How a charity formed during the pandemic and why they chose Raisely
DV Safe Phone is committed to helping all victims of domestic violence without prejudice or bias. They do this by gifting DV Safe Phones to a range of registered charities and service providers who support victims of domestic violence, working in partnership with law enforcement authorities.
We chatted with Ashton Wood, Founder & CEO, DV Safe Phone. Ashton met Marjon, Raisely’s newly appointed APAC Country Lead, at the FIA Conference. In this interview, Ashton shares why they built their entire website on Raisely, not just their fundraising! They also walk us through how they gained community support and corporate partnerships.
Why did you start a new charity in the midst of a global pandemic?
This is the first charity Ashton has ever been involved in, let alone started. “I never thought I'd be running a charity in my life. I've given to charities in the past, but I run another company that does corporate reputation management. When Covid happened, I found myself with more time, so I cleaned up the house and filled the car with items to donate to charity.”
On that same evening Queensland, the state in Australia where Ashton lives, went into lockdown. Everything was now shut, except essential services. Ashton had nowhere to take everything he’d gathered to donate.
So he contacted the only person he could think of, an ex police senior sergeant. He knew she dealt with domestic violence victims, and so he asked if there was a victim that needed any of these items directly. She said to him, “Ashton, what I need right now, is mobile phones. That’s the first thing to get smashed or taken during domestic violence.”
Without a mobile phone, it stops the ability for the victim to call for help and stay connected to their support network. The critical thing during COVID, was that people were literally trapped at home. Their partners had software to monitor their phones, watch their messages, and track where they are. In domestic violence cases, the phone's the first thing to be taken or often smashed. The victim ends up with possible life-threatening injuries and the inability to call for help.
“By the time the victim gets to a nurse because of injuries, the victim wants to go home because it can be so complicated at home, they may have kids, pets and belongings and there’s quite often financial control as well. They can't just leave on that first occasion. Quite often, it takes about eight or nine occurrences before someone has the support and confidence to leave.”
Ashton was shocked by this reality, and said, “I've got a couple phones here in my drawer you can have right now”. The ex police senior Sergeant said, “Those phones in your drawer could save a life. Ashton asked “how many phones do you need?”, Janine’s reply… You'll never get me enough phones.”
So, that's where it started. Ashton donated two phones and became eager to learn more about this problem.
How did you grow your charity?
In Australia there’s 2 million domestic violence victims in a population of only 25 million, and Covid made this number a lot worse. Learning how big the problem is just in Australia is what pushed Ashton into action. He started by calling out to his friends through LinkedIn and encouraging them to give their phones to victims and to the police.
Ashton had no intention of setting up a charity, but they launched in April, 2020, and in May, 2021, became a fully formed charity with deductible gift recipient (DGR) status.
Since then, they’ve received over 11,300 phones. Every phone is tested, as a lot they receive are damaged. They put them aside and try to secure funding to repair them. The phones that look good, they try to turn around as quickly as possible. So far, 3,700 phones have been given to domestic violence victims.
Ashton began by employing someone to help him build DV Safe Phone correctly. At first, he was asked “why on earth would you want to start a charity now?”, right at the beginning of the pandemic.
For Ashton, he didn’t necessarily want to start a charity, but realised “if that's the structure I need to do this properly, then that's what we'll do. I want phones in the door. I want them tested. I want them out to victims through the police and domestic violence agencies. And I want the whole thing to be free.”
How did you choose a fundraising software?
As it is for most charities when they begin, Ashton’s first question was, “what platform do I use?”
He wasn’t sure if he needed to pay someone tens of thousands of dollars for a website, if you just use PayPal buttons for donations, or Stripe. All the questions of how do we keep a register of who's donating? How do we do regular donors? Do I remember to ring them every month?... Sound familiar?
So Ashton started Googling and came across some Raisely reviews. He signed up for free and showed his employee who’d worked with massive charities but had never used Raisely either.
Ashton’s team initially had reservations about using Raisely because we are free. They thought, “You need to pay and get a proper one”.
