Transcript

Matt Crichton:

Hello everyone, welcome to today’s webinar, which is a special one focused on the Australian Charities Report 2015. My name is Matt Crichton, I work here at the ACNC in the Education team, and joining me today to present all the fascinating findings from the Charities Report, is Ross Gillott, who is a Research manager here at the ACNC. Hi, Ross.

Ross Gillott:

Hi, Matt.

We’ll get into all the details in a few moments, we’ll get into all the stats and the fascinating findings, but first, Ross, if you wouldn’t mind just giving us a very brief outline of what this report is?

Ross Gillott:

No problems. So as many of the people in this webinar would know, each year we collect data from charities on their Annual Information Statement. And so what this report does is take a look at all the data that charities have submitted to us and really puts back to the general public, charities and researchers, overall information about the charity sector in Australia.

Matt Crichton:

OK. And the Report itself, as we can see on the screen here is quite a large report, done in collaboration, right?

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, that’s right. So we’ve worked this year with the Centre for Social Impact and the Social Policy Research Centre at UNSW who’ve done all the hard work of analysing the numbers for us, and we’ve turned that into three reports.

Matt Crichton:

OK, great. And it’s an important point isn’t it? So readers of the Report will know that it’s a collaboration across a few independent institutions, it’s not done entirely within one organisation?

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, that’s right and we think that independence is really important as well.

Matt Crichton:

The Report itself is available freely and people can access it online. Can you give us an overview of what they’ve got available to them?

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, sure. So the starting point for accessing all the reports is this website, australiancharities.acnc.gov.au, and on that website you’ll find the different versions of the Report that are available. So we’ve got the main Report, which is 140-pages of quite detailed and comprehensive information about the sector, but obviously knowing that that’s a lot to get through, we’ve also produced a two page snapshot with the key stats. And a 14-page summary with just a bit more detail.

Matt Crichton:

OK, so if people don’t have the time to get through 140-pages and they wanted to just find out exactly… well, the most important things, the headline figures and information, then you’d recommend going to the shorter 14-page and two page options.

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, exactly.

Matt Crichton:

And, you mentioned just a minute or so ago, that there are three reports; is that what this section on the slide, Sub Reports, is referring to?

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, so as well as the main report, which is available in three different versions, there’s also two sub reports. And the two sub reports this year are on smaller charities and aged care charities. So each of those sub reports is fairly short and just specifically profiles the charities in those two sectors.

Matt Crichton:

You said that it’s housed at the website (australiancharities.acnc.gov.au), but the slide does call it an interactive website. So it’s not simply just a spot where people can download a PDF of 140-page report – there’s more to it than that?

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, that’s it. And in fact, that’s the most exciting part I’d say. So as well as downloading the reports you can also explore the data in an interactive way, and the great thing about that is you can filter it by whatever criteria you want so that you can get the stats for the specific question you’re trying to answer.

Matt Crichton:

OK, so it’s not only the Report then, it’s the data itself – the data that was used that was analysed to produce the report is available to people at the website.

Ross Gillott:

Exactly.

Matt Crichton:

And they can play around with that and discover their own interesting findings and stats and what not.

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, they should, it’s good fun.

Matt Crichton:

OK, just moving on. This is the screen that you’ll see if you do venture onto the website to have a look at the Report, that’s the homepage. And just a quick note on that, the URL that we gave on the previous slide (australiancharities.acnc.gov.au) will get you here, but if you put a www at the beginning it’s unlikely to work. I discovered that the hard way by accident a few times, and if you, like I did, get an error message after you put www.australiancharities.acnc.gov.au – get rid of the www, try it again and you should be alright.

So that’s what you’ll see on the homepage. And Ross, can you just give the viewers a brief overview of where they should go and where they can find the things that they want to find.

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, sure. So on the left at the bottom there you’ve got ‘Download’, so that’s where you click if you want to see the links to the actual research reports. Now the interactive data cubes can be accessed through either the ‘Explore’ or the ‘Sector’ buttons. The Explore ones are probably the best one to start with if you’re just wanting to have a general look. If you are wanting to delve into a particular sector of the charities population though, say education, you probably start by clicking on ‘Sector’.

Matt Crichton:

OK, so there’s lots of way to get at the data and have a look at it. Once people do get into it, I’ll just give an example here, this is the sort of thing that you’ll see on the screen and the ways in which you can interact with the data presented, with the data that was analysed to produce the Report. So Ross, on this screen we’ve got an example of what viewers will be able to see. Can you briefly describe what they’re looking at there?

