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Leaders reveal traits of great charities

3 min read

Tanarra Social Purpose, a pro bono strategic and financial advisory charity led by Lisa Kingman, CEO and Anna McCann, COO, has launched its ‘What Makes a Great Charity’ campaign to support thousands of small to medium Australian charities. 

This campaign is in collaboration with 30 of Australia’s leading philanthropists and social change makers, including The Myer Foundation, Paul Ramsay Foundation, Community Council for Australia, Philanthropy Australia, Save the Children Global Ventures, and the John and Myriam Wylie Foundation. 

In the first of a series of national conversations about the charity sector, this initial campaign aims to help charities by providing rare insights from donors, funders and intermediaries on the elements they believe make a great charity.  

The goal is to help charities be as successful and effective as possible in a challenging operating environment. 

As part of the campaign, Tanarra Social Purpose has collated a diverse range of responses to the question ‘What makes a great charity?’ that can be found on the campaign website, together with free resources for the sector.   

Based on Tanarra’s experience supporting over 350 charities and social enterprises, it created a self-analysis Checklist as part of the campaign to help charities validate their strengths and identify areas for growth. 

According to the 10th ACNC Australian Charities Report there are over 60,000 registered charities in Australia and nearly $14 billion was donated or bequeathed to them in 2022. 74% of charities operate on an annual revenue of less than $500,000 with very few paid employees – over half of all charities have no paid staff.  

Charities are doing it tough with expenses increasing faster than revenue for the third year in a row.  Employee expenses rose by nearly 10%- the highest annual rise ever recorded. The number of charity volunteers in 2022 is still a quarter of a million less than the pre-pandemic figure recorded in 2018. The sector is under pressure. 

“A strong charity sector is good for all of us. Many charities face an uncertain future and yet the demand for services is not going away any time soon, particularly concerning housing, cost of living and social equity,” said Tanarra Social Purpose CEO Lisa Kingman OAM. 

“It’s time for a national conversation. Charity leaders and voluntary boards are often so focused on their day-to-day work that they don’t have the bandwidth to step back and take stock of the bigger picture.”  

When asked “What makes a great charity?”, David Crosbie, CEO of Community Council for Australia highlighted that great charities are more than a brand, a program or a well-run service.  

“They meld funding and support; giving and volunteering; collaboration and leadership; work and capability, innovation and impact into a values-driven movement for change, a movement we can all belong to.” 

“Great charities are about both doing things smarter (the head), but also doing things better (the heart),” added Crosbie. 

Kristy Muir, CEO of Paul Ramsay Foundation highlighted that the key elements of a great charity are purpose, people, and partnerships.  

“A great charity is one that is focused every day on the people and communities for whom it exists. It is focused on its social purpose, ahead of its own survival.”  

John Wylie AC, Chair, Tanarra Social Purpose stated that amidst some of the negative news in the world at the moment, the charity sector shines a bright and uplifting light.  

“The fundamental decency, positivity and community spirit of those involved in the sector and the inspiring example of great and effective charities are a joy to behold.”  

“All of us thank those committing themselves to charity work, and we’re happy to do whatever we can to help them,” added Wylie.  

Tanarra Social Purpose intends to create a follow-up campaign ‘What Makes a Great Funder’ capturing the views of those operating charities about those providing funding. 

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

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Third Sector provides high-level content and services for professional development and organisational growth to leaders and senior executives from Australia’s NFP sector and its supporting industries.


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