This Australian Charities Report is the annual analysis of the information we receive from charities in their Annual Information Statements. This is the 8th edition.

Explore the interactive data from the Australian Charities Report.

Download other ACNC datasets from data.gov.au.

Foreword

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I am pleased to present the eighth edition of the Australian Charities Report – the annual analysis of the charity sector that we at the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) provide to the Australian public. The report illustrates the contribution of Australia’s charities to the economy and to thousands of communities, both at home and abroad.

The Australian Charities Report is based on the most current data available for Australia’s charities and builds on analysis from previous years. For this edition of the report, we looked at the Annual Information Statements of more than 49,000 charities from the 2020 reporting period. This is the latest analysis of the charity sector’s size, diversity and activities.

Importantly, 2020 was a landmark year for the charity sector. It began with devastating bushfires in many parts of Australia, and charities responding to help impacted communities with the generous support of the Australian public. We then saw unprecedented disruption with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, causing many charities to change, reduce or cease operations for varying periods.

First, as the report testifies, the aftermath of the bushfires brought out the best in charities and public support for charities. We saw charities step up and do what they do best: provide essential services to thousands of people in need. And we saw the public step up and help this effort with hundreds of millions of dollars raised for bushfire relief.

Although certain charities close to the ground received most donations for bushfire relief, the spirit of philanthropy in this moment was strong and a reminder that there is widespread goodwill and support for charities. The data tells us that donations to charities increased to $12 billion in the 2020 reporting period, demonstrating public support for charities.

The COVID-19 pandemic meant the need for sustained support was never felt as keenly as it was in 2020. Many charities were no longer able to operate as they had and needed to find ways to navigate the challenges the pandemic presented. For some, this meant embracing technology and finding new ways to deliver services, for others it meant paring back services, and for many it meant putting a hold on activities entirely. In fact, the report shows that several hundred charities reported having not conducted activities because of COVID-19.

Many charities were eligible for government support measures created in response to the pandemic. At the federal level, for example, eligible charities were able to access the JobKeeper Payment scheme, a subsidy for businesses significantly affected by COVID-19 that was available between March 2020 and March 2021. JobKeeper helped relieve the financial stress brought about by the response to the pandemic for some charities. The report shows that revenue from government increased by more than $10 billion in the charity sector, bringing the total to nearly $90 billion. This meant that government was now responsible for half of the entire revenue for charities collectively.

Total revenue in the sector rose to $176 billion, an increase of $10 billion on the previous year, which suggests many charities were able to navigate the challenges of 2020 with the support of government. However, the report also shows that expenses increased by $10.2 billion. The disruption of the pandemic may have led to charities incurring additional costs as they tried to shift and change to meet changing needs and requirements.

Pleasingly, the report shows that we do have a resilient charity sector. It remains hugely important economically and employs more than 10 per cent of Australia’s workforce. The proportion of staff employed part time and full time increased in the 2020 reporting period, while the proportion of staff employed in casual roles reduced.

And we must not forget the work of the volunteers. There was a decrease in the number of volunteers reported in the 2020 reporting period, no doubt due at least in part to the pandemic, charities still reported the equivalent of 3.4 million volunteers helping to deliver services. Impressively, about half of all charities reported operating without paid staff. This illustrates the importance of volunteers to the work of charities and to communities across the country.

For the first time, this year we have a view of the programs that charities are reporting in their Annual Information Statements. This has given us an insight into the work charities are doing to achieve their charitable purposes. The report shows that, as expected, the larger the charity, the more likely they are to report a greater number of programs. Our initial foray into this analysis shows that religious and educational programs are among the most prevalent in the charity sector – a finding that correlates with the most common types of charities we have registered.

The charity sector, like most of us, has come through a turbulent year. There may be some bruises and scars to show for it, but there is no doubt that charities are built on a strong foundation of resilience, innovation and, importantly, public support, trust and confidence. And the next edition of the report will provide us with more insight into the ongoing effects of the pandemic on the charity sector.

Best wishes

Gary John's signature

The Hon Dr Gary Johns
ACNC Commissioner

  • Australia’s charities reported a significant increase in total revenue, assets and expenses in the 2020 reporting period.
  • Charities’ revenue was $176 billion – an increase of more than $10 billion from the previous reporting period. However, expenses also increased by $10.2 billion.
  • Donations rose by 8% to $12.7 billion.
  • Of the nearly 2,000 charities that were not operating for the year, 650 cited COVID-19 as a reason.
  • Revenue from government increased to $88.8 billion – up $10.7 billion from the previous reporting period.
  • Revenue from government accounted for more than half (50.4%) of the total revenue for the sector.
  • Goods and services (32.5%) and donations or bequests (7.2%) were the other major sources of revenue.
  • The charity sector employed 1.38 million people – 10.5% of all employees in Australia.
  • JobKeeper payments to ACNC registered charities supported an estimated 331,000 individuals in the period between April 2020 and September 2020. This reduced to approximately 128,000 individuals between October 2020 and December 2020, and 86,000 individuals between January 2021 and March 2021.
  • For charities that operated in the 2020 reporting period, 51% did not report any paid staff.
  • The 2020 reporting period saw an increase in the proportion of full-time and part-time staff.
  • Charities with the subtype of advancing education (Education) employed the most staff, over 330,000 people.
  • Volunteer contribution remained high (3.4 million volunteers in total) but decreased by 220,000.
  • Charities with the subtype of advancing the natural environment reported the most volunteers – 810,000.

The eighth edition of the annual Charities Report is based on information submitted in the 2020 Annual Information Statements by 49,165 charities. The Annual Information Statement collects a range of data about charities, including their programs, finances and staff.

The 2020 Annual Information Statement reporting period for the majority of charities is either the financial year of 1 July 2019 – 30 June 2020 or the calendar year of 1 January 2020 – 31 December 2020. Of the submissions analysed for this report, 31,180 charities (63.4%) had a reporting period of the financial year and 14,563 charities (29.6%) had a reporting period of the calendar year. The remaining minority had reporting periods that ended on different dates throughout the year.

The report shows that the distribution of sizes among Australia’s charities remains stable. Small charities make up approximately two-thirds of all charities (65.3%), with large charities (19%) again outnumbering medium
charities (15.7%).

Further analysis of charity sizes revealed that nearly one-third of all charities were ‘extra small’ (31.4%). Extra small charities have less than $50,000 in annual revenue. This size category saw the largest increase of all the charity sizes in the 2020 reporting period. The data indicates that this increase in extra small charities was largely due to new charity registrations throughout the period. New charities often commence operation at this size before expanding into new categories over years.

This year, charity program data features in the Charities Report for the first time. In the 2020 Annual Information Statement charities reported 75,000 programs. Despite being in its infancy as a reporting requirement, charity programs have given an insight into the work of the sector. Program data is likely to continue to reveal more details about the specific work charities are doing on the ground, particularly now that charities can update their program information in real time via the Charity Portal.

In the 2020 Annual Information Statement charities reported having between 1 and 4 programs on average. The number reported increased with the size of the charity. The most common classifications for the programs we analysed correlated closely with the most common charity subtypes: religious programs and educational programs were most prevalent.

How a charity reports its programs is up to the charity. While one charity may consider several of its activities form a single program, another may consider similar activities make up multiple programs. The classifications available for charities to report programs are derived from CLASSIE (Classification of Social Sector Initiatives and Entities). CLASSIE is a taxonomy based on the Philanthropy Classification System and customised for the Australian not-for-profit sector.

The charity sector remained a significant employer. Charities reported 1.38 million employees in the 2020 reporting period – a full 10% of the Australian workforce. The details of employment shifted slightly, with charities reporting a drop in staff employed in casual positions and a higher proportion of staff in part-time and full-time positions. Employee expenses accounted for approximately half of the sector’s expenses. Many charities accessed JobKeeper to support their operations between April 2020 and the end of their 2020 reporting period.

Consistent with the findings of previous reports, charities with programs in education were also the biggest employers, reporting more than 330,000 employees in the 2020 reporting period. Employee numbers were concentrated in the sector’s large charities. Despite making up only 19% of charities, large charities accounted for 93% of the employees.

On the other end of this scale, 51% of charities reported not having any paid staff at all. Many of the sector’s small charities are run entirely by volunteers.

The 2020 reporting period saw a decrease of 220,000 in the number of volunteers. Given the effects of COVID-19, a decrease in volunteer numbers was expected. Despite the difficulties, however, the aggregate number of volunteers in the 2020 reporting period remained strong – 3.4 million. Charities registered with the subtype of ‘advancing the natural environment’ reported the largest volunteer contribution of more than 800,000.

Charity finances did show signs of a challenging reporting period. Once again, the revenue of the sector increased, reaching $176 billion in revenue. This was an increase of more than $10 billion from the previous reporting period. However, expenses also increased in the same period by approximately the same amount, up by $10.2 billion. The increase in revenue came predominately from government sources, followed by contributions from donations and bequests – including donations made by the public in response to the 2019–2020 bushfires that burned millions of hectares, destroyed infrastructure and claimed lives across NSW, Victoria, Queensland, ACT, Western Australia and South Australia.

With many charities eligible for government support measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, revenue from government increased to $88.8 billion for the sector in the 2020 reporting period. This is an increase of $10.7 billion on the previous reporting period. The rise in reported government funding meant that government accounted for 50.4% of the total revenue in the sector in the 2020 reporting period.

Not only was there an increase in the amount of revenue from government, there was also an increase in the proportion of charities that reported receiving revenue from government. The 2019 reporting period saw 37% of charities reporting having received revenue from government, which rose to 47% in the 2020 period.

It is important to note that government support during the pandemic did not perfectly align with all charities’ 2020 reporting periods. Depending on the reporting period, some eligible charities may have received government support for more of their 2020 reporting period than others. Consequently, we will continue to see the effects of this in the next Charities Report as government funding in the form of support measures spilled over into the 2021 reporting period for many charities.

Net income fell for most charities in the 2020 reporting period, with a collective decrease of $1.2 billion. However, the value of assets in the sector increased in the same period. And charities continue to hold more assets
than liabilities.

Donations to charities increased in the 2020 reporting period, rising 8% to $12.7 billion. This was concentrated mainly in the largest charities, with the top 10 charities accounting for 17% of the entire sector’s revenue from donations. The fundraising that followed the bushfires of January 2020 contributed to this increase, though the funds from that effort were directed mainly to a small number of large charities.

The 2020 reporting period saw that most charities were registered with more than one subtype. This reflects the multifaceted work that charities are engaged with. Revenue sources for charities differed according to their subtypes. Charities registered as Public Benevolent Institutions, which commonly deliver family services, disability services and community development, received the greatest proportion of revenue from government funding. In the 2020 reporting year, charities with the subtype Advancing the security or safety of Australia or the Australian public, which includes charities that deliver emergency and disaster response safety education and crime prevention, received the greatest proportion of revenue from donations and bequests. Most of this can be attributed to one extra-large charity.

Every year many charities apply to have their registration revoked voluntarily. In doing so, they provide a reason for the decision. This edition of the Charities Report finds that there was an increase in the number of charities citing mergers as the reason for applying to have registration revoked. For large charities that sought to have registration revoked, 77% cited a merger as the reason.

Australia’s charity sector comprises charities of varying sizes – from tiny local community groups to large universities and international aid organisations.

Graph of charity sizes

Charities registered with the ACNC are classified into three size categories:

  • Small charities – annual revenue of under $250,000
  • Medium charities – annual revenue of $250,000 or more but under $1 million
  • Large charities – annual revenue of $1 million or more

A charity’s size is based on its total annual revenue for a reporting period. Each charity must report its size in its Annual Information Statement.

Analysing charity size helps us understand the scale on which charities operate and provides an insight into the composition of the sector over time.

The distribution of sizes in the charity sector has remained stable since the first edition of the Australian Charities Report in 2013.

Basic Religious Charities

A Basic Religious Charity is a type of religious charity that meets specific requirements. Basic Religious Charities are not required to answer the financial questions in the Annual Information Statement or submit annual financial reports.

