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Opinion: Ethical giving at Christmas

3 min read

The cost of living crisis currently gripping Australia is no doubt going to be at the top of many family’s minds this Christmas. As families seek ways to make each dollar go further, some are even finding themselves in a position where they have to ask for help for the first time ever. According to Foodbank Australia, 77% of those households experiencing food insecurity did so for the first time in 2022. 

It’s a new degree of financial pressure that is simultaneously being felt by organisations and individuals working in the charity sector. A cost of living crisis is a double-edged sword for charities — it means more people are likely to be struggling, and in need of their services — as evidenced by those seeking help for the first time ever. However, there may not be enough funding to meet the increase in demand, as people redirect their household finances away from discretionary charitable giving. 

With donations to charities at risk of slowing at a time when they are needed more than ever, there are several practical ways Australians can consider giving, without breaking the bank. And Christmas — the season of giving — is the perfect time to reassess how you can be helping, even when times are tough. 

Embedding philanthropic giving into the everyday  

Australians are a truly generous bunch of people. Australia was ranked as the fourth most generous country among 119 countries in 2022 with three in five Australians making a financial donation to a charity. Something I often hear is that people want to give, but are confused about how to do this most effectively, especially when they are faced with limitations such as a reduced household budget.  

I believe one of the key reasons for this uncertainty is because a spirit of philanthropic giving isn’t embedded into our society in the way it ought to be. There is a lack of accessible, progressive pathways to leverage volunteering, small donations, or advocating as desirable philanthropic currencies. There is also an unfair perception that small financial donations, or donations of time or skills are not as effective or desirable as large monetary sums, when this is simply not the case — particularly for grassroots charities, who are grateful for the smallest of contributions. 

A lack of giving pathways isn’t necessarily the fault of any one individual or entity — it’s simply a result of what we have been collectively taught to value in our society. If we can start to evolve to see smaller contributions as just as important and powerful, and if everyone gets on board with this, it has the same or even greater impact than one large donation. 

There is more the government can be doing, at a national and local level, to make it easier for people to give. Giving should not be stressful, confusing, or time-consuming. Giving should be fun, easy, and simple. 

Tapping into our natural gravitation towards values-based brands 

Australians are increasingly gravitating towards socially conscious brands and ‘impact investing.’ According to a recent survey, a majority of Australian consumers (76 per cent) say it’s important to them that a brand’s values align with their own, and continue to shop ethically, even in the face of personal financial pressures.  

Whilst technically a ‘good’ problem to have, this gravitation towards shopping with ethical brands provides further impetus for evolution in the charity and social enterprise sector, especially around re-instilling a community-wide propensity to give. 

We don’t necessarily want to be landed with a problem where people are substituting their giving dollars or their volunteer time for shopping ethically. There is a way to do both in a sustainable fashion, and oftentimes, on a very local level.  

So, what can I do? 

Being more considered in your approach to gift-giving this Christmas is a really quick and easy way to shift into a more philanthropic way of thinking. Christmas is the foundational giving moment of the calendar year, and a perfect way to embed fresh spending habits as we head into 2024. 

It’s as simple as a mindset change. Buy your flowers from a social enterprise that employs migrant women. Gift some clothes from a shop where profits go towards ending youth homelessness or buy greeting cards from a woman-led micro business. Stay at a social enterprise hotel over the holiday period.  

It may require a little more thought than heading to the mall or Amazon, but finding better ways to spend your precious dollars can have a real impact.  


Kristen Lark is the Chief Executive Officer of The Funding Network, Australia's largest collective giving model. For 10 years, The Funding Network has acted as a bridge between business, philanthropy, and everyday Australians, raising $25 million, given directly to Australian grassroots charities.

Kristen has extensive experience across leadership, marketing, stakeholder engagement and communications in the US and Australia, and held leadership positions in both the corporate and non-profit sectors. She is also a certified leadership coach.


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