Need for Feed, a Lions Club project, is entirely run by volunteers

DONATIONS: Need for Feed organiser Graham Cockerell has been delivering hay to farmers in need. Picture: Rob Gunstone.
DONATIONS: Need for Feed organiser Graham Cockerell has been delivering hay to farmers in need. Picture: Rob Gunstone.

Drought relief charities have had to defend themselves after media outlets and social media posts have speculated just how much of the public’s donations are actually going to help farmers.

Graham Cockerell, founder of Need for Feed, which is a project of the Lions Club said 100 per cent of what people donate goes in aid to farmers, whether that be through purchasing fodder or providing transport for it.

One of Mr Cockerell’s concerns from the stories coming out is the public become disillusioned to the figures.

“And that stops them to donate to others who are worthy of being donated to,” he said.

While he didn’t want to name names, Mr Cockerell said there was definitely one drought relief organisation that is being run as a business.  

“And another isn’t too far off it…,” he said.

“I would just question why people, organisations, receiving funds from public donations would have the need to require assets as such or to spend a lot in wages…,”

Need for Feed is run entirely by volunteers, with no wages whatsoever, and grants are used for administration purposes through sponsorship, Mr Cockerell said.

“Currently all of the (public) donations are being used to purchase fodder,” he said.

There would potentially be thousands of volunteers with Need for Feed, Mr Cockerell said.

“We’re getting freight assistance from the NSW government, through the Rural Assistance Authority… but some people who volunteer for us don’t want their fuel (costs) back. They’re basically donating their truck, time and fuel,” he said.

Mr Cockerell said that leaves some money left over which helps pay for phone and internet bills.

While it doesn’t reflect the drought situation currently impacting 100 per cent of NSW, Need for Feed turned over nearly $400,000 in the 2016/17 financial year, Mr Cockerell said.

“The only money we didn’t spend in that year was $82,000.. which didn’t go into anything else. It is sitting as a surplus,” he said.

A partnership between Channel 9, Rotary Australia World Community Service (RAWCS), and the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), provided funds to Need for Feed and the Country Women’s Association’s (CWA) in both New South Wales and Queensland.

This financial year they will have a turnover of in excess of $1 million, given that they will receive a donation from Rotary and Channel 9 through the drought fund, Mr Cockerell said.

Earlier this month the 2018 Drought Relief Fund was holding more than $4 million, every cent of which, will make its way into the hands of our farming families, NFF president Fiona Simson said.

”We know we were chosen on the merits of 100 per cent volunteers and 100 per cent of what they forward to us will go in aid to the farmers,” Mr Cockerell said.

“The only place we’ll spend money on transport is outside of NSW because we don’t yet have support from that from the Victorian government.”

Need for Feed are currently sourcing hay from interstate for their hay runs.

“We had 14 truck loads (of hay) come from Tasmania.. and another 11 next week,” Mr Cockerell said.

At the end of August Need for Feed will deliver more trucks to drought stricken communities to Broken Hill and right across to the Hunter Valley in the one weekend.

They will also be carting dog food and hampers and care packs. ​

Rural Aid, Drought Angels and Aussie Helpers were asked to comment but did not respond before deadline.