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Major rise in Australia’s charity sector revenue and expenses

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The latest Australian Charities Report shows a major rise in total sector revenue and expenses.

Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commissioner Dr Gary Johns said the report, released today, illustrates Australian charities’ major contribution to the economy and to thousands of communities.

“Pleasingly, the eighth edition of the Australian Charities Report shows that we have a resilient charity sector. It is hugely important economically and employed more than 10 per cent of Australia’s workforce in the 2020 reporting period. Enormous public support for charities is clear, with donations increasing to $12.7 billion. However, expenses also increased by $10.2 billion,” Dr Johns said.

“It was a landmark year for the sector, starting with devastating bushfires in many parts of Australia. Charities responded to help impacted communities with the generous support of the Australian public. There was unprecedented disruption with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, causing many charities to change, reduce or cease operations for varying periods. Nearly 2,000 charities did not operate, with 650 citing COVID-19 as a reason.

“The disruption may have led to charities incurring additional costs as they tried to shift and change to meet changing needs and requirements. It meant the need for sustained support was never felt as keenly as it was in 2020. There may be some bruises and scars to show for it, but there is no doubt that charities are built on a strong foundation of resilience, innovation and, importantly, public support, trust and confidence.”

The report is mainly based on data 49,000 charities submitted in their 2020 Annual Information Statements — most reporting on the 2020 calendar year or the 2019 –20 financial year. It also includes JobKeeper data supplied by the Australian Taxation Office.

JobKeeper payments to ACNC-registered charities supported an estimated 331,000 individuals between April and September 2020. This reduced to approximately 128,000 individuals between October and December 2020, and 86,000 between January and March 2021.

“JobKeeper helped relieve the financial stress brought about by the response to the pandemic for some charities. Total revenue in the sector rose to $176 billion, an increase of $10 billion on the previous year, which suggests many charities were able to navigate the challenges of 2020 with the support of government,” Dr Johns said.

This edition captures charity program data for the first time, giving an insight into the work of the sector across 75,000 programs. Approximately 7% of charities reported that they operate overseas, in 217 countries or regions. The five most common countries were Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Kenya and Papua New Guinea.

Explore the interactive data (including state by state figures) and download Annual Information Statement data by visiting the ACNC section on data.gov.au

Key Stats

In the 2020 reporting period:

  • Charities’ revenue rose to $176 billion — up by more than $10 billion on the previous period
  • Donations rose by 8% to $12.7 billion
  • Revenue from government rose to $88.8 billion — up $10.7 billion on the previous period, accounting for 50.4% of total revenue
  • Other major revenue sources were goods and services (32.5%) and donations or bequests (7.2%)
  • The 50 largest charities by revenue accounted for 33% of total sector revenue
  • Expenses increased by $10.2 billion
  • Charities employed 10.5% of all employees in Australia — 1.38 million people
  • There was a rise in the proportion of full-time and part-time staff
  • Education charities employed the most staff — more than 330,000
  • Volunteer contribution was high at 3.4 million volunteers, but decreased by 220,000 on the previous period
  • 51% of charities reported no paid staff
  • Environment charities reported the most volunteers — 810,000
  • Approximately half of the sector’s expenses were employee expenses

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