In their 2020 Annual Information Statement, 8,210 charities (17% of all charities) reported being a Basic Religious Charity.

If a Basic Religious Charity voluntarily provided financial information in its 2020 Annual Information Statement, it was included in the financial analysis of this report.

In the 2020 Annual Information Statement, 7,719 Basic Religious Charities did not provide financial information. For these Basic Religious Charities, the size is identified as ‘Size Unknown (BRC)’ where relevant in this report.

Additional breakdown of charity size

To provide greater insight into Australia’s charity sector, this report presents three additional categories of charity size:

  • Extra small charities – annual revenue less than $50,000
  • Very large charities – annual revenue more than $10 million but less than $100 million
  • Extra large charities – annual revenue more than $100 million

Further analysis of charity sizes revealed that almost one-third of Australia’s charities were extra small, with annual revenue of less than $50,000. In the 2020 reporting period, the number of extra small charities increased by 1.3%.

Table 1 shows a breakdown of charities into this report’s six size categories. This breakdown is based on the annual revenue reported by charities in the 2020 Annual Information Statement.

Table 1: Australian charities by charity size (additional categories) with changes from the previous reporting period.
Australian charities by charity size (additional categories) with changes from the previous reporting period.
Table 2: Basic Religious Charities by ACNC charity size
Charity size % of Basic Religious Charities
Small 82.6
Medium 13.8
Large 3.6

Note: These are percentages of the charities that voluntarily provided financial information in the 2020 Annual Information Statement.

To be registered with the ACNC, a charity must have a charitable purpose. This purpose is the reason a charity operates. A charity may conduct a range of activities or programs to achieve its purpose or purposes.

In the 2020 Annual Information Statement, for the first time, charities reported their programs. For each charity program, a charity had to select a classification, nominate the beneficiaries and provide operating locations.

Our classification system is based on one developed by Our Community for the social sector called CLASSIE. By removing some non-charitable classifications, we refined the CLASSIE system to include a taxonomy suitable for the work of charities.

Within the CLASSIE system, classifications come in four levels of granularity: level one holds the broadest classifications and each subsequent level holds more specific classifications. In this section, we have only considered the classifications from level one.

All charities that operated during the 2020 reporting year were required to provide details of at least one program, and were able to provide a maximum of ten programs. Our analysis is based on approximately 75,000 programs reported by charities.

Charities that were not operating

The number of charities not operating increased in the 2020 Annual Information Statement, 4% of charities (just under 2,000 in total) reported that they did not conduct activities. This is an increase on the 3% of charities that reported no activities in the previous reporting period.

Generally, charities that reported no activities were either winding up, conducting activities in the name of another charity, or still in a planning phase of establishment and yet to begin activities.

In the 2020 Annual Information Statement, more than 650 charities that reported they were not operating referred to COVID when asked to explain why. This represented one-third of all charities that did not operate for the year.

Number of programs

Charities reported an average of 1.6 programs in the 2020 reporting period. The average number of programs reported increased as charity size increased: extra small charities and Basic Religious Charities reported an average of 1.3 programs, while extra large charities reported an average of 3.2 programs.

Table 3: Number of programs, percentage of total programs and average number of programs by charity size
Charity size Number of programs % of total programs Average number of programs
Extra small 17,87 23.8 1.3
Small 15,560 20.8 1.5
Medium 12,207 16.3 1.8
Large 13,589 18.1 2.0
Very large 5,301 7.1 2.5
Extra large 666 0.9 3.2
Size unknown (BRC) 9,797 13.1 1.3
Grand total/average 74,977 100.0 1.6

Program categories

Charities can select from 845 classifications for their programs.

The most common classifications involved religion or education. This corresponds with the second and third most common charities by subtype category being Advancing education and Advancing religion (see the ‘Charity subtypes’ section).

Table 4: CLASSIE classifications reported by charities (all classification levels)
CLASSIE classifications % of total programs
Christianity 9.4
Education 2.9
Religion 2.4
Community development 2.3
Primary and secondary education 2.1
Catholicism 1.9
Education support 1.7
Early childhood education 1.7
Philanthropy promotion 1.5
Disability services 1.5

Note: Charities that used the classification of ‘unknown or not classified’ were excluded from this list.

The following analysis is based on CLASSIE’s level one classifications. All 845 classifications can be attributed to a level one classification.

In the 2020 Annual Information Statement, the most common classification across all charity sizes was ‘Religion’ (approximately 17,000 programs), followed by ‘Education’ (approximately 12,300 programs) and ‘Human Services’ (approximately 11,900 programs).

The least common categories were Social sciences, Science, International relations and Agriculture, fisheries and forestry.

The most common program classification differed based on charity size. Programs classified as Religion were more prevalent among smaller charities, while programs classified as Human services or Education were more common among larger charities.

Table 5: CLASSIE level one classifications reported by charities
pie chart of classie classifications
Breakdown of classie classifications
Table 6: Common classifications by charity size
Charity size Most common classification Second most common classification Third most common classification
Extra small Education (17%) Religion (13%) Community development (12%)
Small Religion (21%) Education (15%) Human services (14%)
Medium Education (19%) Human services (17%) Religion (13%)
Large Human services (23%) Education (23%) Health (15%)
Very large Human services (31%) Education (24%) Health (21%)
Extra large Human services (40%) Education (20%) Health (18%)

Program beneficiaries

Charities can select multiple beneficiaries for each program. In the 2020 Annual Information Statement, for the first time, a charity can report ‘animals’ or ‘the environment’ as a beneficiary of its program.

Of the approximately 75,000 programs we analysed, 2,255 programs had animals nominated as a beneficiary and 3,190 programs had the environment nominated as a beneficiary.

Table 7: Common beneficiaries by charity size
Charity size Most common beneficiary Second most common beneficiary Third most common beneficiary
Extra small Adults - aged 25 to under 65 (8%) Youth - 15 to under 25 (8%)
Families (7%)
Small Adults - aged 25 to under 65 (8%) Youth - 15 to under 25 (8%) Families (8%)
Medium Adults - aged 25 to under 65 (7%) Youth - 15 to under 25 (7%) Families (7%)
Large Youth - 15 to under 25 (7%)
​​​​​​​
Adults - aged 25 to under 65 (7%) Families (6%)
Very large Youth - 15 to under 25 (9%)
​​​​​​​
Children - aged 6 to under 15 (7%) Adults - aged 25 to under 65 (7%)
Extra large Youth - 15 to under 25 (9%)
​​​​​​​
Adults - aged 65 and over (9%)
Adults - aged 25 to under 65 (8%)

Note: Basic Religious Charities were excluded from the table because their sizes are unknown. To meet the requirements of a Basic Religious Charity, a charity must have the sole purpose of ‘advancing religion’.

Employees

The Annual Information Statement asks each charity to provide a snapshot of its employment figures based on its most recent pay period.

The charity sector remained a significant employer in Australia with charities reporting 1.38 million paid employees in the 2020 reporting period.

In June 2021, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that Australia had 13.2 million people in employment. This means that the charity sector’s

1.38 million employees accounts for 10.5% of all employees in Australia, highlighting the significance of Australia’s charities to the national economy.

Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19 in 2020, charities reported an increase of 4,000 employees.

This increase was seen in the numbers of part-time and full-time employees, while there was a decrease in casual employees.

Data from the Australian Taxation Office shows that JobKeeper payments to ACNC registered charities supported an estimated 331,000 individuals in the period between April 2020 and September 2020. This reduced to approximately 128,000 individuals between October 2020 and December 2020.

Of charities that reported operations in 2020, 51% reported having no paid staff.

Table 8: Type of employment by charity size
Size Full-time Part-time Casual
% of total staff Change % of total staff Change % of total staff Change
Extra small 36.2 +6.6 30.8 +2.2 33.0 -8.8
Small 22.7 +4.7 39.4 +1.5 37.9 -6.3
Medium 21.7 +1.2 42.7 +0.2 35.6 -1.4
Large 32.3 +0.1 40.9 +1.3 26.8 -1.4
Very large 40.6 -0.1 36.7 +0.7 22.7 -0.6
Extra large 38.7 +0.7 34.4 +1.8 26.9 -2.5
Unknown - BRC 32.8 -0.2 43.9 +1.0 23.3 -0.8
All charities 37.5 +0.5 36.6 +1.3 25.9 -1.7
Table 9: Number of employees by charity size
Size Full-time Part-time Casual
Number Change Number Change Number Change
Extra small 5,140 +2,380 4,366 +1,705 4,676 +788
Small 4,213 +1,555 7,301 +1,710 7,037 +498
Medium 9,121 +295 17,974 -391 14,975 -999
Large 70,710 -4,498 89,324 -3,045 58,596 -7,364
Very large 189,994 +4,788 171,703 +8,183 106,065 +180
Extra large 233,595 +3,926 207,266 +10,880 162,366 -15,538
Unknown - BRC 5,571 -362 7,460 -255 3,952 -377
All charities 518,344 +8,084 505,394 +18,742 357,667 -22,812

Volunteers

Volunteering remains a vital part of the charity sector, with charities reporting the equivalent of 3.4 million volunteers helped deliver services in the 2020 reporting period.

While the total number remains high, it is a decrease of approximately 220,000 on the previous reporting period. This follows a similar decrease in the reporting period before last.

For the 2020 reporting period, it is likely that the COVID-19 pandemic affected the ability of charities to engage and retain the services of volunteers.

It is important to note that the figure of 3.4 million does not reflect the total number of individual volunteers across Australia because people may volunteer for more than one charity.

Employee and volunteer breakdown by charity size

Despite the small decrease in volunteer numbers, more charities still operated without paid staff (51%) than with paid staff (49%). This reflects the distribution of charities across sizes: there are many more extra small and small charities in the sector than medium and large charities.

Extra small charities was the only group that reported an increase in the number of volunteers. The increase of more than 7,400 volunteers (a 3.1% increase on the previous reporting period) reflects the increased number of extra small charities in the 2020 reporting period.

Large charities reported the biggest drop in volunteer numbers, with approximately 73,000 fewer volunteers compared to the previous reporting period.

The increase in the number of extra small charities resulted in an increase in the number of employees by 4,900 people compared to the previous reporting period. Very large charities also reported an increase in employees, with an extra 13,000 on the previous reporting period. Large charities reported the largest decrease in employees, reporting 14,900 fewer than the previous reporting period.

The ratio of volunteers to employees decreased as the size of the charity increased. Smaller charities and Basic Religious Charities were more reliant on volunteers while larger charities had more paid staff to deliver services.

Table 10: Employee and volunteer numbers by charity size with changes from the previous reporting period
Size Volunteers Employees Volunteers per employee
Number % Change Number % Change Number % Change
Extra small 205,596 +3.1 14,182 +52.3% 17.7 -32.3
Small 337,772 -4.1 18,551 +25.4 18.2 -23.5
Medium 441,687 -11.5 42,070 -2.5 10.5 -9.2
Large 1,297,443 -5.3 218,630 -6.4 5.9 +1.2
Very large 65,741 -6.9 467,762 +2.9 1.2 -9.5
Extra large 173,678 -10.5 603,227 -0.1 0.3 -10.4
Unknown - BRC 293,358 -6.3 16,983 -5.5 17.3 -0.9
All charities 3,360,275 -6.1 1,381,405 +0.3 2.4 -0.2

Australia’s charities reported a significant increase in total revenue, expenses and assets in the 2020 reporting period.

Charities generated approximately $176 billion in revenue – an increase of more than $10 billion from the previous reporting period. However, expenses also increased by $10.2 billion.

They also reported more than $384 billion in assets, an increase of more than $30 billion.

This section includes analysis of submissions from charities that did not engage in activities but reported financial information. These were generally newly registered charities that may have received initial start-up funds but had not yet conducted activities.

Income and expenses

Revenue and income

Revenue forms part of a charity’s income and relates to the funds received by a charity undertaking its ordinary activities. A charity’s total income is made up of its total revenue and other income (funds received that are not part of its ordinary activities).

