SME community supports bushfire victims

SME community supports bushfire victims

16 January 2020

Size isn’t everything when it comes to lending a hand to those in need, as small and medium businesses joined their corporate counterparts to support those affected by the devastating bushfires. But what form this support takes can be crucial to recovery efforts, reports My Business’s Adam Zuchetti.

Australian bushfires

The best way to support businesses affected by bushfires is to directly visit the regions, spend money with local operators, and donate cash that bushfire victims can spend at local stores and suppliers.

While the generosity of larger corporations generated plenty of headlines, the efforts of smaller businesses to go above and beyond in supporting their fellow Aussies was often overlooked.

Some farmers, produce retailers and logistics companies reportedly teamed up to donate hay to affected farmers so they can feed surviving livestock. Other businesses have offered equipment and heavy machinery — along with their or their employees’ time — to help with clearing roads and driveways, burying deceased livestock and other recovery efforts.

Finance company Liberty donated $250,000 to the Red Cross appeal, and said it would match the donations of staff, customers and partners up to a further $100,000. Many other businesses followed suit in matching such donations.

Meanwhile Lloyds Auctions announced that it would hold special bushfire relief auctions, with all proceeds – expected to be in the millions of dollars – being donated to the cause and all sale fees and costs being waived by the auction house.

“In less than 24 hours since going live, our phones have been ringing off the hook. We are astounded with the amount of support from the public, companies and celebrities donating items to support fellow Australians in need,” Lloyds Auctions COO Lee Hames said in a statement.

“There will be zero costs and zero fees, with 100 per cent of funds donated to charities and fire services, including the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Wires and the RFS.”

Meanwhile, the Australian Red Cross has highlighted some of the efforts of many smaller businesses to donate funds to its disaster relief activities. They include:

  • Small business owners Shannon Logan (of Jet Black Cat Music record store) and Nick Goding (of local bar The End) co-hosting a live music and bake sale event in Brisbane to raise money.
  • Brisbane punk rock band The Black Catapult donating the sale proceeds of its cover of the song When the River Runs Dry.
  • Mining company RPM Global raising $5,000 after its CEO volunteered to shave his head if the milestone was reached.
  • FIA World Rally Championships organisers and drivers hosting a thank-you function for volunteer firefighters and donating $11,000 to the Red Cross after the Australian leg in Coffs Harbour was cancelled due to fires.
  • Separately, the Business Council of Australia implored all employers with the means to do so to support volunteer firefighters by offering at least 20 days’ additional paid leave to help them offset their financial losses from days spent away from work to fight the blazes.

Financial support crucial for local businesses to survive

Crisis management and disaster recovery expert Rick Stone urged everyone wishing to join the relief effort to donate money instead of physical goods, as a means of ensuring local businesses are not sent to the wall.

He warned that “hundreds, possibly thousands, of businesses will go under because their cash flow has been interrupted, and really significantly interrupted”, and that the best way of supporting them – aside from directly visiting the regions and spending money with these local operators – is to donate cash that bushfire victims can spend at local stores and suppliers.

“The people who suffered indirect loss can often fall between the cracks. You see the same thing with the targeted payments to bushfire fighters that the government announced — there are all sorts of people to whom that payment does not apply.

“Those who are indirectly affected — and there are a lot of those who are indirectly affected — may not have access to some of these payments. That’s a real issue for government to explore and to see what it is they can do.”

How you can donate

There have been many fundraisers and appeals set up by charities, organisations and individuals to help support both victims of the bushfires and those on the front line.

Some of the major appeals include: