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An image of Sue Woodward AM

It’s no secret that I am a bit of a data nerd – especially when that data is about the Australian charity sector. That’s why our recent release of the 9th edition of the Australian Charities Report was an exciting milestone for me as Commissioner.

Accurate, meaningful data is crucial for us to understand this vibrant and diverse sector. It helps us appreciate the significant contribution ACNC-registered charities make as well as supporting better decision making for those who donate their time and money. The data is rich and can be sliced and diced in many ways to help our understanding of the many different parts of the sector and different sized charities, for example. This helps policy development, understanding what is going well, what could be done better and can inform robust debate around issues and trends.

Perhaps most of all, it tells us a story.

The story that struck me the most from this report was not just the dedication and resilience of Australian charities in pursuit of their missions; it was the sheer scale of their impact. The charity sector employs 10.5 % of Australia’s workforce, that’s more than 1 in 10 of people in paid employment. Perhaps many will also be surprised to learn that charities generate more than $190 billion in annual revenue.

But there is also a concerning trend – the continuing decline in volunteer numbers – down almost 600,000 from 2018. With half of all charities having no paid staff and relying on volunteers to run their operations, this is a sobering statistic.

I know you understand the crucial role charities play beyond the numbers contained in our report. During the period of our report, charities gave help in natural disasters, such as bushfires and floods, rescuing and treating wildlife, raising money for people impacted and helping communities clean up and rebuild. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, charities provided food relief to those who were unemployed, face masks and tests to those who needed it, social support to those who were isolated and housing to those who were homeless – all while contending with their own organisational challenges.

Charities are quick to mobilise in times of crisis and their close relationship with the community means that they often know how best to help. We should never take that for granted.

Through sharing comprehensive data, offering invaluable insights into the sector’s financial health and other key indicators, we support transparency and accountability in the sector and build trust and confidence among donors, grantmakers, volunteers and the public. Our data can also provide an evidence base for significant policy issues such as the current conversations around increasing giving (growing philanthropy) and how to turn the decline in volunteering numbers around. To make sharing and using our data easier, we have established the Charity Data Hub where you can find all our charity data reports and links to our datasets (Charity Data Explorer) to do your own slicing and dicing.

My hope is that through the Australian Charities Report and accompanying Charity Data Explorer, we can demonstrate the positive impact charities have in our community and inspire a new generation of giving and volunteering.

Warm regards,

Sue Woodward AM