Celeste Barber has raised more than $48.9 million for bushfire relief.
Celeste Barber has raised more than $48.9 million for bushfire relief.

Fundraiser plea: ‘People need help now’

Facebook and PayPal Giving Fund Australia have vowed to "expedite the process" of releasing money donated through Celeste Barber's record-smashing bushfire fundraiser.

The actress and comedian launched the appeal on Facebook last Friday, urging people to "please help any way you can" and support The Trustee for NSW Rural Fire Service and Brigades Donations Fund.

Aussies and people across the globe dug deep in response, with more than $49 million raised just a week later - a figure that continues to grow every minute.

However, a detail in the fine print, which states donations will be granted to the charity "within 90 days", initially caused some alarm, with social media users expressing their concern.

Aussies are starting to question whether their donations will reach fireys in time.
Aussies are starting to question whether their donations will reach fireys in time.

"Is there any way @PayPal @AskPayPal you could expedite the funds raised as part of @celestebarber_'s @Facebook RFS fundraiser? 15-90 days is a long time given the urgency of the situation in Australia. People need help now, not in 3 months #AustraliaBurning," one Twitter user posted on January 4, while another wrote: "Hey @Facebook, it says your fundraiser payments don't reach the charity for 45 - 90 days. I worry about the $41 million fundraiser and others, will those organisations not see the money til the bushfires are gone?"

But Facebook and PayPal Giving Fund Australia have promised to speed up the process and get the money where it is needed as soon as possible, with a PayPal Giving Fund spokesman telling news.com.au it was on "standby".

"PayPal Giving Fund remains on standby to release the funds raised by Celeste Barber for the New South Wales Rural Fire Service," the spokesman said.

"We are supporting the New South Wales Rural Fire Service as they work through their processes to accept the record-breaking amounts that have been raised, and are aware that the rural fire service remain focused on the ongoing bushfire emergency.

"100 per cent of the money donated to charities on Facebook through PayPal Giving Fund is received by charities."

It is understood the hold up is caused by a legal roadblock, with experts telling The Australian the Brigad­es Donations Fund, the RFS' trust which manages donations, bars cash to be spent on any other causes apart from training, resources and fire equipment for the organisation.

That means the donations can't be spent on the firefighters themselves or be sent to volunteer firefighting groups in other states.

NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge has called for urgent reform to the NSW Rural Fires Act when parliament resumes to ensure the money goes where it is most needed.

Barber’s cause is now the biggest Facebook fundraiser in history. Picture: Facebook/Celeste Barber
Barber’s cause is now the biggest Facebook fundraiser in history. Picture: Facebook/Celeste Barber

Barber's cause is now the biggest Facebook fundraiser in history, eclipsing the previous record holder, a fundraiser created by Charlotte and Dave Willner for The Refugee and Immigrant Centre for Education and Legal Services, which raised $US20.77 million ($A30,228,346) from more than 530,000 donors.

In contrast, Barber's has so far raised more than $49 million from more than 1,260,000 people from across the world - although the final figure is poised to climb far higher.

Several other Facebook fundraisers for the bushfire cause have also raked in millions, including one for WIRES-Emergency Fund for Wildlife that has raised more than $13 million.

Meanwhile, a GoFundMe Australia spokeswoman told news.com.au the platform's payment processing fee in Australia was 2.2 per cent.

"In 2018 GoFundMe eliminated platform fees in Australia and is now reliant on voluntary tips from our generous donors," the spokeswoman said.

"Our payment fees are industry standard and cover the costs associated with payment processing, helping GoFundMe continue to be the safest place to donate."

Several bushfire-related fundraisers have also popped up on that platform since the fire crisis began.

Lachlan and Sarah Murdoch have pledged $2 million dollars to recovery efforts. Their contribution will be allocated to organisations focused on rural recovery.


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