The Curtin Charities 2013 Report released today gives the first comprehensive, evidence-based analysis of Australian charities and reveals previously unknown facts about the sector.

Australian charities employ nearly 1 million people. Over 90 per cent of these are employed by only 10 per cent of charities. Additionally, charities manage around 2 million volunteers. The sector has a combined total income of more than $100 billion, and the report revealed the sector has grown by 2 per cent annually since 1990.

The Curtin Charities 2013 Report was produced by the Curtin University Not-for-profit Initiative. The report analysed data from more than 38,000 charities registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC). In addition, the report shows the remarkable variety in the sector’s activities and beneficiaries, and implies that the majority of regulatory burden is felt by a minority of charities.

The analysis was drawn from 38 341 Annual Information Statements submitted by charities in their first year of reporting to the ACNC (up to 30 June 2014). It provides the first single-source, evidence-based research of the charity sector of its kind.

The research also revealed wide-ranging findings:

In terms of charitable activities:

  • Charities undertook a broad range of activities in 2012-13, ranging from religious, community development and research activities to emergency relief, animal protection and international pursuits
  • Religious activities were the main the activity for more 25 per cent of charities, followed by primary and secondary education for 6 per cent of charities
  • Nearly 70 per cent of charities worked in one or more areas in addition to their main charitable activity

In terms of how the reporting burden is experienced:

  • 10 per cent of charities experience about 80 per cent of the total administrative burden

In terms of employment of staff / volunteers:

  • 10 per cent of charities accounted for 90 per cent of full time jobs and nearly $90 billion of income in the sector
  • 75 per cent of small charities do not employ full time staff
  • The peak number of volunteers employed by organisations is between five and 19
  • Nearly 1 million people are employed across the sector .

ACNC Commissioner Susan Pascoe AM said the Curtin Charities 2013 Report was valuable for anyone wanting to understand more about the charity sector, from the general public and charitable organisations, to researchers and policy makers.

“It is the first time such comprehensive, evidence-based analysis of the whole of the charitable sector has been available,” Ms Pascoe said.

“The research shows the Australian charity sector is one of breadth and diversity. At one end, the minority of large charities command a substantial proportion of resources such as paid staff, volunteers and income, while at the other end, the vast majority of charities are small, volunteer-based organisations.

“The collection and analysis of these first Annual Information Statements provide the foundation for future research and greater understanding about the charity sector. As the volume of available data grows, a clearer picture will evolve of issues such as where and how the sector is growing, who is receiving their support, their funding sources, and the sector’s contribution to the economy.

“Registered charities’ 2014 Annual Information Statement will also help increase knowledge of the sector through the first collection of financial data.”

Curtin University Not-for-profit Initiative Director and Curtin Charities 2013 Report co-author Professor David Gilchrist said the charity sector was a large and extremely important part of the economy, and policy should be developed recognising this.

“Charities are instrumental to the capacity of governments in implementing policy and delivering services in key areas; particularly in health, aged care, disability services, education and housing. All Australians are affected in one way, shape or form by the work of charities and a strong and sustainable charity sector benefits everyone,” Prof Gilchrist said.

“We need tactical approaches to the development of policies that use an evidence- based approach to identifying the issues and needs of individual sub-groups. A hospital with 1,000 beds is nothing like a small religious group or a volunteer fire brigade.”

Prof Gilchrist said the evidence was clear that a targeted strategy was needed for each sub-sector to effectively remove inappropriate administrative burden. Further, the multiplicity of activities being undertaken in conjunction with multiple funding sources, suggested a central government agency was needed to drive change.

“The median time spent by charities in reporting to government was 40 hours a year. About 10% of charities are experiencing about 80% of the administrative burden. These are primarily large organisations operating primarily in human services. Reporting requirements are often legitimately more substantial due to the risks associated with such activities.

“This report was made possible by the collection of data by the ACNC and there is no doubt that, as more data is collected and both regulators and charities become more adept at seeking and providing better information, better policy decisions and better strategic planning will follow.”

Related links:

Register your interest in attending an event in Perth, Sydney or Melbourne, taking an in-depth look at the report and findings

Media contacts:

Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission

Allison Sloan:

Curtin University Not-for-profit Initiative

Prof David Gilchrist: 0404 515 270