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Australian charities generate $190 billion in revenue and employ 10.5% of workforce

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The latest official data shows Australia’s charity sector generated $190 billion in revenue and employed 10.5 % of the workforce, highlighting its significance to the Australian economy and community.

The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) today released the 9th edition of the Australian Charities Report. Commissioner Sue Woodward AM said it shows charity revenue, assets and donations grew in the 2021 reporting period.

“This is a project close to my heart as I believe data makes an important contribution to understanding the depth and breadth of the sector and provides insights that can help guide policy development. The Australian Charities Report 9th edition provides a comprehensive insight into the sector, including state-by-state comparisons,” said Woodward.

“We can see the sector is a major employer. There were 1.42 million employees in the 2021 reporting period, and revenue growth was strong, up by nearly $14 billion on the previous period.”

Donations increased by $676 million to $13.4 billion, and charities reported more than $422 billion in assets, an increase of nearly $31 billion.

However, expenses also went up by $7.1 billion to almost $175 billion. Liabilities rose by $4.1 billion to $141.7 billion, with a 40% increase over three years. Further, the report confirms the widely observed decline in volunteering, with numbers dropping to 3.2 million, down from 3.4 million previously.

“The picture is more sobering when we look at the decline over a longer timeframe. There was a loss of around 596,000 volunteers between the 2018 and 2021 reporting periods. This decline is of concern as we know volunteers are vital across the sector, and overall, 50% of charities operate with no paid staff,” added Woodward.

“Behind the top line figures are thousands of small charities operating with mostly volunteers. In fact, 65% of charities are small, with annual revenue under $250,000, and a third of all charities have less than $50,000 annual revenue.”

The report contains state and territory comparative data, including for total revenue, donations, volunteers and employees. (See Table 5 which excludes charities that report as part of a group)

Table 5 Charity revenue source, volunteers and employees by state or territory

JobKeeper and COVID-19

Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19 in the 2021 reporting period, the data shows a rise of 40,000 part-time, full-time and casual employees in the previous year and a rise of 111,000 in the three years between 2018 and 2021.

The report includes Australian Taxation Office (ATO) data on the JobKeeper Payment Scheme, which commenced on 30 March 2020 and ended on 28 March 2021. Around 12,000 registered charities received JobKeeper payments totalling $7.6 billion. This included approximately $2.9 billion of payments in the 2019-2020 financial year and around $4.7 billion in the 2020-2021 financial year.

JobKeeper payments to registered charities supported an estimated 331,000 people in the period between April 2020 to September 2020. This fell to around 128,000 people in the period between October 2020 to December 2020, and to 86,000 people between January 2021 to March 2021.

Just over 2,000 charities reported they did not conduct activities during the 2021 reporting period, with around 860 citing COVID-19 as the reason.

Philanthropy

As philanthropy is part of the current national conversation, with a Productivity Commission review taking place, the report includes a ‘Focus on giving and philanthropy’, which looks at Australian grant-making charities.

The data shows $13.4 billion (7 per cent) of charity revenue is made up of donations and bequests. That compares with $97 billion (51 per cent) of revenue from government, including grants.

Charities distributed $9.7 billion in grants and donations.

“Our data confirms not only that philanthropists are significant in number – nearly one-fifth of registered charities are grantmakers – but they also play a very significant role in funding those charities we regulate,” said Woodward.

Report data sources

The report is based on the most current data available for Australia’s registered charities and builds on analysis from previous years. For this edition, the ACNC analysed the Annual Information Statements of 49,402 charities from the 2021 reporting period. There were 8,280 Basic Religious Charities (BRCs) – 17% of all registered charities. In the 2021 Annual Information Statement, 7,743 BRCs did not provide financial information. In the report, the size of these BRCs is noted as ‘Size Unknown (BRC)’ where relevant. JobKeeper data comes from the ATO.

Read and download the full Australian Charities Report here. 

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Menchie Khairuddin is a writer Deputy Content Manager at Akolade and content producer for Third Sector News. She is passionate about social affairs specifically in mixed, multicultural heritage and not-for-profit organisations.

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