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How secure online donations are supporting Melbourne’s disadvantaged

Prahran Mission provides emergency relief and rehabilitation services to people experiencing mental illness, poverty, homelessness and economic disadvantage. We chat with the Fundraising General Manager, Nisha Solanki, about how the organisation manages this important and ambitious task.

What services does Prahran Mission offer?

Prahran Mission’s primary, government-funded service focuses on helping people with mental health issues through support work – this means our support workers help people on the journey to recovery with a strengths-based approach.

Our other services, most of which don’t receive government funding, support people experiencing homelessness, poverty and social isolation. One of our main services doing this is the Emergency Relief service. This is like a one stop shop, not just offering people food parcels, money vouchers for fresh food, and other items they might need such as baby food and nappies, but linking them up with other support like our free legal service, or outside resources such as Centrelink, drug and alcohol services, housing services etc. Our aim is to give people a hand up rather than a hand out.

The service runs Monday to Thursday 9.30-12.30 and each morning we have people lining up to access it. The demographic is very mixed – mothers and their children fleeing domestic violence, asylum seekers, people who have recently lost their job. The emergency relief is run by 14 volunteers and one part-time staff member.

Another service we have is a low-cost dining room called Hartley’s which offers subsidised meals such as a hot lunch with free bread and salad for just $4 or a hot soup for $1.50. We also have a drop-in service where people can literally walk in off the street and use our computers, our showers, our laundry facilities or see a nurse or dentist we get in every couple of weeks. This is a particularly important service for people who are homeless.

We also have our op shops, aged-care support, a job supply program… We have about 250 staff members and the same number of volunteers and we couldn’t do it without them.

Why do you feel Prahran Mission’s purpose/goal is important?

Prahran Mission is so vital because without organisations such as ours people needing support would have nowhere to go. For example, we have so many victims of domestic violence coming in and so many of these people literally have nowhere else to go. For them to be able to access all the services and support they need is so important.

It’s vital that the mission is a place where anyone can feel welcome – we have our doors open to anyone regardless of their sex, religion, beliefs etc… It’s also wonderful that the organisation provides that hand up, helping people get back on their feet.

You are Fundraising and Community Relations General Manager. What does that role entail?

We rely so much on our donors who keep these services going and so my role is essentially to create awareness, look after these donors and reach out to the community.

How do you reach out to people and find donations?

We find that direct marketing works best so in terms of reaching out to find new donors we do a lot of targeted campaigns. These campaigns primarily reach out to specific people on the phones. There is a certain profile of people who generally give and they are usually over a certain age with that discretionary income to support charities.

To look after our existing donors we have a quarterly newsletter called Mission Matters which tells them exactly how their donations have helped people in need. We include articles and photos on what’s been happening and that helps people to stay engaged. We also have a social media presence and post news on our Facebook page.

How can we help?

Donating! If people can afford it, we encourage them to become “Friends of the Mission” who are our regular monthly donors. Even if people give $10 a month, it becomes part of that guaranteed pool of income we can then rely on. If people would rather donate time that is wonderful too. And donating goods to the op shops is also helpful. If you’re cleaning out your house and have furniture to give, we have a truck that will pick it up free of cost.

Is being able to facilitate secure online donations important?

Absolutely! I think in an age where fraud is very real, and people are understandably anxious about giving their credit card details, having that SecurePay option makes people feel secure that their details and their funds are safe and going where they’re supposed to go!

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