The latest official data shows more than half of Australia’s charities are run entirely by volunteers. The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) has launched the seventh edition of the Australian Charities Report, during National Volunteers Week (17 to 23 May).

The regulator’s analysis of approximately 48,000 Australian registered charities showed that for the 2019 reporting year 51 per cent operated without any paid staff. ACNC Commissioner Dr Gary Johns said the charity sector is a significant part of the economy, and relies heavily on the generosity of volunteers to provide vital services to the Australian community.

“Our comprehensive analysis of the sector shows charities employed 1.38 million people, but the number of volunteers was much higher than that. Charities harnessed the skills of around 3.6 million volunteers in this latest analysis period,’ Dr Johns said.

“Volunteers make an enormously valuable contribution to the nation and to their local community. During National Volunteer Week it is an opportune time to acknowledge that, and to express our gratitude for their outstanding dedication and effort.”

The total of approximately 3.6 million volunteers that charities reported to the ACNC was a slight decrease of 200,000 on the previous year. Small charities, with annual revenue less than $250,000, made up 65 per cent of the sector, and were more reliant on volunteers than large charities. Large charities were more reliant on paid staff to achieve their charitable purpose.

Dr Johns said the comprehensive analysis of the data in the seventh edition of the Australian Charities Report sets the benchmark for our future understanding of the significance of the COVID-19 pandemic and the catastrophic 2020 bushfires. “These major events are likely to have affected the sector and may have impacted volunteering. We will have a clearer picture of that in our next annual data analysis,” Dr Johns said.

Note: As charities’ financial years vary, the seventh edition of the Australian Charities Report comprises information from charities with a financial year between 1 July 2018 and 31 December 2019.