Total income in the 2020 reporting period increased $9 billion on the previous year to $177.8 billion. This increase was driven by larger charities.

Total revenue also increased in the 2020 reporting period, rising $10 billion (6%) on the previous reporting period to a total of $176 billion. For context, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that gross domestic product grew by 1.5% in chain volume terms for the 2020–21 financial year.

While total revenue across the sector increased, it differed across charity sizes.

Only very large and extra large charities reported an increase in total revenue. Despite the increased number of extra small charities, the total revenue for that charity size remained the same.

Data from the 2020 Annual Information Statement shows that the largest charities continue to account for most of the sector’s aggregate revenue. Extra large charities, which make up 0.4% of all charities, reported more than 50% of the sector’s revenue, while extra small charities, despite making up approximately one-third of the sector, contributed 0.1% of the aggregate revenue.

The ten largest charities by revenue (which includes charities that report collectively to the ACNC as part of reporting groups) accounted for 13% of the sector’s revenue, and the 50 largest charities accounted for 33%.

Table 11: Total revenue and income by charity size with changes from the previous reporting period
Size Total revenue ($ million) Contribution to the sector's total revenue (%) Change from previous period ($ million) Change from the previous period (%) Total income ($ million)
Extra small 221 0.1 0 0.0 254
Small 1,297 0.7 -14 -1.0 1,327
Medium 3,527 2.0 -46 -1.3 3,522
Large 22,416 12.7 -153 -0.7 22,686
Very large 57,692 32.8 +3,071 +5.6 58,287
Extra large 90,847 51.6 +7,179 +8.6 91,696
All charities 175,999 100.0 +10,038 +6.0 177,773
Expenses

Total expenses in the charity sector increased by $10.2 billion to $167.8 billion in the 2020 reporting period. This increase is higher than the $9.1 billion increase reported in the previous reporting period.

The increase in expenses (6.4%) was greater than the increase in revenue (6%) in the 2020 reporting period.

This is the inverse of what was reported in the 2019 reporting period, where the increase in revenue was greater than the increase in expenses.

Table 12: Total expenses by charity size with changes from the previous reporting period
Size Total expenses ($ million) Change from previous period ($ million) Change from previous period (%)
Extra small 370 51 +16.2
Small 1,402 120 +9.3
Medium 3,303 -56 -1.7
Large 20,768 -537 -2.5
Very large 53,696 2,263 +4.4
Extra large 88,261 8,317 +10.4
All charities 167,800 10,158 +6.4
Net income

Net income is measured by subtracting a charity’s total expenses from its total income.

In the 2020 reporting period, the net income of the sector was reported at $10 billion, a decrease of $1.2 billion. This follows the net income increase of $1.2 billion in the previous reporting period.

Compared to the previous reporting period, only very large charities reported an increase in net income.

Table 13: Net income by charity size with changes from the previous reporting period
Size Total expenses ($ million) Change from previous period ($ million) Change from previous period (%)
Extra small -114 -53 +88.3
Small -75 -156 -191.7
Medium 219 -106 -32.6
Large 1,918 -225 -10.5
Very large 4,591 577 +14.4
Extra large 3,435 -1,207 -26.0
All charities 9,974 -1,171 -10.5

Assets and liabilities

Total assets

In the 2020 reporting period, the value of charities’ total assets increased by more than $37 billion (10.6%).

This was a significant increase on the $30 billion increase reported in the previous reporting period. As a result, total assets in the sector were approximately $391 billion.

Extra large charities were mostly responsible for the increase in assets, with a reported $30.6 billion increase compared to the previous reporting period.

Table 14: Total assets by charity size with changes from the previous reporting period
Size Total expenses ($ million) Change from previous period ($ million) Change from previous period (%)
Extra small 3,610 +808 +28.9
Small 9,086 +1,317 +17.0
Medium 16,491 +1,856 +12.7
Large 55,356 -3,627 -6.1
Very large 120,129 +6,671 +5.9
Extra large 186,706 +30,563 +19.6
All charities 391,377 +37,590 +10.6

Note: Assets provide future benefits to a charity and include anything of commercial value that is controlled by a charity – examples of assets include cash and cash equivalents, shares, property, plant and equipment and trademarks.

Total liabilities

Total liabilities for charities increased by $23.8 billion (20.9%) to $137.6 billion in the 2020 reporting period. In comparison, there was a $12.7 billion increase (12.5%) in liabilities in the 2019 reporting period.

Since the 2016 reporting period, when charities reported liabilities of $87 billion, we have seen increases in total liabilities in the sector.

Table 15: Total labilities by charity size with changes from the previous reporting period
Size Total expenses ($ million) Change from previous period ($ million) Change from previous period (%)
Extra small 648 +216 +49.9
Small 1,059 +87 +9.0
Medium 1,928 +8 +0.4
Large 13,220 +331 +2.6
Very large 44,627 +5,406 +13.8
Extra large 76,083 +17,762 +30.5
All charities 137,564 +23,810 +20.9

Note: Liabilities are generally defined as what a charity owes. They include anything of commercial value that is owed by a charity – such as bank overdrafts, amounts owed to suppliers or creditors, loans and employee entitlements.

Net assets/liabilities and the asset ratio

Overall, the increase in assets for charities in the 2020 reporting period was greater than the increase in liabilities.

The charity sector reported net assets of approximately $254 billion, an increase of $13.8 billion. This compares to an increase of $17.8 billion reported in the previous reporting period.

In the 2020 reporting period, charities continued to hold more assets than liabilities (the asset ratio). Charities held approximately 2.8 times more in assets than liabilities.

This ratio was a decrease on the asset ratio of 3.1 from the previous reporting period.

While extra small charities, collectively, operated at a loss in the 2020 reporting period and reported a decrease in the asset ratio, they continued to hold 5.6 times more in assets than liabilities. This, combined with a positive net asset position, indicates that the extra small charities remained financially sustainable.

Table 16: Net asset/liabilities by charity size with changes from the previous reporting period
Charity size Net assets/liabilities ($ million) Change from previous period ($ million) Change from previous period (%) Asset ratio Change from previous asset ratio
Extra small 2,961 +592 +25.0 5.6 -0.9
Small 8,026 +1,229 +181 8.6 +0.6
Medium 14,567 +1,852 +14.6 8.6 +0.9
Large 42,136 -3961 -8.6 4.2 -0.4
Very large 75,503 +1,265 +1.7 2.7 -0.2
Extra large 110,623 +12,802 +13.1 2.5 -0.2
All charities 253,816 +13,779 +5.7 2.8 -0.3

Charities generate revenue from a range of sources and it differs according to charity size and purposes.

By diversifying revenue sources, charities can better absorb unexpected costs and mitigate any effects of losing a source of funding. This, in turn, increases the sustainability of their operations.

The larger the charity, the more likely it was to have revenue from multiple sources. This reflects the greater capacity within larger charities to acquire and manage multiple funding streams.

For the first time, government contributed to more than half of the total revenue for charities.

This can be attributed largely to JobKeeper and other government stimulus initiatives. The increase in revenue from government for the 2020 reporting period ($10.7 billion) was greater than the total increase in revenue ($10.2 billion) for the sector.

The revenue that charities received from donations and bequests increased to $12.7 billion in the 2020 reporting period, partially due to the response to the bushfires of January 2020.

While the revenue received from goods and services increased, there was a drop in revenue received from investments.

This section includes financial information from Basic Religious Charities that voluntarily reported finances, as well as charities that did not report activities in the 2020 Annual Information Statement, but reported finances.

Revenue sources

The revenue sources that a charity must report depend on its size.

Table 17: Revenue reporting requirements based on charity size

Are charities required to provide this information in the Annual Information Statement?

Revenue source Extra small and small charities (revenue under $250,000) Medium to extra large charities (revenue $250,000 or more)
Revenue from government (including grants) Yes Yes
Revenue from donations and bequests Yes Yes
Revenue from goods or services No - optional Yes
Revenue from investments No - optional Yes
Other revenue Yes Yes

Note: Revenue from government also includes revenue received under a contract with government to provide specified services.

Government support for charities in response to COVID‑19

In response to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commonwealth government provided a range of support to charities.

There were two tax-free cash payments of between $20,000 and $100,000 to eligible charities. The government also introduced the JobKeeper Payment scheme, which helped to cover the costs of employees’ wages. To qualify for JobKeeper payments, organisations needed to meet certain criteria.

The JobKeeper Payment scheme commenced on 30 March 2020 and ended on 28 March 2021. Because the beginning and end dates of charities’ 2020 reporting periods differ, the extent to which JobKeeper payments were included in a charity’s 2020 Annual Information Statement differs. Some eligible charities will have received JobKeeper payments for more of their 2020 reporting period than other eligible charities.

In addition to support from the Commonwealth, charities may have been eligible for support from state or territory governments or local governments. In the Annual Information Statement, any revenue that a charity received through government support was to be reported as part of revenue from government.

The top 10 charities by donations and bequests (including charities that report collectively as groups) contributed to more than 17% of the sector’s total donations or bequests.

Breakdown of charity revenue sources

In the 2020 reporting period, revenue from government was $88.8 billion, an increase of more than $10.7 billion from the previous reporting period.

Revenue from goods or services increased by more than $500 million, while revenue from investments declined by more than $900 million compared to the previous reporting period.

Overall, donations rose by 8% to $12.7 billion, compared to a 12% increase in the previous year. The top 10 charities by donations and bequests (including charities that report collectively as groups) contributed to more than 17% of the sector’s total donations or bequests. Red Cross Australia received more than $227 million for its Disaster Relief and Recovery fund, representing just under 2% of all donations. The Trustee for NSW Rural Fire Service & Brigades Donations Fund reported donations of more than $116 million, 1% of all donations received.

Table 18: Revenue sources by charity size with changes from the previous reporting period
Charity size Government (including grants) Donations and bequests Goods or services
Investments
Other revenue
$
million
% change $
million
% change $
million
% change $
million
% change $
million
% change
Extra small 23 +15.7 85 -0.4 46 -4.5 37 +9.8 30 -11.5
Small 216 +32.4 503 0.0 272 -13.6 149 +1.3 157 -14.1
Medium 1,163 +15.5 980 +3.0 785 -18.6 282 -12.0 317 -4.2
Large 11,044 +5.4 3,033 +5.1 5,954 -8.3 866 -28.2 1,519 +1.2
Very large 28,523 +11.6 4,557 +1.1 20,151 +2.5 1,226 -26.6 3,235 +0.4
Extra large 47,808 +17.0 3,527 +24.8 30,033 +2.7 2,424 -3.4 7,055 -14.1
All charities 88,777 +13.7 12,684 +7.9 57,241 +0.9 4,984 -15.3 12,313 -8.7

All charity sizes reported an increase in the proportion of revenue from government.

Extra small charities received the least revenue from government, and the percentage of revenue that came from government increased with charity size.

Donations and bequests made up just under 4% of the total revenue of extra large charities. In comparison, this source made up more than 38% of the total revenue for extra small charities.

Table 19: Revenue sources as a percentage of total revenue by charity size with changes from the previous reporting period
Charity size Government (including grants) Donations and bequests Goods or services
Investments
Other revenue
% % change % % change % % change % % change % % change
Extra small 10.5 +1.4 38.3 -0.1 21.0 -1.0 16.8 +1.5 13.5 -1.8
Small 16.7 +4.2 38.8 +0.4 20.9 -3.0 11.5 +0.3 12.1 -1.8
Medium 33.0 +4.8 27.8 +1.2 22.3 -4.7 8.0 -1.0 9.0 -0.3
Large 49.3 +2.8 13.5 +0.7 26.6 -2.2 3.9 -1.5 6.8 +0.1
Very large 49.4 +2.6 7.9 -0.4 34.9 -1.1 2.1 -0.9 5.6 -0.3
Extra large 52.6 +3.8 3.9 +0.5 33.1 -1.9 2.7 -0.3 7.8 -2.0
All charities 50.4 +3.4 7.2 +0.1 32.5 -1.7 2.8 -0.7 7.0 -1.1
Revenue sources reported by charities

There was a significant increase in the proportion of charities that reported receiving revenue from government.

In the 2020 reporting period, nearly half of all charities (47%) reported receiving revenue from government. In the previous reporting period, this was 37% of charities.

However, this varied based on charity size.

Approximately 16% of extra small charities reported receiving revenue from government (a marginal increase from 15% in the previous reporting period), whereas 94% of extra large charities reported receiving revenue from government (91% in the previous year). More medium charities reported revenue from government in the 2020 reporting period, increasing from 51.5% to 70%.

Despite an increase in total revenue received from donations, the percentage of charities that reported receiving revenue from donations or bequests remained stable in the 2020 reporting period.

Table 20: Percentage of charities that reported revenue from different sources by size with changes from the previous reporting period
Charity size Government (including grants) Donations and bequests Goods or services
Investments
Other revenue
% % change % % change % % change % % change % % change
Extra small 15.7 +0.9 55.9 -0.7 31.8 +0.8 42.5 +1.7 36.9 -3.2
Small 43.7 +16.7 73.8 0.0 48.7 +0.3 55.3 +0.8 50.6 -1.4
Medium 70.0 +18.6 73.8 +2.0 65.5 +0.6 68.2 -1.2 61.8 +1.9
Large 83.8 +12.8 71.3 -0.3 79.4 +1.2 78.5 -1.5 76.6 +1.7
Very large 93.1 +6.0 70.4 +0.5 87.4 +1.4 86.4 -0.4 85.3 +1.5
Extra large 93.8 +2.9 84.3 0.0 90.0 +1.7 91.0 +1.1 88.6 +0.2
All charities 46.9 +9.6 66.6 -0.2 52.3 +0.4 58.2 +0.1 53.5 -1.1

Charities must use funds to further their charitable purposes.

As employee numbers indicate, charities are a significant employer in Australia and more than half of the sector’s expenses were employee expenses. Charities also spent more than $9 billion on grants and donations in the 2020 reporting period.

Types of expenses

The expenses that a charity must report to the ACNC are based on its size. In the Annual Information Statement all charities must report the following expenses:

  • Employee
  • Grants and donations within Australia
  • Grants and donations outside Australia
  • Other

Large, very large and extra large charities must also report interest expenses.

Charities are a significant employer in Australia and more than half of the sector’s expenses were employee expenses.

Grants and donations

Some charities, such as ancillary funds and trusts, are established primarily to deliver structured philanthropy and focus solely on distributing grants and donations to other charities and charitable causes. For other charities, distributing grants and donations is only one element of operations.

In the 2020 reporting period, charities reported spending a total of $9.2 billion on grants and donations, an increase of $272 million compared to the previous period.

Of the $9.2 billion, charities spent $7.4 billion on grants and donations within Australia, an increase of $183 million compared to the previous reporting period. Grants and donations outside Australia increased by $88 million, an increase of approximately 5%.

Table 21: Expenses on grants and donations by charity size with changes from the previous reporting period
Charity size Within Australia Outside Australia Total
$ million % change $ million % change $ million % change
Extra small 124 +30.6 15 +8.0 138 +27.7
Small 272 +13.7 63 +23.4 335 +15.4
Medium 486 +13.8 93 +3.6 579 +12.0
Large 1,402 -1.1 358 +4.1 1,760 -0.1
Very large 2,107 +8.3 652 -12.2 2,760 +2.7
Extra large 2,963 -2.7 711 +26.4 3,674 +1.8
All charities 7.355 +2.6 1,892 +4.9 9,246 +3.0

Employee expenses

Charities spent just less than $94 billion on employee expenses, a 9% increase on the previous year. This is mostly manifested in the expenses of very large and extra large charities. This also reflects the changes in composition of the sector’s employment in the 2020 reporting period, with more full-time and part-time employees than casual employees.

Charity size Employee expenses
$ million % change
Extra small 31 -4.8
Small 309 +1.3
Medium 1,393 -2.4
Large 11,628 +1.4
Very large 31,336 +7.2
Extra large 49,018 +12.9
All charities 93,715 +9.1

Interest and other expenses

‘Interest expenses’ captures interest paid by charities on any money they have borrowed. Only large, very large and extra large charities are required to report on interest expenses.

‘Other expenses’ includes all expenses other than employee expenses, and grants and donations made in and outside Australia. For extra small, small and medium charities, interest expenses are included as ‘Other expenses’.

Other expenses may include essential expenses such as rent, insurance, bank charges, consultancy fees, cost of goods sold, equipment hire, depreciation, fundraising expenses, utilities and other administration.

In the 2020 reporting period, charities reported an increase of more than 35% on interest expenses, mostly accounted from extra large charities.

Table 23: Other expenses by charity size with changes from the previous reporting period
Charity size Interest expenses Other expenses
$ million % change $ million % change
Extra small - - 199 +12.0
Small - - 758 +10.4
Medium - - 1,331 -5.9
Large 165 +10.0 7,215 -8.9
Very large 498 +3.2 19,102 +0.3
Extra large 88 +75.1 34,711 +7.2
All charities 1,521 +35.5 63,316 +2.7

Note: Extra small, Small and Medium charities do not report interest expenses in the Annual Information Statement.

Breakdown of types of charity expenses

Overall, the employee expenses charities reported in the 2020 reporting period accounted for just less than 56% of total charity expenses.

The proportion of expenses spent on employees increased with charity size. Extra small charities reported 8% of expenses going to employee costs, whereas the three large categories all reported more than 55% of expenses going to employee costs.

Table 24: Charity expenses as a percentage of total expenses by charity size with changes from the previous reporting period
Size Employee expenses Interest expenses Grants and donations within Australia Grants and donations outside Australia Other expenses
% % change % % change % % change % % change % % change
Extra small 8.3 -1.8 - - 33.5 +3.7 4.0 -0.3 54.0 -2.0
Small 22.0 -1.8 - - 19.4 +0.7 4.5 +0.5 54.1 +0.5
Medium 42.2 -0.3 - - 14.7 +2.0 2.8 +0.1 40.3 -1.8
Large 56.0 +2.2 0.8 +0.1 6.8 +0.1 1.7 +0.1 34.7 -2.5
Very large 58.4 +1.5 0.9 0.0 3.9 +0.1 1.2 -0.2 35.6 -1.4
Extra large 55.5 +1.2 1.0 +0.4 3.4 -0.5 0.8 +0.1 39.3 -1.2
All charities 55.8 +1.4 0.9 +0.2 4.4 -0.2 1.1 0.0 37.7 -1.4

Note: Extra small, Small and Medium charities do not report interest expenses in the Annual Information Statement.

A charity subtype is a category of registration that reflects a charity’s purposes.

Analysis of charity subtypes provides insights into the smaller subsectors that make up the charity sector. We can learn more about the composition of these subsectors, the financial patterns within them, and how they compare with other subsectors.

The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Act 2012 (Cth) sets out 14 charity subtypes. These include the 12 charitable purposes set out in the Charities Act 2013 (Cth), as well as the categories of Public Benevolent Institution and Health Promotion Charity:

  • Advancing health (health)
  • Advancing education (education)
  • Advancing social or public welfare (social welfare)
  • Advancing religion (religion)
  • Advancing culture (culture)
  • Promoting reconciliation, mutual respect and tolerance between groups of individuals that are in Australia (reconciliation)
  • Promoting or protecting human rights (human rights)
  • Advancing the security or safety of Australia or the Australian public (security)
  • Preventing or relieving the suffering of animals (animals)
  • Advancing the natural environment (environment)
  • Any other purpose beneficial to the general public that may reasonably be regarded as analogous to, or within the spirit of, any of the purposes mentioned in the subtypes above (other)
  • Promoting or opposing a change to any matter established by law, policy or practice in the Commonwealth, a state, a territory or another country (law)
  • Public Benevolent Institution (PBI)
  • Health Promotion Charity (HPC).

Charities can be registered with multiple subtypes or can choose to not be registered with any subtype.

In addition to the 14 charity subtypes, our analysis includes two extra categories:

  • charities registered with more than one subtype (for example, a charity with two subtypes is included in this category rather than in the two separate categories of its two subtypes)
  • charities with no registered subtype.

Basic Religious Charities that did not provide financial information were not included in the subtype analysis. Charities that report as a group were also excluded from this data.

Approximately 30% of charities that submitted a 2020 Annual Information Statement were registered with more than one subtype.

The analysis of each subtype in this report is limited to charities registered solely with that single subtype.

Consequently, the information from a charity with more than one subtype is not included in the analysis of each of its subtypes; it is included only in the category ‘Multiple’. Because of this, each subtype analysis in this report is not a complete picture of the subtype as a charity subsector.

Table 25: Number of charities registered by subtype and charity size with changes from the previous reporting period
Subtype category Extra small Small Medium Large Very large Extra large Total
Number Change
Health 323 186 72 59 17 3 660 -18
Education 2,159 1,242 1,111 1,060 466 46 6,084 -73
Social welfare 685 379 217 152 16 1 1,450 -4
Religion 1,880 2,355 1,052 390 45 2 5,724 +157
Culture 678 308 213 143 21 - 1,363 +78
Reconcil-iation 26 15 13 2 - - 56 -2
Human rights 17 10 5 5 2 - 39 +1
Security 70 26 16 10 - 1 123 -35
Animals 236 211 59 20 13 - 539 +26
Environment 284 150 119 75 17 1 646 +20
Other 1,716 931 550 356 62 5 3,620 +144
Law 18 2 2 6 - - 28 +2
PBI 614 556 564 934 357 27 3,052 -18
HPC 162 76 72 89 42 1 442 -4
Multiple 3,979 2,464 1,906 2,895 901 68 12,213 +467
No subtype 2,570 1,291 727 464 71 6 5,129 -95

Employees and volunteers by subtype

The number of employees and volunteers varied among the charity subtypes. Some charity subtypes were more likely to have employees delivering services while others were more likely to engage volunteers.

Table 26: Employees and volunteers by subtype
Subtype category Employees Volunteers
Number Number
Health 6,826 32,641
Education 335,193 171,731
Social welfare 8,530 26,361
Religion 50,390 506,695
Culture 10,949 50,870
Reconciliation 159 1,065
Human rights 202 776
Security 145 13,354
Animals 3,191 37,762
Environment 3,355 818,246
Other 16,497 85,177
Law 87 375
PBI 202,360 347,271
HPC 9,705 25,775
Multiple 473,230 877,783
No subtype 35,524 140,503

Note: Charities report employee numbers based on their last pay period before submitting the Annual Information Statement. Volunteer numbers are based on the entire reporting period.

Charity programs by subtype

To provide greater insight into the work of charities, we have published the most common CLASSIE classifications by subtype.

Unlike the analysis in the ‘Charity Programs’ section, this analysis is based on the classification selected by the charity in the Annual Information Statement. The classification has not been mapped to CLASSIE’s level one classifications.

Subtype Number of programs Most common classification Second most common classification Third most common classification
Health 883 Health and medical research Health Mental healthcare
Education 7,702 Education Primary and secondary education Early childhood education
Social welfare 2,003 Community development Child care Community services organisations*
Religion 18,123 Christianity Religion Catholicism
Culture 2,242 Arts and culture Performing arts Arts education
Reconciliation 89 Community development Indigenous rights 6 classifications**
Human rights 75 Human rights Human trafficking Leadership development
Security 180 Crime prevention Safety education Bushfires/Community development
Animals 731 Animal adoptions Animal welfare Domesticated animal welfare
Environment 1,253 Environment Biodiversity Environmental education
Other 4,656 Philanthropy promotion Community development Community service organisation
Law 43 Foreign policy Public policy Animal welfare
PBI 5,931 Disability services Family services Community development
HPC 846 Health and medical research Health promotion Health
Multiple 22,601 Community development Education Disability services
No subtype 6,725 Christianity Community development Arts and culture

* The CLASSIE definition of community services organisations is different to the one used by the Australian Taxation Office.

** The third most common classification was equally shared by six: Arts and culture, Community celebration, Community information, Community service organisations, Cultural awareness and LGBTQI rights.

Note: When analysing the most common classification, we have excluded any charity that categorised their program as ‘Unknown or not classified’.

Revenue breakdown by subtype

Charities registered with multiple subtypes generated the most revenue, reporting nearly

$60 billion in the 2020 reporting period (an increase of approximately 21% on the previous reporting period). This was followed by charities solely registered with the subtype of advancing education at $48 billion (a decrease of approximately $2 billion or 4% on the previous reporting period).

The 56 charities registered solely with the subtype of reconciliation reported the lowest revenue, $13 million (compared to $14 million in the previous reporting period).

Charities in all subtypes reported a reduction in revenue from investments – a 30% decrease compared to the previous reporting period.

Table 28: Revenue sources by subtype with changes from the previous reporting period
Subtype category Government including grants Donations and bequest Goods or services Investments
Other revenue
Total revenue
$
m
% change $
m
% change $
m
% change $
m
% change $
m
% change $
m
% change
Health 235 +5.3 181 +2.4 717 -56.2 61 -34.2 124 -2.3 1,318 -41.6
Education 24,919 +5.5 821 -7.8 17,438 -6.7 879 -44.4 3,728 -24.7 47,785 -3.9
Social welfare 453 +113.6 114 +21.4 359 +1.3 52 -31.4 95 +1.3 1,074 +29.3
Religion 462 -51.8 1,255 +2.0 961 -11.5 244 -36.4 367 -13.7 3,288 -19.4
Culture 474 +10.8 266 +22.4 307 -44.4 25 -38.4 81 -68.1 1,153 -22.7
Reconciliation* 5 -8.3 2 -12.5 3 +42.4 0 -58.9 3 -12.3 13 -4.2
Human rights* 13 -19.1 31 +7.6 2 +107.8 1 -18.3 3 +67.3 50 +1.4
Security 13 +32.4 127 +1878.6 19 -14.5 3 -0.1 6 -25.0 168 +237.5
Animals 39 +157.4 260 +27.8 142 +16.7 8 -11.4 35 +31.6 484 +28.7
Environment 228 +14.6 193 +18.0 149 +8.8 11 -39.7 371 +801.6 952 +70.4
Other 583 +38.2 1,268 +19.3 2,342 -19.3 514 -26.5 431 -8.4 5,139 -7.6
Law* 10 +69.5 5 -51.4 3 -25.8 1 36.7 1 +66.9 20 -8.2
PBI 11,770 +13.2 1,110 +21.7 4,747 +3.7 251 -27.7 951 +17.5 18,830 +10.5
HPC 938 +6.3 260 -8.7 350 +8.6 42 -28.2 136 +4.7 1,727 +2.9
Multiple 33,812 +27.0 4,079 +0.1 17,523 +17.3 913 -18.6 3,737 +24.6 60,064 +20.7
No subtype 1,327 -48.4 975 +56.5 1,452 -23.3 478 -14.6 335 -33.2 4,578 +5.0

* There are fewer than 100 charities registered solely with these subtypes. Consequently, changes reported by a small number of charities have a greater effect on the overall percentages.

Note: Revenue data for charities that report as a group was excluded from this data because they do not report under a subtype

Summary by subtype

The diversity of the charity sector is emphasised by the significant differences in revenue found across charity subtypes.

Some charity subtypes, because of the nature of their work, typically receive more government funds than others.

Some rely more heavily on donations and bequests for revenue.

In the 2020 reporting period, donations and bequests made up the greatest proportion of total revenue for charities solely registered with the subtype of Security. In the previous reporting period, this was charities with the subtype of Human rights.

Charities registered as Public Benevolent Institutions, which often deliver essential services via agreements with government, received the greatest proportion of revenue from government.

Table 29: Subtypes with greatest proportion of revenue
Revenue source Subtype with the greatest proportion of revenue Subtype with smallest proportion of revenue
Revenue from government (including grants) PBI Security
Revenue from donations and bequests Security Education
Revenue from goods or services Health Human rights
Revenue from investments No subtype Reconciliation
Other revenue Environment Security
Advancing health (Health)

Charities registered solely with the subtype of Health include hospitals, community and mental health services, some aged care services, medical research institutions, and support groups for people with specific illnesses or diseases. Many of these charities are large and provide direct services.

In the 2020 reporting period, there were 660 charities registered solely with the subtype of Health – a decrease of 18 on the previous reporting period.

Table 30: Revenue sources with changes from the previous reporting period by charity size (subtype ‘Health’)
Charity size Government (including grants) Donations and bequest
Goods or services
Investments
Other revenue
% of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change
Extra small 5.6 +1.9 29.3 +6.3 18.8 -1.5 37.6 -0.2 8.7 -6.4
Small 12.9 +4.0 22.5 -4.5 16.9 -3.8 33.8 +5.2 14.0 -0.9
Medium 16.3 +8.3 23.6 -5.0 28.6 +5.0 25.4 -6.3 6.2 -2.1
Large 22.4 +1.3 24.8 +7.5 31.8 -1.0 10.9 -6.9 10.1 -0.8
Very large 25.9 +1.5 17.6 -0.7 41.7 -0.8 3.0 -1.2 11.8 +1.3
Extra large 2.9 +1.7 0.2 +0.1 91.4 -5.0 0.2 0.0 5.3 +3.2
All sizes 17.8 +7.9 13.7 +5.9 54.4 -18.2 4.7 +0.5 9.4 +3.8
Advancing education (Education)

Charities registered solely with the subtype of Education include universities, schools, kindergartens, and registered training organisations.

In the 2020 reporting period, there were 6,084 registered solely with the subtype of Education – a decrease of 73 on the previous reporting period.

The nature of many charities that comprise the subtype of Education means that they receive less revenue from donations and bequests. In the 2020 reporting period, just 2% of revenue for these charities was from donations or bequests.

However, the proportion of revenue from donations and bequests was higher for smaller charities.

Table 31: Revenue sources with changes from the previous reporting period by charity size (subtype ‘Education’)
Charity size Government (including grants) Donations and bequest
Goods or services
Investments
Other revenue
% of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change
Extra small 9.7 +1.8 23.3 -0.8 35.6 +0.4 14.3 +0.9 17.0 -2.3
Small 20.7 +6.7 18.8 -0.1 39.3 -5.2 9.7 +1.6 11.5 -3.0
Medium 49.5 +9.4 9.1 -1.3 29.1 -8.8 4.8 -0.4 7.5 +1.1
Large 53.0 +7.6 5.8 -0.2 32.7 -6.0 2.4 -1.8 6.1 +0.4
Very large 41.2 +5.3 1.3 -0.7 53.3 -2.6 0.9 -0.2 3.3 -1.8
Extra large 57.0 +4.5 1.1 +0.2 29.9 -0.6 2.1 -1.7 9.9 -2.4
All sizes 52.1 +4.7 1.7 -0.1 36.5 -1.1 1.8 -1.3 7.8 -2.2
Advancing social or public welfare (Social welfare)

Charities registered solely with the subtype of Social welfare include a diverse range such as support groups for people living with disabilities, residential aged care facilities, housing services, and ethnic community services.

In the 2020 reporting period, there were 1,450 charities registered solely with the subtype of Social welfare – a decrease of 4 on the previous reporting period.

Table 32: Revenue sources with changes from the previous reporting period by charity size (subtype ‘Social welfare’)
Charity size Government (including grants) Donations and bequest
Goods or services
Investments
Other revenue
% of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change
Extra small 8.2 -2.6 37.8 +2.4 22.0 -0.6 20.1 +3.1 11.8 -2.3
Small 17.9 +1.4 23.7 +1.5 29.5 -0.1 15.1 +1.2 13.8 -4.0
Medium 39.3 +8.6 16.8 -1.3 27.7 -6.7 9.7 +0.4 6.5 -0.9
Large 34.7 +12.7 15.4 +2.2 39.7 -2.7 4.9 -7.6 5.4 -4.6
Very large 28.9 -0.5 7.5 +3.2 42.4 -6.5 4.1 -0.1 17.1 +3.9
Extra large* 90.1 - 0.0 - 9.8 - 0.0 - 0.0 -
All sizes 42.2 +16.7 10.7 -0.7 33.4 -9.2 4.8 -4.3 8.8 -2.4

* This size category comprised a single charity.

Advancing religion (Religion)

Charities registered solely with the subtype of Religion were predominantly religious congregations.

In the 2020 reporting period, there were 5,724 charities registered solely with the subtype of Religion – an increase of 157 on the previous reporting period.

Table 33: Revenue sources with changes from the previous reporting period by charity size (subtype ‘Religion’)
Charity size Government (including grants) Donations and bequest
Goods or services
Investments
Other revenue
% of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change
Extra small 4.4 +2.6 66.0 +0.4 11.0 -0.3 6.3 -0.6 12.3 -2.1
Small 8.0 +6.5 66.8 -3.4 10.1 -0.8 3.6 -0.5 11.4 -1.9
Medium 9.2 +6.2 63.4 -2.0 13.1 -1.5 4.5 -0.6 9.7 -2.1
Large 13.4 +6.4 46.9 +1.1 20.7 -3.4 6.3 -3.8 12.8 -0.2
Very large 17.2 +9.1 23.9 -1.2 34.0 +3.9 10.2 -7.6 14.7 -4.2
Extra large 18.8 -40.3 0.1 0.0 70.2 +36.2 9.7 +4.2 1.2 -0.1
All sizes 14.0 -9.4 38.2 +8.0 29.2 +2.6 7.4 -2.0 11.2 +0.7
Advancing culture (Culture)

Charities registered solely with the subtype of Culture can include theatre groups, orchestras, music festivals, community radio stations, historical societies, some museums and charities that promote Australian Indigenous or other specific cultures and customs.

In the 2020 reporting period, there were 1,363 charities registered solely with the subtype of Culture – an increase of 78 on the previous reporting period. Unlike the previous reporting period, however, there were no extra large charities solely registered with this subtype.

Table 34: Revenue sources with changes from the previous reporting period by charity size (subtype ‘Culture’)
Charity size Government (including grants) Donations and bequest
Goods or services
Investments
Other revenue
% of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change
Extra small 18.7 +3.7 22.7 +3.4 37.0 -3.0 8.2 +1.3 13.4 -5.4
Small 34.8 +12.3 18.7 -0.6 30.0 -9.1 7.1 -0.1 9.4 -2.4
Medium 44.9 +11.4 16.8 +0.9 25.3 -12.6 2.9 -0.7 10.0 +1.1
Large 47.8 +12.5 20.9 +4.9 22.2 -17.5 3.2 +0.4 6.0 -0.4
Very large 36.0 +5.3 26.4 +14.1 29.9 -18.6 0.8 -2.0 7.0 +1.2
Extra large - - - - - - - - - -
All sizes 41.1 +12.4 23.1 +8.5 26.6 -10.4 2.2 -0.5 7.0 -10.0
Promoting reconciliation, mutual respect and tolerance between groups of individuals that are in Australia (Reconciliation)

Charities registered solely with the subtype of Reconciliation focus on eliminating discrimination and promoting equality.

In the 2020 reporting period, there were 56 charities registered solely with the subtype of Reconciliation – a decrease of 2 charities on the previous year.

Due to the small number of charities with this subtype, we have only included information about revenue sources for all charities. Therefore, it is important to be cautious when interpreting the figures in the table because small changes can result in large variations between years.

Table 35: Revenue sources with changes from the previous reporting period (subtype ‘Reconciliation’)
Charity size Government (including grants) Donations and bequest
Goods or services
Investments
Other revenue
% of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change
All sizes 41.2 -1.8 15.2 -1.4 19.9 +6.5 0.8 -1.2 22.9 -2.1
Promoting or protecting human rights (Human rights)

Charities registered solely with the subtype of Human rights were primarily advocacy groups.

In the 2020 reporting period, there were 39 charities registered solely with the subtype of Human rights – an increase of 1 on the previous reporting period.

