If you’re among the 1.2 million people who donated to Celeste Barber’s Facebook bushfire fundraiser, you might be wondering what happens to your money now.
So far nearly $48 million has been donated to the fund.
Here’s what we know — and what we don’t know — about how that money will be distributed.
The donation leaves your account straight away
Once you hit the donate button, your donation will be taken out of your bank account. You will not be charged extra fees to process your donation.
Your money will go into the PayPal Giving Fund, which is a public ancillary fund registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC).
PayPal Giving Fund collects that money and then distributes it to the nominated charity which, in this case, is The Trustee For NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) and Brigades Donations Fund.
How long will PayPal hold the money for?
Barber’s fundraising page says the money will be granted to the charity by PayPal within 15 to 90 days.
If you were to donate today and click the “track my donation” link on the confirmation page that pops up, you would be told the estimated payout date was April 8, three months after your donation.
But donations are likely to be processed much faster than that.
“PayPal Giving Fund remains on standby to release the funds raised by Celeste Barber for the NSW RFS,” a PayPal Giving Fund spokesperson said on Thursday afternoon.
“We are supporting the NSW RFS as they work through their processes to accept the record-breaking amounts that have been raised, and are aware that the RFS remain focused on the ongoing bushfire emergency.”
The spokesperson said the organisation was working to fast-track donations made through its platform in light of Australia’s bushfire crises, having already streamlined millions of dollars donated through other campaigns.
This process ensures the money goes to the intended fund, is donated in compliance with the law and that donors are not being scammed, the spokesperson says.
“One hundred per cent of the money donated to charities on Facebook through PayPal Giving Fund is received by charities,” the spokesperson said.
On Thursday afternoon, Barber confirmed via Instagram she had been in discussions with Paypal and the payout process was imminent.
“I have had some pretty long and pretty boring conversations with fancy people at PayPal, Facebook, and the RFS, and I can tell you now, your money is getting moving,” she said.
“We are moving it, people.
“And Facebook and PayPal aren’t taking any of [the money].”
Will the money just go to NSW firefighters?
When Barber launched the fund, she was doing so in response to the situation affecting her family in NSW and only expected to raise $30,000.
But as the donations grew, it became clear there was scope to share the money around.
Barber told fans she wanted to distribute the money to other groups through her Instagram stories.
The Guardian reported some of that money would go to South Australia’s Country Fire Service (CFS) and Victoria’s Country Fire Authority (CFA), referencing one of Barber’s Instagram stories which has since expired.
Barber also wants to use the money to benefit families of victims who have died in the bushfire crisis and help affected wildlife, according to a Pedestrian TV report.
It’s not yet clear how the money will be divided up, especially as the fundraiser is still attracting donations.
We contacted Barber for a break-down of how the funds will be distributed, but have not received a response.
Barber has been posting regular updates about the fundraiser through her social media accounts as it gained notoriety.
How will the money be spent?
A spokesperson for the RFS says it previously worked out how to use donation money through consultations with its members.
The most recent report from the fund says it received about $768,000 in donations in the 2017/2018 financial year.
In 2013/2014, the trust allocated $637,000 for thermal imaging cameras and buoy wall dams, while $440,789 was spent on training facilities in Clarence Valley, Canobolas, Lower Hunter and Bland/Temora as well as two mobile training facilities and six thermal manikins in 2016/2017.
This year the service will have significantly more money to work out how to spend.
Victoria’s CFA would not comment on the specific arrangements regarding donations, but a spokesperson said the organisation was “extremely grateful” for the support it had received from hundreds of donors.
“CFA will be using the donated funds to support brigades and volunteers in their firefighting activities and supporting volunteer leadership and development,” the spokesperson said.
Is my donation tax deductible?
As the PayPal Giving Fund is endorsed by the ACNC, your donation qualifies as a tax deduction so long as the amount is more than $2.
Hold on to the receipt email you should have received from Facebook or save a screenshot of it if you plan to claim your donation at tax time.
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