COVID-19 interfering with philanthropy, survey finds

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is affecting the ability of Australians to donate and extend a helping hand to others outside their household, according to the latest survey by the Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research at the University of Melbourne.

The Taking the Pulse of the Nation weekly survey tracks changes in the economic and social wellbeing of Australians living through the effects of the pandemic.*

More than 30 per cent of Australians who were surveyed reported they helped others outside their households by giving their time or donating money. A total of 66 per cent said they did not help, but of those who did help, 53 per cent said they helped more, 32 per cent said they helped about the same and 15 per cent said they helped less than before COVID-19.

“Across Australia and by gender, most people responded that they did not help others in the previous two weeks,” said Professor A. Abigail Payne, Director of the Melbourne Institute.

“In normal circumstances, a lot of Australians give a little but perhaps a nudge from governments to encourage people to give a little more is now warranted.”

Researchers suggest media campaigns along with options around tax treatment of donations could be used to empower people to provide a helping hand to others.

“The Government could consider how it might use the tax system to encourage individuals to dig a little deeper to support community organisations during this crisis and in the coming years,” Professor Payne said. “The Government could also consider its role in directly supporting charities through grants and contracts for services rendered to Australian communities.”

The survey also shows Australians are turning their attention to the path to economic recovery as the COVID-19 curve flattens and restrictions begin easing.

Satisfaction with government economic policies to support jobs has been steady (at an average of 66 per cent) throughout the six weeks of the survey, but there has been a slight shift in the expected duration of the pandemic. The proportion of people expecting the pandemic to last for six months increased by four per cent, while the proportion expecting it to last for more than 12 months fell by four per cent.

The financial conditions of the respondents have shifted marginally, with a slight increase in the proportion of people feeling financially stressed and a small decline in those who feel financially comfortable.

A further report by Professor Payne has also been published this week by the Melbourne Institute on philanthropy during COVID-19.

This week’s survey was conducted between 11-15 May, soon after the 8 May announcement of a three-step plan to ease restrictions in Australia.

*The weekly survey by the Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research at the University of Melbourne contains responses from 1,200 people aged 18 years and over, with the sample stratified by gender, age and location to represent the Australian population. All results are available on the Taking the Pulse of the Nation web page.