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Data shows charity sector was robust heading into bushfire crisis and pandemic

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The report, which is based on the most current available charity data from 48,000 charities, found the sector employed 10% of Australians and benefitted from the services of 3.7 million volunteers. Despite a drop in net income and an increase in expenses, Australian charities operated at a surplus, supported by substantial assets. 

ACNC Commissioner the Hon Gary Johns said, “The data shows the charity sector was in a strong position leading into this year’s current crises.  Many charities had reserves and investments as well as diversified sources of revenue to support their financial viability.” 

The Australian Charities Report analyses information the ACNC receives directly from charities in their Annual Information Statement. The report’s key findings include the total combined income and expenses of charities, a summary of what they do, who they help, and where they operate. 

“The analysis in the charities report is very important because it helps us to measure the size and strength of the charity sector,” Dr Johns said. 

The Australian Charities Report 2018, the sixth edition published by the ACNC, provides fascinating insights into the charity sector. 

Overall, only 6.8% of charity revenue came from donations, the majority (47%) came from government, including grants, followed by revenue from providing goods and services (34%). 

“The data shows that there is great variation across charity types,” Dr Johns said. “Public benevolent institutions that help relieve poverty receive a large percentage of their income from government, more than 60%, while animal welfare charities receive a small amount of their revenue from government, just over 3%, but are more reliant on donations, which account for nearly 50% of their revenue.” 

Volunteers again made a major contribution to charities. 

“Volunteers are the backbone of charities. It is heartening to see volunteer numbers continue to increase. Volunteers rose from 3.3 million in 2017 to 3.7 million in 2018, a 12% increase,” he said. “Half of all charities operate without any paid staff,” he said. 

Key findings from the Australian Charities Report 2018: 

  • In the 2018 reporting year charity revenue grew by over 6%, significantly more than the Australian economy in the same period (1.9%). 
  • Australia’s charities, overall, operated at a surplus, supported by substantial assets. 
  • Revenue was up by $9.3 billion, from $146.1 billion in 2017 to $155.4 billion in 2018. 
  • Donations rose to $10.5 billion, an increase of $600 million from the previous year . 
  • Assets increased by $18.7 billion to $323 billion. 
  • Almost half of charity revenue came from Government (47%), and over a third (34%) was generated by providing goods and services (some of which are subsidised by government funding). 
  • Most charities were small (66%) generating less than $250,000 in revenue, followed by large (18%) with revenue of over $1 million, and medium (16%) with revenue of $250,000 or more but under $1 million.
  • A third of charities were extra small with revenue of less than $50,000. 
  • The largest charities (0.4% of all charities) reported revenue of over $100 million.
  • Charities employed more than 1.3 million people.  
  • Volunteer numbers across Australia’s charity sector increased to 3.7 million, up 12% on the previous year’s figure of 3.3 million. 
  • Half of all charities operated without any paid staff. 
  • Charities spent $81.1 billion on employee expenses, up 8% on the previous year’s figure of $74.8 billion. 
  • The most common activities for charities included religious activities, primary and secondary education, grant-making, social services, and aged care services.
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