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Donations and bequests to registered charities grew by almost 15 per cent between 2014 and 2016, according to new research published by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC). "Growth and change in Australia’s charities: 2014 to 2016", a sub-report of the Australian Charities Report 2016, was produced by the ACNC in partnership with the Centre for Social Impact and the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales.

The report assessed the Annual Information Statements of more than 45,000 charities over three years to identify trends in income, workforce, location and activities.

ACNC Commissioner, the Hon Dr Gary Johns, welcomed the research and its insights into the sector.

“This is the ACNC’s first comparative report, analysing changes over multiple years,” Dr Johns said.

“The key takeaway from this report is the incredible generosity of the Australian community.

“Between 2014 and 2016, which covers three reporting periods for registered charities, the value of donations and bequests increased by $1 billion.

“Overall, charity income increased from $110 billion in 2014 to $121 billion in 2016, providing an additional $11 billion for charitable activities here in Australia and abroad.

“The amount of money charities spent to deliver their services also grew – up 12 per cent over the three years.”

The research also found that with increased income charities are hiring more staff, with the number of paid employees increasing by 4 per cent.

“The charity sector is one of the largest employers in Australia,” Dr Johns said.

“Registered charities employ over 1.2 million people - second only to the retail industry.

“And while paid employees are entirely necessary for charitable work, it is also pleasing that 2.9 million people volunteer their time for charities across the country.”

Dr Johns confirmed that the most common type of charity in Australia is still religion, followed by education and research.

“In 2016, approximately 30 per cent of Australia’s charities stated that their main activity was advancing a religion, and this is broadly consistent with 2014,” Dr Johns said.

“Charities that fall under the category of education and research, for example non-government schools and universities, are the second most common at 19 per cent. Again, this is consistent with 2014.

“What these figures show is that the charity sector is fairly stable in terms of the services that are being delivered in the community.

“Interestingly, the report found that across the three years, the ACNC revoked the charity status of 2,600 more organisations than it registered, meaning the total number of charities actually decreased.”

Key statistics

  • The total income of the 45,455 charities included in the reports increased by 10% - from $110.7 billion in 2014 to $121.8 billion in 2016 (not all charities are required to provide reports).
  • Total expenditure grew 12.7%, from $101.0 billion in 2014 to $113.9 billion in 2016.
  • Total charity assets increased by 14.8% from 2014 to 2016.
  • Donations and bequests increased by 14.8% - a value of $1 billion.
  • The most common main activities for Australia’s charities are ‘religious activities’ and ‘education and research’.
  • The number of paid employees increased by 4.4%.
  • During the period, the ACNC revoked the charity status of 11,698 and registered 9,044 new charities.

Download report

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