Charities make a significant financial and social contribution to communities in Australia and overseas. The charity sector is also complex and data about the work that charities do can provide insights to help charities, donors, governments, researchers, and the community better understand the sectors diversity, work, financial status, and sustainability.
The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) has been publishing comprehensive data on Australian charities for almost ten years.
Acting Commissioner Deborah Jenkins said the ACNC has a commitment to share it across many channels.
“That includes our own channels such as the Charity Register, the Australian Charities Report and the interactive data cube, as well as on data.gov.au,” she said.
“Charity data is vitally important. Information helps decision-making, including around funding and resource allocation. We encourage charities to explore how our data might help them. We use it to help shape our work and ensure that charity data is accessible to the sector. There are groups that use it to inform their work, but we are keen to boost awareness more widely.
“We also share data across state and Commonwealth agencies, as part of our priority to cut red tape.”
The Charity Register has information about 60,000 Australian registered charities including financial details and information about nearly 90,000 charity programs, their location and beneficiaries. Ms Jenkins said through enhancements made in late 2021, information is far more detailed, and there are more ways to search than ever before.
“For example, you could search for all charities in an area, or across Australia, of a certain type or those with programs that serve particular beneficiaries.”
“The Register is a great resource for donors, grant makers, people wanting to volunteer for a charity or organisations that want to find a charity with a cause close to their heart to collaborate with.”
The Register had 5.6 million visits last financial year – an increase of 31% from the previous year.
The Australian Charities Report
Each year, the ACNC analyses data from Annual Information Statements in the latest completed reporting period. Top line statistics on revenue, donations, charity size, staff, volunteers, assets and programs are published in the Australian Charities Report.
An interactive data cube is also published, allowing users to do a more fine-grain or custom search on topics and statistics of interest. For example, users can use the data cube to obtain data by state or charity subtype.
Data integrity and validation
“The ACNC has made significant progress to improve the quality of data on the Register and it will continue to be a key focus,” Ms Jenkins said.
A major upgrade in 2018 introduced validation into the online forms, including validation that significantly reduces errors, such as between charity size and total revenue reported.
The ACNC undertakes a range of data integrity work to cover issues such as:
- identifying charities with cancelled ABNs (Australian Business Numbers)
- incorrect reporting as a Basic Religious Charity
- missing key information (such as governing documents and Responsible People), and
- the accuracy of financial data provided by charities in their Annual Information Statement and in the Annual Financial Report.
Reviews of Deductible Gift Recipient-endorsed charities improve data quality, ensuring an alignment between activities, purposes and registered subtypes.
Ms Jenkins said, “We hold a wealth of information that charities and those interested in their work can utilise for their benefit. We invite people to spend some time looking at our various data sources to explore the opportunities they provide. Evidence-based decisions require solid data and the ACNC is a good source for the sector and those with an interest in the sector.”