How we respond to tragedy shows who we are

When something touches our heart, we give. We respond to what creates an emotion. The greatest example of that has been the last few weeks when we have seen other Aussie families, people just like us, maybe someone that we know, or a friend of a friend, needing to evacuate because of an enormous fire or fires bearing down on their home. Many have lost their home; some have lost their lives. When this sort of tragedy happens to those that look like me, sound like me and, by sheer chance of choice of residence, could be me, it moves me to respond. So, we begin to imagine what it would be like if that was us – and if that did happen to me, I would really want someone to help.

The outpouring of generosity, volunteering, financial and emotional support, has been nothing short of extraordinary. Some have given out of their plenty, but many have given out of there little. People are working extra shifts and donating their pay for that day, business are donating their profits and entire communities are rallying together.

What does this tell me?

In the darkest of times it is generosity that shines the light. When we act for the benefit of someone else it brings out the best in us and our country, and it breaks down the harmful, artificial barriers that we put up between groups of Australians.

During times like these I am reminded that, no matter where we live, we are all one tragedy away from being forced from our homes, running for our lives and needing help from a stranger. It may not feel like that to you now, but I am sure 6 weeks ago thousands of Australians would never have imagined it either.

If we can take that attitude of humility with us into this next decade then Australia will continue to be a very generous nation indeed.

Electricity Isn’t Sexy…

It’s not, to most of us.

When it comes to not-for-profit organisations, the majority of people are not excited by the idea of lights being turned on, or computers and printers being plugged into the wall. To be honest, the imagery isn’t great and it reminds me of the tedium one would experience if they worked at Dunder Mifflan in Slough.

What excites me, and most people that I talk to, are stories of transformation where money given to a charity has changed the life of the recipient, or rescued them from a dire and needless situation. People being helped and receiving love because of a gift. That’s what fundraising is all about. Leave the information about electricity out of it.

I’ll let you in on a secret – electricity make the stories come to light (not even an intentional pun…). Without lights and power for computers and printers, then the stories of transformation and life altering development work simply would not exist. You can’t tell a story without the means to discover a need, figure out how to meet that need and then assess how it all went in your attempts to do that. Guess what? It all takes electricity.

Electricity is just one example of the un-sexy side of charities and not-for-profits. There are also reports and spreadsheets (oh so many spreadsheets) and emails. All of this, plus much more, works together to create the brilliant outcomes of transformation and then to tell people the story.

The un-sexy stuff is what most people call the “admin costs”. I know of some people who donate to charities and request that their entire donation amount goes towards covering the “admin costs”. Electricity, among other things. They are unusual but they are not strange. They understand that even though it seems un-sexy, it is absolutely vital to the work in the field. In the case of Opportunity International, the 4 million clients who currently have a small loan to start a business and work their way out of poverty, simply would not be able to do that if it wasn’t for the ‘admin cost’. Funding the un-sexy stuff in the office is part of the bigger picture of how we change the world.