Due to the small number of charities with this subtype, we have only included information about revenue sources for all charities. Therefore, it is important to be cautious when interpreting the figures in the table because small changes can result in large variations between years.

Table 36: Revenue sources with changes from the previous reporting period (subtype ‘Human rights’)
Charity size Government (including grants) Donations and bequest
Goods or services
Investments
Other revenue
% of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change
All sizes 27.0 -6.9 62.8 +3.6 3.0 +1.6 1.7 -0.4 5.4 +2.1
Advancing the security or safety of Australia or the Australian public (Security)

Charities registered solely with the subtype of Security were mostly charities that look after the welfare of firefighters and armed forces, including the dependants of injured or deceased veterans. Other types of charities that may fall into this group include neighbourhood watch charities and surf-lifesaving charities.

In the 2020 reporting period, there were 123 charities registered solely with the subtype of Security – a decrease of 35 on the previous reporting period.

Due to the small number of charities with this subtype, we have only included information about revenue sources for all charities. Therefore, it is important to be cautious when interpreting the figures in the table because small changes can result in large variations between years.

The inclusion of an extra large charity with this subtype in the 2020 reporting period resulted in a significant change to the distribution of revenue sources. Donations and bequests accounted for more than 75% of the revenue for this subtype category; however, this was received by one extra large charity and we expect the percentage to decrease in coming years.

Table 37: Revenue sources with changes from the previous reporting period by charity size (subtype ‘Security’)
Charity size Government (including grants) Donations and bequest
Goods or services
Investments
Other revenue
% of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change
All sizes 7.6 -11.7 75.5 +62.6 11.4 -33.7 1.7 -3.9 3.8 -13.3
Preventing or relieving the suffering of animals (Animals)

Charities registered solely with the subtype of Animals include animal refuges and shelters.

In the 2020 reporting period, there were 539 charities registered solely with the subtype of Animals – an increase of 26 on the previous reporting period.

There were no extra large charities registered solely with this subtype in the 2020 reporting period.

Table 38: Revenue sources with changes from the previous reporting period by charity size (subtype ‘Animals’)
Charity size Government (including grants) Donations and bequest
Goods or services
Investments
Other revenue
% of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change
Extra small 5.0 -0.3 50.3 +1.4 29.3 -0.4 7.5 +1.6 7.9 -2.3
Small 4.1 +0.5 49.9 +1.0 31.9 -1.4 4.4 -1.5 9.8 +1.4
Medium 6.3 0.0 54.1 +7.8 32.0 -4.5 1.9 +0.1 5.7 -3.4
Large 10.4 +5.1 57.2 +0.9 20.4 -9.7 2.1 -1.1 9.9 +4.7
Very large 8.1 +4.5 53.3 -1.1 30.5 -2.2 1.4 -0.6 6.7 -0.5
Extra large - - - - - - - - - -
All sizes 8.0 +4.0 53.6 -0.4 29.4 -3.0 1.7 -0.8 7.2 +0.2
Advancing the natural environment (Environment)

Charities registered solely with the subtype of Environment focus on the preservation of flora and fauna or environmental conservation. They may include land care groups, wildlife protection groups, trusts established to preserve or restore the natural environment and waste minimisation organisations.

In the 2020 reporting period, there were 646 charities registered solely with the subtype of Environment – an increase of 20 on the previous reporting period. There was one extra large charity with this subtype and it reported 95% of its revenue as ‘other’.

Table 39: Revenue sources with changes from the previous reporting period by charity size (subtype ‘Environment’)
Charity size Government (including grants) Donations and bequest
Goods or services
Investments
Other revenue
% of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change
Extra small 32.8 +2.1 25.6 -3.8 23.6 +2.9 7.7 0.0 10.3 -1.2
Small 39.1 +2.5 30.6 +5.4 17.8 -7.4 3.1 -1.3 9.4 +0.8
Medium 38.5 +4.3 26.6 -0.9 20.7 -2.1 5.0 +1.6 9.1 -2.9
Large 40.9 +3.9 21.0 -0.3 23.4 -2.6 1.4 -4.0 13.3 +3.0
Very large 34.4 -0.5 39.5 +3.5 20.6 -3.3 1.1 -0.2 4.5 +0.5
Extra large 0.0 - 0.0 - 5.2 - 0.1 - 94.7 -
All sizes 23.9 -11.7 20.3 -9.0 15.7 -8.9 1.1 -2.0 39.0 +31.6
Any other purpose beneficial to the public, analogous to, or within the spirit of, any of the purposes above (Other)

This subtype group comprises charities that have a charitable purpose that does not fit within any of the other established subtypes. Many of the charities registered solely with the subtype of Other are charitable trusts, including ancillary funds.

In the 2020 reporting period, there were 3,620 charities registered solely with the subtype of Other – an increase of 144 on the previous reporting period.

Table 40: Revenue sources with changes from the previous reporting period by charity size (subtype ‘Other’)
Charity size Government (including grants) Donations and bequest
Goods or services
Investments
Other revenue
% of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change
Extra small 5.1 -0.4 16.0 +0.2 9.6 -1.5 56.4 +3.0 12.9 -1.4
Small 10.3 +1.0 23.3 -0.2 11.6 -2.0 44.2 +2.5 10.7 -1.3
Medium 17.2 +5.3 33.6 +2.5 14.3 -4.5 27.7 -3.0 7.2 -0.2
Large 13.7 +5.5 35.6 +2.9 23.7 -2.4 17.3 -6.5 9.7 +0.5
Very large 17.0 +4.4 29.9 +8.4 31.7 -14.2 10.3 -2.5 11.1 +3.9
Extra large 3.6 +0.3 12.5 +2.1 78.3 +5.1 0.5 -3.5 5.0 -4.0
All sizes 11.3 +3.8 24.7 +5.6 45.6 -6.7 10.0 -2.6 8.4 -0.1
Promoting or opposing change to a matter of law, policy or practice in relation to any of the purposes above (Law)

Charities registered solely with the subtype of Law can include research institutes that publish papers outlining positions on public policy.

In the 2020 reporting period, there were 28 charities registered solely with the subtype of Law – an increase of 2 on the previous reporting period.

Due to the small number of charities with this subtype, we have only included information about revenue sources for all charities. Therefore, it is important to be cautious when interpreting the figures in the table because small changes can result in large variations between years.

Table 41: Revenue sources with changes from the previous reporting period by charity size (subtype ‘Law’)
Charity size Government (including grants) Donations and bequest
Goods or services
Investments
Other revenue
% of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change
All sizes 51.0 +23.4 22.5 -19.9 16.1 -3.8 4.8 -2.2 5.7 +2.5
Public Benevolent Institution (PBI)

Charities registered solely with the subtype of PBI have a sole purpose of providing benevolent relief, and that relief is provided to people in need, including those working for the relief of poverty or distress. Examples include some hospitals and hospices, disability support services and some aged care providers.

In the 2020 reporting period, there were 3,052 charities registered solely as PBIs – a decrease of 18 on the previous reporting period.

This subtype has the greatest proportion of revenue from government sources of all subtypes. This may be explained by the greater availability of government funding for the typical work of PBIs.

Table 42: Revenue sources with changes from the previous reporting period by charity size (subtype ‘PBI’)
Charity size Government (including grants) Donations and bequest
Goods or services
Investments
Other revenue
% of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change
Extra small 16.7 0.0 43.3 +1.1 19.7 +1.5 6.5 -0.7 13.9 -1.8
Small 27.3 +1.9 30.9 +1.6 25.4 -3.8 4.0 -0.4 12.3 +0.7
Medium 44.3 -0.5 17.3 +1.3 23.7 -1.8 3.6 -0.3 11.2 +1.3
Large 59.3 -0.9 6.7 -0.1 26.8 +1.1 1.4 -0.4 5.8 +0.3
Very large 62.3 -0.8 4.9 -0.8 26.6 +2.6 1.4 -0.9 4.9 -0.1
Extra large 66.3 +6.5 6.1 +3.4 22.2 -10.5 1.0 -0.5 4.5 +1.1
All sizes 62.5 +1.5 5.9 +0.5 25.2 -1.6 1.3 -0.7 5.1 +0.3
Health Promotion Charity (HPC)

Charities registered solely with the subtype of HPC have a principal activity to promote the prevention or the control of diseases in human beings.

The focus of an HPC may be narrower than that of a charity with the purpose of ‘health’ because HPCs are required to promote the prevention or control of disease, not just to improve general health. Examples may include charities that research treatments for diseases or methods of disease prevention, or that work to raise awareness of diseases.

In the 2020 reporting period, there were 442 charities registered solely with the subtype of HPC – a decrease of 4 on the previous reporting period.

Table 43: Revenue sources with changes from the previous reporting period by charity size (subtype ‘HPC’)
Charity size Government (including grants) Donations and bequest
Goods or services
Investments
Other revenue
% of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change
Extra small 9.5 -0.2 38.0 -1.2 27.4 -2.4 3.5 -0.8 21.6 +4.6
Small 16.5 +5.4 40.6 +2.1 27.1 -2.2 3.6 -4.9 12.2 -0.4
Medium 35.7 +4.9 19.9 -4.8 34.3 +2.1 1.6 -0.5 8.5 -1.7
Large 43.8 -0.9 16.9 +1.8 29.2 +2.3 1.8 -1.3 8.3 -2.0
Very large 58.4 +1.6 14.6 -3.2 17.0 +1.8 2.0 -0.9 8.1 +0.8
Extra large 47.3 +3.3 11.7 +3.1 28.1 -4.9 8.4 -1.6 4.4 0.0
All sizes 54.3 +1.8 15.1 -1.9 20.3 +1.1 2.4 -1.0 7.9 +0.1
Charities with more than one registered subtype (Multiple)

A significant number of charities are registered with more than one subtype. In this report, we have categorised them as ‘Multiple’.

In the 2020 reporting period, there were 12,213 charities registered with more than one subtype – an increase of 467 on the previous reporting period. This increase comprises newly registered charities as well as existing charities that had additional subtypes added to their registration.

It is difficult to interpret the revenue sources of this group because of the disparate nature of the charities it includes. Charities registered with more than one subtype have varied purposes.

Table 44: Revenue sources with changes from the previous reporting period by charity size (Multiple subtypes)
Charity size Government (including grants) Donations and bequest
Goods or services
Investments
Other revenue
% of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change
Extra small 12.5 +1.4 47.9 -1.0 20.5 -0.4 7.1 +0.8 11.8 -0.7
Small 20.3 +3.2 39.7 +0.5 22.5 -3.2 5.8 +0.2 11.7 -0.7
Medium 36.0 +2.1 26.2 +1.7 23.2 -3.0 5.1 -0.6 9.5 -0.2
Large 56.3 +2.0 10.5 +0.3 24.9 -1.5 2.2 -0.8 6.1 -0.1
Very large 56.1 +2.4 6.4 -1.7 30.4 +0.3 1.5 -0.8 5.7 -0.2
Extra large 57.9 +3.0 4.3 -1.0 30.1 -2.4 1.1 -0.5 6.6 +0.9
All sizes 56.3 +2.8 6.8 -1.4 29.2 -0.8 1.5 -0.7 6.2 +0.2
Charities with no registered subtype (No subtype)

Charities with no registered subtype include philanthropic trusts and many charities that choose not to be registered with a subtype.

In the 2020 reporting period, there were 5,129 charities registered without a subtype – a decrease of 95 on the previous reporting period.

It is difficult to interpret the revenue sources of this group because of the disparate nature of the charities it includes. Although it comprises many philanthropic trusts, it also includes many charities with varied purposes.

