The New Daily 5 September 2022
Imagine finding a dollar on the ground as you’re walking down the street.
It might feel like a bit of luck, a little sign that today is a good day.
Imagine picking it up and handing it to a kid nearby, watching their face light up because of the kindness of a stranger. You’ve turned a bit of luck into a moment of joy.
You don’t need to wait for a chance occurrence to make someone’s day.
Monday is the International Day of Charity – a day that should urge us to think about how we can all give our loose change to make bigger changes.
In support of giving, the Royal Australian Mint will this year release an additional five million ‘Donation Dollars’: A one-dollar coin designed to be donated. The message is simple – if you find one, donate it.
For most of us, a dollar coin won’t stretch very far – you could get a bar of chocolate marked for sale in the checkout queue, a single song on iTunes, or maybe a ‘scratchie’. Even at dollar stores, there’s fewer items priced at a dollar or less.
But by donating your dollar, you can guarantee that you’ll create something more. Something more for cancer research, something more for rescued wildlife or something more for Australian families who have experienced a natural disaster.
If every Australian donated an extra dollar once a month, we could collectively raise about $300 million per year. That’s the kind of change that could make a real difference.
The power of collective giving is why the Australian government has set a goal to double philanthropic giving by 2030. This isn’t to replace the role of government, but to deepen the layers of community and giving across the nation.
By donating to support local charities, each of us can help shape Australia into a fairer and more connected country.
As Assistant Minister for Charities, I’ve been holding ‘Building Community’ forums across Australia, meeting in town halls to discuss with charities how we can strengthen the sector. We’ve held meetings in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Hobart, Canberra, Perth and Melbourne. And yes Darwin, we’re coming to you next.
These conversations have prompted a valuable discussion about the challenges the community sector faces.
Over the past generation, the nation has seen a drop in volunteering rates, a decline in membership of organisations and a fall in participation in team sport.
Australia has experienced a decline in religious participation, a decrease in union membership, and a fall in the number of community associations. The country has even seen a fall in the number of close friends Australians say they have, and the number of neighbours people know.
Yet amid that civic crisis, there are thousands of charities making a difference. From the arts sector to veteran support, environmental protection to disability advocacy, Australian charities are doing remarkable work to strengthen social ties and build community.
Our community needs more social entrepreneurs, and the hard-working charity sector needs more support.
By donating to others, you don’t just build community. You can also experience the well-known ‘helper’s high’ – the joy that comes from assisting others.
Research has borne this out. In one trial, two groups of people were given about $30 to spend during the day.
Half were randomly assigned to spend it on themselves, while the other half were randomly asked to give it to others.
At the end of the day, the donors were significantly happier than those who spent the money on themselves.
Another study took a similar approach, but focused on blood pressure readings instead of happiness.
It found that giving is good for your health, with the randomly selected donor group reporting a drop in blood pressure that was as great as taking hypertension medicine or doing regular exercise.
So this International Day of Charity, think about how you can give back by donating a dollar – or more – to a worthy cause.
Then tell a friend (after all, it’s good for their health). Like the gold ripples on a Donation Dollar, each of us can help build a reconnected Australia.
This opinion piece was first published in The New Daily on 5 September, 2022