The latest data on Australian charities is now available

Did you know charity sector revenue grew by 6.8% in 2019, compared to a 2.2% growth experienced by the Australian economy in the same period?

The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) recently released its latest analysis of the charity sector – the 7th edition of the annual Australian Charities Report (Charities Report).

The Charities Report analyses data from Annual Information Statements submitted by registered charities, informing the ACNC of their activities and financial affairs. The dataset for the Charities Report is for the period from 1 July 2018 to 31 December 2019, with the Charities Report examining the contribution of Australian charities to the community and economy in that period.

In Australia there are over 57,500 registered charities, and approximately 600,000 not-for-profits. Despite its name, the ACNC only regulates charities, which means the Charities Report captures data from the 48,000 registered charities that reported during the relevant period, rather than the broader charitable and not-for-profit sector.

The current data is particularly interesting as it provides a snapshot of the diverse charity sector immediately prior to the 2019/2020 bushfires and COVID-19 outbreak. This will be a useful benchmark for analysing the impact on, and innovative response, of charities to these crises in years to come.

7 key findings

  • Small charities (with an annual revenue of less than $250,000) still make up the bulk of the sector, representing 65%. However, the 50 largest charities by revenue account for 33% of the entire charity sector.
  • Sector assets grew by $30 billion, which has supported Australia’s charities operating at an overall surplus. In the relevant period charities reported over $354 billion in assets.
  • Nearly half of charity sector revenue (47%) is derived from Government funding, including grants and other funding. Revenue generated by donations (7%) and providing goods and services (34%) remained stable in the reporting period.
  • Public giving has increased, with donations up $1.3 billion from the previous year. Despite an increase in donations, time invested did not follow the same pattern with the data revealing that volunteer numbers decreased by approximately 200,000 to 3.6 million.
  • Despite charities employing 11% of the workforce, over half of all charities (51%) operated without paid staff in 2019. For those with paid staff, they increased their spending by 6% with $85.9 billion spent on employee expenses.
  • Charities contributed more in 2019, distributing $7.2 billion in grants and donations within Australia. This was an increase of 27% from the previous year. Overseas distribution also increased, with just under $2 billion in grants and donations distributed, increasing by 20% from 2018.
  • The Charities Report also highlighted the increasing move to online presence, with over half (52%) of registered charities reported having an online presence. This is an increase on the 34% reported in the previous year.

If you would like to read more about the charity sector performance and contribution, we recommend taking a look at the complete Charities Report. The ACNC also provides a free, publicly available searchable interactive dataset, allowing you to conduct your own searches of Australia’s registered charities.

Last week the ACNC released a podcast episode, ‘A Tale of Growth!’: Australian Charities Report and the State of the Charity Sector, with ACNC Commission Gary Johns speaking on the Charities Report and what the data means for the state of the charity sector.

If you have questions about the charity sector, or require legal assistance in relation to your charity, please get in touch with our specialist Charities + Social Sector lawyers.