Table 45: Revenue sources with changes from the previous reporting period by charity size (No subtype)
Charity size Government (including grants) Donations and bequest
Goods or services
Investments
Other revenue
% of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change % of total revenue % change
Extra small 13.0 +3.4 30.0 -0.8 21.9 -3.1 19.0 +2.1 16.1 -1.7
Small 16.9 +3.4 27.8 +2.2 19.8 -1.3 19.3 -0.7 16.1 -3.6
Medium 29.9 +6.8 23.4 +1.7 21.2 -7.4 16.2 -0.2 9.3 -0.9
Large 29.2 -9.0 21.8 +6.4 25.8 -1.0 15.0 +1.5 8.2 +2.1
Very large 29.8 -6.2 17.2 +7.1 37.2 +0.8 9.4 -1.6 6.5 -0.1
Extra large 29.5 -30.8 27.9 +27.6 35.3 +6.5 2.4 +2.1 4.9 -5.4
All sizes 29.0 -12.7 21.3 +11.2 31.7 +1.0 10.7 +1.4 7.3 -0.8

Net income ratio

A charity’s net income is its total income minus its total expenses. The ‘net income ratio’ provides the ratio, expressed as a percentage, of a charity’s net income to its total income.

Net income ratio = net income / total income (%)

A positive ratio indicates that there is a surplus – the income received was more than the charity’s expenses for the year. The higher the ratio, the greater the surplus.

A negative ratio indicates that there is a deficit – the income received was less than the charity’s expenses for the year. The larger the negative ratio, the greater the deficit.

In the 2020 reporting period, the net income ratio for the sector was 5.4%, a decrease on the 6.7% of the previous two reporting periods.

Every extra small charity reported a negative net income ratio. However, their positive asset ratio indicates that many remain financially sustainable. This is discussed in the ‘Asset ratio’ section.

The net income ratio varied among the subtypes.

Table 46: Net income ratio by subtype and charity size
Subtype category Extra small Small Medium Large Very large Extra large All sizes
Health -46.9 -1.9 -32.9 -1.8 4.2 0.9 1.2
Education -56.3 14.7 9.7 7.1 8.6 1.9 4.2
Social welfare -23.4 -224.8 0.4 4.0 15.9 99.0 14.4
Religion -34.4 11.5 11.2 13.1 9.5 -61.1 2.1
Culture -15.9 7.5 12.6 13.5 5.2 - 9.0
Reconciliation* -8.5 28.6 10.1 10.7 - - 12.5
Human rights* -102.2 15.0 35.7 24.2 -0.2 - 6.2
Security* -5.3 -0.4 11.6 10.3 - 92.7 66.1
Animals -122.1 9.0 14.6 18.0 22.8 - 19.6
Environment* -211.7 -22.6 14.0 13.5 10.0 6.5 8.3
Other -16.4 -17.2 -15.7 23.9 25.5 5.1 14.6
Law -44.0 27.4 -763.6 2.1 - - -0.2
PBI -46.1 9.1 7.5 6.3 2.1 2.4 3.0
HPC -42.3 -6.5 6.3 3.3 4.1 -8.8 3.1
Multiple -38.6 2.8 9.1 8.0 7.7 2.5 5.5
No subtype -76.3 -20.0 -0.5 7.4 17.0 34.6 14.1
All subtypes -44.8 -5.8 6.2 8.5 7.9 2.7 5.4

* Because of the small number of charities in this category, outliers can significantly affect the result.

Asset ratio

The asset ratio provides the ratio of a charity’s assets to its liabilities.

Asset ratio = total assets / total liabilities

A positive ratio indicates that a charity’s assets exceed its liabilities. The higher the ratio, the greater the difference between assets and liabilities.

Generally, a higher asset ratio can indicate that a charity has set aside funds, known as reserves, to ensure its financial stability and sustainability.

In the 2020 reporting period, the asset ratio for the sector was 2.9, a decrease on the 3.2 of the previous two reporting periods. This means that total assets were just under three times the total liabilities for the sector.

A positive asset ratio was calculated across all charity sizes and all subtypes.

The asset ratio of 5.6 for extra small charities was almost double that of the sector overall (2.9). This indicates that extra small charities maintain an ability to absorb a negative net income ratio (where total expenses exceed total income).

Table 47: Asset ratio by subtype and charity size
Subtype category Extra small Small Medium Large Very large Extra large All sizes
Health 39.4 67.6 21.0 9.1 2.0 2.6 2.9
Education 5.2 12.8 7.7 3.7 3.5 2.9 3.1
Social welfare 10.6 7.4 5.0 3.0 3.8 3.0 3.8
Religion 2.7 4.5 7.3 3.8 1.5 1.3 2.3
Culture 23.2 11.9 5.4 5.3 3.5 - 5.0
Reconciliation* 120.4 2.0 6.8 2.7 - - 3.7
Human rights* 1.1 5.8 10.9 11.2 1.4 - 2.8
Security* 18.8 39.6 14.9 4.3 - 19.6 10.7
Animals 17.2 18.5 15.1 10.1 7.1 - 8.2
Environment 1.9 2.5 5.9 3.1 1.4 2.1 1.8
Other 15.4 101.7 39.6 17.5 5.7 4.5 9.3
Law* 57.2 4.1 1,071.8 2.2 - - 2.6
PBI 17.2 9.1 5.8 2.8 1.9 1.7 2.0
HPC 22.8 15.5 5.0 3.1 2.8 8.3 3.3
Multiple 5.3 7.1 6.4 3.8 2.8 2.0 2.7
No subtype 14.5 18.4 14.2 8.9 5.7 9.7 8.1
All subtypes 5.6 8.6 8.5 4.1 2.7 2.5 2.9

* Because of the small number of charities in this category, outliers can significantly affect the result.

Asset holdings

The 2020 reporting period showed that, on average, each charity holds approximately

$8 million in assets – an increase of 7% on the previous reporting period. However, this differs greatly according to charity size with extra small charities holding, on average, approximately $200,000 in assets.

Table 48: Average asset holdings with changes from the previous reporting period by subtype and charity size
Subtype category Extra small Small Medium Large Very large Extra large Total

$
m

% change

$
m

% change

$
m

% change

$
m

% change

$
m

% change

$
m

% change

$
m

% change

Health 0.2 +5.3 1 +32.6 3 +17.5 17 -40.1 150 +69.8 120 -64.8 7 -14.2
Education 0.2 +1.0 0.6 +29.5 1 +30.0 7 -36.2 54 +7.3 1,657 +11.7 18 +4.1
Social welfare 0.2 +27.0 0.9 +12.5 2 +29.1 9 -11.7 83 -2.5 1 - 2 +7.0
Religion 0.4 +42.1 1 +6.5 3 +3.1 14 -3.8 153 -1.5 1,030 +83.1 4 +0.5
Culture 0.1 -9.2 0.8 +52.2 1 +22.9 8 +26.5 36 +38.6 - - 2 -40.5
Reconciliation* 0.1 +34.7 0.6 -9.8 0.9 +200.8 1 -61.1 - - - - 0.4 +20.2
Human rights* <0.1 +45.0 0.3 -27.3 0.5 +83.5 4 -4.5 10 +9.6 - - 1 +10.4
Security 0.1 +16.3 0.5 +8.6 2 -25.7 5 +18.3 - - 114 - 2 +170.2
Animals 0.1 +45.1 0.2 -20.8 0.7 +5.9 5 -12.8 38 -4.5 - - 1 +9.0
Environment 0.3 +243.8 0.3 +4.0 1 +25.1 5 -26.5 49 +6.7 81 - 2 +9.7
Other 0.4 +23.7 2 +19.2 5 +37.3 13 -5.0 80 +3.5 514 +7.2 5 -5.5
Law* <0.1 -97.1 0.1 +18.9 4 +60.5 8 +227.0 - - - - 2 +8.7
PBI 0.2 +5.1 0.6 +11.2 2 +3.2 7 -2.1 53 -0. 415 +4.9 12 +10.1
HPC 0.1 +32.2 0.3 +0.1 1 +18.8 4 -13.9 45 +1.0 468 -0.3 6 +7.5
Multiple 0.2 +9.1 0.7 +34.8 2 +9.0 7 +7.0 45 +1.1 511 +34.2 8 +19.2
No subtype 0.2 +32.4 1 +14.7 3 +9.0 12 +13.4 102 -2.8 565 +484.7 4 +5.5
Average 0.2 +22.4 0.9 +18.6 2 +14.4 8 -7.4 55 +1.9 815 +11.6 8 +6.8

* There are less than 100 charities registered solely with these subtypes. Consequently, changes reported by a small number of charities have a greater effect on the overall percentages.

Table 49: Total assets by subtype and charity size
Subtype category Extra small Small Medium Large Very large Extra large Total
Health 74 206 251 998 2,552 359 4,440
Education 426 691 1,591 7,705 25,340 76,206 111,960
Social welfare 104 323 493 1,300 1,323 1 3,544
Religion 781 2,372 3,680 5,308 6,874 2,061 21,075
Culture 88 253 314 1,091 749 - 2,495
Reconciliation* 2 8 12 2 - - 25
Human rights 0 3 2 21 20 - 47
Security 4 13 33 50 - 114 214
Animals 17 45 40 101 492 - 695
Environment 82 47 125 351 831 81 1,516
Other 702 1,554 2,691 4,608 4,973 2,571 17,098
Law 0 0 8 46 - - 55
PBI 98 356 1,104 6,428 18,863 11,211 38,060
HPC 14 25 75 397 1,886 468 2,865
Multiple 637 1,788 3,717 20,451 40,787 34,733 102,113
No subtype 578 1,372 2,250 5,488 7,269 3,392 20,350

Percentage of charities with an online presence

Charities can provide us with a link to their website, Facebook page, or other platforms for online engagement.

In the 2020 reporting period, more than 58% of charities provided an online presence – an increase on the 52% (approximately 5,000 charities) in the previous reporting period.

It is important to note that not all charities want to engage with the public. For example, philanthropic trusts and private ancillary funds will have minimal interaction with the public and are unlikely to have a website, Facebook page or profile on other platforms.

Table 50: Charities that reported an online presence by subtype with changes from the previous reporting period
Subtype category % % change
Health 49.6 +11.7
Education 56.0 +16.8
Social welfare 50.2 +13.3
Religion 50.3 +20.8
Culture 78.8 +14.3
Reconciliation 75.9 +12.5
Human rights 91.8 +9.8
Security 56.7 +10.2
Animals 76.1 +16.8
Environment 81.7 +13.6
Other 31.8 +11.5
Law 82.2 +37.0
PBI 67.5 +7.1
HPC 76.9 +5.6
Multiple 73.8 +17.6
No subtype 42.8 +9.5
Average 58.4 +15.9

Charities with significant obligations to other regulators

Many charities have obligations to regulators in addition to the ACNC.

The proportion of charities that report to another Commonwealth regulator remained steady in the 2020 reporting period.

We continue to work with other regulators to remove duplicated reporting obligations and streamline the way charities report to government. Progress on our work reducing red tape for charities can be tracked at acnc.gov.au/redtapereduction.

Table 51: Proportion of charities with reporting obligations to other regulators
Type of charity Other regulator % of charities reporting to other regulator
Non-government schools Department of Education, Skills and Employment (Commonwealth) 3.2
Indigenous charities Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (Commonwealth) 1.8
Ancillary funds (both private and public) Australian Taxation Office 5.1
Incorporated associations State or territory regulator 35.4
Charities that fundraise State or territory regulator 12.6
Aged care providers Department of Health (Commonwealth) 1.0
Higher education providers Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (Commonwealth) 0.1

Notes: The percentage of incorporated associations is based on charities that voluntarily provided us with an incorporated association number.

The percentage of charities that fundraise is based on charities that voluntarily provided us with a fundraising license number. Not all charities that fundraise are required to have a fundraising license; depending on where a charity undertakes fundraising activities, it may be exempt from the requirement to hold a fundraising license.

The percentage of charities that are aged care providers is based on a charity’s legal name.

Data for ancillary funds, aged care providers and higher education providers are from datasets that are publicly available.

Table 52: Proportion of charities with reporting obligations to other regulators by size
Type of charity Small (%) Medium (%) Large (%) No size (%)
Non-government schools 1.0 2.6 96.1 0.1
Ancillary funds (both private and public) 60.9 17.5 13.9 7.7
Incorporated associations 60.2 17.4 14.7 7.6
Charities that fundraise 47.4 21.3 31.0 0.2
Higher education providers 0.0 6.0 90.5 3.6

Notes: We do not have sufficient data available for indigenous charities or charities that are aged care providers for the purposes of this report; however, these charities do have reporting obligations to other regulators. The size categories are based on the three charity sizes defined by the ACNC Act.

