While Australia is geographically on the other side of the world from Ukraine, we are not unaffected by international events. Many of us want to do what we can to support people directly affected by the Russian-Ukraine war, and our individual choices to support organisations can make a difference. 

But how can we trust our donations will be used effectively?

The two questions every donor needs to answer for themselves are:

  1. What activity do I want to support, and
  2. Is this charity actually doing the work it proclaims to?

What activity do I want to support?

Things to consider include 

  • What kind of charity work is actually useful in wartime? 
  • Are some more effective than others? 
  • What aligns with my values?

There are a wide range of charities involved in many different activities to help the people of Ukraine each in different ways. For example, some organisations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees are focusing on helping the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the war, many of them mothers and young children. Others such as the Red Cross are more centred on providing emergency relief, including food, shelter, water and hygiene kits. Another avenue is to donate to organisations such as Medzua (a Russian online newspaper) and OVD-Info (a Russian human rights service) who are fighting to provide balanced and truthful media to Russian citizens about the war and help support internal Russian protests. It’s up to you to decide what activity aligns with your values  and what you want to support.

Yet another alternative is to focus on challenges that existed before the Russian invasion, whether centred in the Ukraine or elsewhere. There are many causes both globally and locally that need support, and that should not be forgotten.  

Is this charity actually doing the work it proclaims to?

Things to consider include:

  • Is the charity legitimate?
  • Who is actually doing work on the ground?
  • How accurate is the information I’m getting?
  • Can I trust a charity is accountable and transparent with the use of donations?
  • What might happen to the funds if Russia overtakes Ukraine in the next few weeks?

These are tough questions to answer and much is unknown. As events are unfolding and change happens so quickly it is important to find an organisation you trust to use your donation as intended. 

A key step is to avoid scams. While most people are genuinely compassionate and want to do what they can for others, some are using this crisis for personal or organisational benefit. There are a number of charity scams to beware of. They tend to centre on making emotional appeals for solidarity with the people of Ukraine, tugging at our heartstrings, trying to take from our purses. If you look into these organisations, they tend to provide very vague claims about how donations would be used. It is important to do your research before giving any donation, so you can be confident it ends up in the right hands. Tips to avoid scams include researching the organisation to ensure it is legitimate, giving via credit card over a secure website (charities asking for wire transfer are a red flag) and avoid any undue pressure or urgency to give unless you are comfortable and confident in doing so. 

To assess the legitimacy of an Australian charity, check if it is registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC). You could also consider donating to a charity accredited by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs; these organisations partner with and receive funding from the Australian government and are considered by the government to be “highly effective, professional and well managed”. 

If you are looking to donate to a charity outside of Australia, it is worth investigating whether it is registered with its relevant local charity regulator, such as the UK Charity Register or the US IRS. Otherwise it is well worth researching the organisation as much as possible before making a donation. 

It’s also a good idea to seek out well known organisations who have a history of working in the humanitarian space (such as the Australian Red Cross) and/or a history of working in the Ukraine (such as charities that are part of the Emergency Action Alliance). These organisations will have the experience to move quickly, especially if they can show prior effective results.

We recommend using ChangePath to assess Australian charities ability to achieve results, show transparency, and achieve financial efficiency. ChangePath allows you to really understand the impact of a charity, and you can compare options to make the best decision on which organisation to support, making sure your donation has the most bang for its buck. 

While knowing where to donate is a complicated question, don’t ignore the urge to do your part to make a difference. Only you can decide whether the best course of action is to donate to this cause, or another. Your compassion and generosity is what will lead to a better world, and that is worth taking the time to think through your options to achieve.

Further reading

Department of Foreign Affairs, List of Australian accredited non-government organisations (NGOs) https://www.dfat.gov.au/development/who-we-work-with/ngos/list-of-australian-accredited-non-government-organisations

ChangePath https://www.changepath.com.au/beta/search.php