised by L-Istrina was followed by another record, the €1 million amassed by Id-Dar tal-Providenza on New Year’s Day. When coupled with the €910,000 collected by both political parties just before Christmas, the total exceeds €5 million.

Donations came at the tail-end of a year that saw negative growth rates for two consecutive quarters, begging the question: is fundraising immune to economic ills?

Economist Joe Vella Bonnici believes that drawing a correlation between one and the other is not that clear-cut.

“The question is: if the economy were doing better, would these fundraisers have collected more money? I don’t think it’s as straightforward as saying yes or no,” he said.

He said that for many individuals donations still represented a relatively meagre portion of their income.

“Malta’s middle class, which forms the backbone of such fundraising appeals, can definitely afford to donate €20 or €30 once a year, be it to a charitable cause or a political one. God forbid it were otherwise,” Mr Vella Bonnici argued.

Financial analyst John Cassar White believes that the healthier year corporate organisations had had in 2012 when compared with 2011 reflected itself in fundraising totals.

“The biggest donors to L-Istrina were banks, which had a fairly good year profit-wise. I think that had a positive effect on fundraising efforts,” he said.

Both analysts spoke with enthusiasm about the record amounts of money charity fundraisers had amassed. But did people’s public generosity risk tempting the State into tightening its own purse strings?

Could the State, mindful of tight budgets, see public collections, such as L-Istrina, as a way of making up for its own shortfalls?

Not really, said Mr Cassar White. “The Government will always have an eye to balancing the Budget, so it will always feel pressured into reducing discretionary income.

“But rather than cutting down on its contributions to voluntary organisations, I think the Government is more interested in ensuring the money it donates is being used wisely.”

Professional fundraiser Valentina Bach said it was customary for grants from public authorities and large corporations to shrink during lean economic times.

“But in compensation, donations from private individuals tend to increase. Perhaps it’s people who can afford it, realising it’s their time to step up to the plate,” said Ms Bach, who serves as development director for the United World College of the Adriatic in Duino, Italy.

While both L-Istrina and Id-Dar tal-Providenza had record fundraising years, the €1 million-odd raised by the two large political parties, although higher than last year’s total, was below the amounts they had secured in the run-up to the 2008 election.

Mr Cassar White was struck by the lower totals political parties had managed to secure from backers.

“Perhaps people are a little bit cynical about politics now. And that would reflect trends seen overseas, too,” he said, pointing out the anomaly of local political parties tying their cash appeals to the Christmas season.

Mr Vella Bonnici thinks the amounts – €415,000 for Labour, and €495,000 for the Nationalists – would have been even lower had it not been an election year.

“Companies tend to think twice about skipping a political donation when there’s an election around the corner.”


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