Size is determined by a charity’s most recent Annual Information Statement. In some instances, registered charities may not have submitted an Annual Information Statement (for example, they may have been part of a reporting group, or they may have been registered for less than three months).

Newly registered charities by subtype

Each year, we receive thousands of applications from organisations that want to be registered as a charity.

From 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021, we registered 2,599 charities. Of the newly registered charities, 41% were registered with multiple subtypes.

Note that this information is taken from the 2020–21 financial year, not the 2020 Annual Information Statements submitted by charities.

Table 53: Approved subtypes for newly registered charities and as a percentage of all registered charities
Subtype category Number of newly registered charities % of newly registered charities % change from 2019-2020 financial year % of all registered charities
Health 75 2.9 +1.4 1.5
Education 250 9.7 -0.8 12.6
Social welfare 157 6.1 -0.3 3.4
Religion 415 16.1 -1.1 25.5
Culture 125 4.9 -0.5 3.0
Reconciliation 8 0.3 -0.2 0.1
Human rights 1 0.0 -0.1 0.1
Security 15 0.6 -0.2 0.3
Animals 76 2.9 +0.2 1.3
Environment 92 3.6 +1.0 1.5
Other 212 8.2 -0.9 7.2
Law 7 0.3 +0.1 0.1
PBI 34 1.3 -0.1 6.6
HPC 12 0.5 +0.3 0.9
Multiple 1,067 41.4 +0.7 26.9
No subtype 31 1.2 +0.5 9.0
Total 2,577 100.0 - 100.0

A charity can apply to have its registration revoked. This is what we call a ‘voluntary revocation’.

When a charity applies to have its registration revoked, it must provide a reason for the revocation. The application form has four options for this:

  • The organisation intends to continue operating but not as a registered charity (continue operating deregistered)
  • The organisation has merged with another one (merger)
  • The organisation is no longer operating (ceased operating)
  • The organisation is no longer entitled to be a registered charity (not entitled)

From 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021, we processed 876 voluntary revocations.

Of the voluntary revocations we processed, 63% were approved on the basis that the charity is no longer operating, a decrease from the 76% in the previous financial year.

Despite a decrease in proportion on the previous year, small charities remained the most likely to apply to have registration revoked voluntarily. They accounted for 70% of voluntary revocations in the 2021 financial year.

The 2021 financial year saw an increase in large charities applying to have registration revoked voluntarily. Large charities accounted for 20%, up 12% on the previous year.

The proportion of mergers almost doubled from the previous year, increasing from 17% to 32%. The proportion of voluntary revocations due to mergers increased as the size of the charity increased.

Note that this information is taken from the 2020–21 financial year, not the 2020 Annual Information Statements submitted by charities.

Table 54: Voluntary revocations by charity size
Size Reason for voluntary revocation Total
Continue operating deregistered Merger Ceased operating Not entitled
Small 29 122 459 2 612
Medium 1 16 31 - 48
Large 4 130 32 1 167
No size 3 15 30 1 49
Total 37 283 552 4 876
Table 55: Voluntary revocations by charity size as a percentage of total voluntary revocations with changes from the 2019–2020 financial year
Size Reason for voluntary revocation Total
Continue operating deregistered Merger Ceased operating Not entitled
% % change % % change % % change % % change % % change
Small 3.3 -1.5 13.9 +2.2 52.4 -8.5 0.2 -1.4 69.9 -9.3
Medium 0.1 0.0 1.8 +0.1 3.5 -1.9 - -0.1 5.5 -1.9
Large 0.5 +0.3 14.8 +11.8 3.7 +0.1 0.1 -0.1 19.1 +12.1
No size 0.3 +0.3 1.7 +1.3 3.4 -2.5 0.1 0.0 5.6 -0.9
Total 4.2 -1.0 32.3 +15.4 63.0 -12.9 0.5 -1.5 100.0 0.0
Table 56: Reason for voluntary revocation based on charity size with changes from the 2019–2020 financial year
Size Reason for voluntary revocation
Continue operating deregistered Merger Ceased operating Not entitled
% % change % % change % % change % % change
Small 4.7 -1.4 19.9 +5.1 75.0 -2.0 0.3 -1.7
Medium 2.1 +0.9 33.3 +10.2 64.6 -9.8 - -1.2
Large 2.4 -0.2 77.8 +34.3 19.2 -32.1 0.6 -2.0
No size 6.1 +4.8 30.6 +23.8 61.2 -29.2 2.0 +0.7

Notes: The size categories are based on the three charity sizes defined by the ACNC Act.

Size is determined by a charity’s most recent Annual Information Statement. In some instances, formerly registered charities may not have submitted an Annual Information Statement (for example, they may have been part of a reporting group, or they may have been registered for less than three months).

Age of registered charities and organisations that had registration revoked voluntarily

Across the sector, charities have been operating on average for 32 years.

The average age of entities that had charity status revoked voluntarily was 33 years (based on decisions made between 1 July 2020 and 30 June 2021).

The following analysis excludes any charity for which an establishment date was unavailable.

Note that this information is taken from the 2020–21 financial year, not the 2020 Annual Information Statements submitted by charities.

Table 57: Average age of registered charities by subtype with change from the 2019–2020 financial year
Subtype category Age Change compared to 2019-20
Health 21.4 -0.3
Education 34.7 0.4
Social welfare 20.6 -0.2
Religion 46.4 0.0
Culture 24.7 -0.4
Reconciliation 13.8 -0.9
Human rights 15.1 -0.4
Security 28.4 -4.7
Animals 10.3 0.2
Environment 17.6 -0.5
Other 28.8 -0.7
Law 13.0 -1.1
PBI 33.2 0.4
HPC 20.4 0.3
Multiple 22.4 -0.6
No subtype 37.7 1.0
All subtypes 31.9 -0.4
Table 58: Average age of charities that had registration revoked voluntarily
Reason for voluntary revocation Age Age (2019-2020)
The organisation intends to continue operating but not as a registered charity 26.7 33.0
The organisation has merged with another one 51.0 42.1
The organisation is no longer operating 24.8 20.1
The organisation is no longer entitled to be a registered charity 47.8 36.1
All reasons 33.2 24.8

Revocation of charity registration

From 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021, we revoked the charity registrations of 13 organisations as a result of compliance issues.

On average, these organisations had been operating for 14 years (compared to an average of 8 years in the previous reporting period). The youngest organisation had been operating for 4 years, the oldest for 33.

Of these organisations, 7 reported as small charities, 2 reported as medium, and 3 large (based on the most recent Annual Information Statement the charities submitted). One organisation never submitted an Annual Information Statement.

These 13 organisations held assets of approximately $46.8 million according to the most recent Annual Information Statements.

We take a charity’s location as its physical address. This is most commonly the physical base for the charity – for example, a head office – and may be distinct from the places in which it conducts its activities.

In previous editions of the Charities Report we assessed charity locations based on Annual Information Statement submissions. However, that analysis did not include newly registered charities or charities that were not required to submit an Annual Information Statement.

To provide greater insight, we now analyse charity location for all registered charities that have provided a physical address.

As a result of these changes, some caution should be taken when comparing results from previous editions of the Charities Report.

Table 59: Charity location (based on postcode of physical address)
Location in Australia % of charities
Major cities 70.2
Inner regional 18.7
Outer regional 8.5
Remote 1.6
Very remote 1.1

Locations are derived using the measure in the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 5 – Remoteness Structure.

Operations in Australia

Table 60: Operating locations of registered charities
State or territory % of charities % of Australia's population at 30 June 2021
ACT 1.6 1.7
NSW 30.5 31.8
NT 1.3 1.0
QLD 15.3 20.3
SA 7.1 6.9
TAS 2.5 2.1
VIC 22.9 25.8
WA 9.9 10.4
More than one 8.7

The population as recorded by the Australian Bureau of Statistics at 30 June 2021.

Operations overseas

Many charities operate overseas and many in multiple countries and regions.

Our analysis shows that 3,945 registered charities (approximately 7% of all charities) reported that they operate overseas.

Charities reported operating in 217 different countries or regions (excluding Australia).

Of these charities, 57% reported operating in just one country or region and 43% in more than one. For charities that operated in more than one, 16% reported operating in five or more countries or regions and 7% in ten or more.

The top five most common countries were Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Kenya and Papua New Guinea.

State and territory breakdown

This breakdown uses a charity’s physical address (where we have been provided with this data) and data from the 2020 Annual Information Statement.

Around 10% of charities operate in multiple jurisdictions, but this may not be reflected in a charity’s street address. This is relevant for the analysis of volunteers – although volunteers are attributed to a state based on a charity’s street address, the figures include volunteers across Australia.

Table 61: Charity revenue source, volunteers and employees by state or territory
State or territory Number of charities Revenue from government
($ million)
Revenue from donations and bequests
($ million)
Revenue from goods or services
($ million)
Total revenue
($ million)
Volunteers Employees
ACT 1,068 2,323 153 1,344 4,525 43,308 28,077
NSW 15,374 21,605 4,894 12,615 44,320 1,562,564 332,709
NT 146 1,015 23 506 1,705 9,309 11,861
QLD 6,707 10,260 988 6,931 19,629 387,250 167,526
SA 3,311 4,951 341 3,295 9,501 150,711 94,469
TAS 1,100 1,628 101 705 2,566 46,665 28,728
VIC 11,686 21,348 2,972 11,515 39,046 579,912 283,699
WA 4,259 7,910 603 6,173 15,676 200,598 131,847

Note: Charities that report as part of a group have been excluded from this analysis.

Data sources

Our analysis is primarily based on information we collect from charities as part of their reporting. In this report, we have explained where we used an external source of information.

Although we have a comprehensive process for reviewing as much charity data as possible, there may be errors in the data used for this report.

Methodology

Where possible, this report includes financial information:

  • reported by Basic Religious Charities
  • from charities that did not conduct activities (for example, charities that may have received revenue from investments for the 2020 reporting year despite not conducting activities).

No estimated or proxy data is used.

A small number of charities have been excluded from some analyses to remove significant outliers and distortions to results.

There may be minor rounding errors in this report.

By charity size

Our analysis was based on 49,165 charities that submitted a 2020 Annual Information Statement.

In some situations, such as when one charity controls one or more charities, we allow a group of registered charities to submit a single Annual Information Statement (known as a reporting group). These are referred to as Group Annual Information Statements.

Our analysis includes 276 Group 2020 Annual Information Statements submitted on behalf of 1,383 registered charities.

For this section, we treated each reporting group as a single charity.

By charity subtype

Our analysis was based on the charities that submitted a 2020 Annual Information Statement and their registered charity subtypes (as at 9 February 2022).

Reporting groups are not separate legal entities and are not entitled to a charity subtype. As a result, we have excluded reporting groups from this analysis.

By registered charities

This information was based on 60,367 registered charities as at 9 February 2022.

Accessing ACNC data

There are various ways in which you can access ACNC data:

Our interactive data

We published the data from the 2020 Annual Information Statement in an interactive tool. It allows you to filter the data based on a range of criteria. It contains only publicly available information.

You can access the interactive data at acnc.gov.au/charitydata.

Data.gov.au

We have published various datasets, including the dataset for the 2020 Annual Information Statement, at data.gov.au.

Datasets are updated weekly and do not include information from charities that have information withheld from the Charity Register.

Differences in data

The analysis in this report may not match the information at data.gov.au or the interactive data because:

  • our analysis in this report includes all information submitted by charities (including those that have information withheld from the Charity Register)
  • additional 2020 Annual Information Statements may have been submitted since this report was published and included in online datasets.

Contact us

If you would like any further information about this report, or ACNC data in general, please contact us at research@acnc.gov.au.

Previous editions of the Charities Report

This is the eighth annual Australian Charities Report. All previous editions can be found on our website at acnc.gov.au/charitiesreport.