But after diving into Raisely, they soon fell in love. “A lot of people use Raisely for their campaigns. But for us, it became our entire website. We built the whole thing on Raisely as we don’t need a separate website, and to pay for another developer.”
“We are really, really impressed with the support we get when we need it, which isn't very often. It’s only when we try and do new things that are not standard to just a fundraising campaign.
We run three campaigns a year, one for domestic violence awareness month, one for sexual violence awareness month and our Christmas campaign We wanted to find a way that we could do them and measure them in isolation to the rest of our fundraising. We found a way through Raisely to build and measure them as separate campaigns and report back.”
DV Safe Phone has successfully fundraised over $230K AUD on Raisely.
How do you work with other domestic violence agencies?
They’ve realised there’s a real gap. There’s so many amazing agencies out there that deal with domestic violence, with housing and clothing and even finding funds for the victims. But, none of it can be accessed if a victim can't make a call. A phone is a critical part and phones are expensive.
The challenge for the agencies is also getting justification for buying a phone. So that's where DV Safe Phone comes in and they provide phones to that organisation to give to victims, to take home and hide.
DV Safe Phone receives all phones, which they charge, test and even do repairs where possible.
Once tested, DV Safe Phone provides mobile phones normally in boxes of 5 or 10 phones to domestic violence or law enforcement agencies in Australia. The phones come with a brand new charger cable, SIM cards, credit and are fully reset to the factory default. “We know there's no tracking software in them, they're not signing into iCloud accounts. There's nothing like that. So they're fully reset, ready to go.”
They normally send a range of phones out so that the agency can pair the victim up with the type of phone they're used to using. Specialists who deal with victims have said, when they are in a panic state and need to make that emergency call, the last thing they want them to be doing is trying to work out how to use a different phone.
Once the agency receives the phones, they sit with the victim and set up their new safe phone. DV Safe Phone doesn’t take these phones back, they’re the victims for life. They’re theirs to keep, so they can get themself out of trouble, and start a new life. In fact, they suggest damaging the old one, because it's probably being tracked by the partner. To turn it off, shut it down, put a hammer through it and put it through recycling..
DV Safe Phone has two maps on their website, which list all the 500+ drop off locations in Australia people can donate phones. There’s also a map of every agency that receives phones from them, so victims know who to reach out to, to get the phones. Then the victims can get all the other support those agencies can offer. There's over 180 agencies on this, excluding safe houses and hospitals who don't want their address listed.
How did you encourage support from the community?
A lot of it has been through partnership. Ashton discovered that with a charity it can be very hard to get money to pay for rent or pay for people. “That's the two hardest things when it comes to government grants.”
“You can get grants for things. So we do that. Some agencies have been asking us for SIM cards to include with the phones we give out, so we regularly apply for grants to cover SIM’s, cables, phone screens, batteries and postage costs”.”
“We currently purchase the ALDI Mobile SIM’s, as they’re the only provider in Australia who offers a $5 SIM that lasts for a year with credit, whereas all the others expire for 30 days.”
“At the start, I would literally beg companies for their old phones and donations, and it was frustrating when we’d get some ‘No’s’.
“We’ve realised that there are many amazing people in Australia who just “get it’ and it’s a pretty simple conversation, so I’ve stopped chasing companies/people who I thought would want to help, and simply welcome companies who come to us, wanting to help, like Commonwealth, Macquarie, Suncorp, ANZ, Westpac, RAB, Heritage, Jeep, WOTSO and Fernwood Fitness… and there’s hundreds more!”
A lot of people want to do good, but they don't know how. They might donate to charities, but they don't know where the money goes. I’m proud that we’ve been able to offer these people a way to help. Together we can make a real difference.
Build your charity website with Raisely
Like DV Safe Phone, you can also build your entire charity and nonprofit website on Raisely. Follow along in our guide and we will show you the steps to a beautiful fundraising website!
Why have everything in one place? Well, it’s easy! On Raisely there’s..
- No coding required
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Need we say more? The Raisely team would love to help you build a website that works for you, your fundraisers and their supporters.