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, sure. So this slideshow is just one part of the interactive data cube. So this is the Geography section of the data cube, so that brings up a map of Australia and you see there’s a whole lot of dots all around the country there, and some of them look like bigger dots and some are smaller dots. So each of those dots represents one charity and then the larger dots represent where there’s a few charities bunched in one place, like in a city or a town.

Matt Crichton:

OK, we can see that on the map here, it sort of, I guess, resembles a population to a degree. You can see clusters around Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane. Just on that, it’s got a map of Australia, but many of the viewers will realise that a lot of charities operate overseas. Does it also have a map of the world or is it neglecting the charities that operate oveseas?

Ross Gillott:

No, so definitely not. So what this map’s showing is where charities are based. So Australian charities need to be based here, so every Australian charity would have an address in Australia rather than overseas, even though we do know that many of them operate overseas.

Matt Crichton:

Oh OK, so it’s not as if the data is neglecting those that operate overseas and we’ve just focusing on those that have operations in Australia. It’s that their office or their headquarters is based here.

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, that’s right.

Matt Crichton:

And that would be reflected in one of these green dots?

Ross Gillott:

That’s right. And just to elaborate a bit more, if you were to hover, in the real data cube, hover your mouse over one of those dots it actually brings up all the information that that charity reported on their Annual Information Statement for the year.

Matt Crichton:

OK, so if they know that, well they’re hovering over the dot of the one that they’re looking for, then they can get a quick brief overview of some of their information from this screen?

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, or if you’re curious what a dot, what seems like the middle of nowhere, what it is, you can hover and see everything about it.

Matt Crichton:

And at the top here on this screenshot of what people will see in the data cube there are a few tabs there with Geography, Sizing, Activities, Income and Expenditure, I think those two refer to, Assets… these are other categories that people can click on and find information about?

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, that’s right. So overview gives you, obviously, an overview or the headline stats for the whole sector. And then Geography is this map. You can look at other attributes like Sizing, Activities, Finances and Employment. And you can see on the side as well, it says ‘Filter this Page’ and on the map of Australia it has ‘Filter this Page’. So that’s just an example of how you can choose different items from that list and change the way the data appears.

Matt Crichton:

Oh OK, so you can break it down further from that?

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, that’s it.

Matt Crichton:

Great. So this is important to know, this isn’t the first report that the ACNC has commissioned to analyse the data from the Annual Information Statements. This is the third one, but this one has a few new features. Can you give us an explanation of those?

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, sure. So as you mentioned, we’ve worked on this in the 2013/14 AIS’s. But this year what we’ve been able to do is build the most comprehensive record, to date, of the health sector. So the way we’ve done that is by bringing in data from charities who hadn’t reported in 2015, but had reported in previous years and also, in some cases, the researchers have made a very informed estimate of data that’s missing. So what we’ve been able to do, in short, is put together data for 51,000 charities, which is almost all of the charities on the Register.

Matt Crichton:

OK, so the first couple of reports didn’t have this number, they were analysing the data of fewer charities?

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, that’s right. So the first report, I think, had about 35,000 and again, same with the second report. So this is a significant increase on that.

Matt Crichton:

You mentioned that the researchers were able to make informed estimates based on previous data, or estimates for charities that didn’t have any data. Can you just explain that a little bit more?

Ross Gillott:

So there are some charities that for whatever reason either haven’t reported or they haven’t been required to report say financial data to us. So the researchers were able though to estimate for those charities, looking at the peers, or very similar charities, to make an informed estimate of the data.

Matt Crichton:

OK, right. To give a fuller picture of the charity sector, extrapolating from the information that we do have to give a fuller picture for people.

Ross Gillott:

Exactly.

Matt Crichton:

OK, right. The second point here, a closer look at indicators of sustainability – can you give us an explanation of what that means and what those indicators are?

Ross Gillott:

So that’s talking about financial sustainability in this instance. And it just means for the first time the researchers have applied some basic measures of that, such as income margin. So like how much charities are left over with each year after they’ve accounted for all their expenses. And also, things like how much assets they’ve got built up and how well could they possibly withstand a cut in funding for example.

Matt Crichton:

So rather than just simply reporting on the data that was presented, there’s also sort of speculation and focus on financial stability to give people an indication of how the sector is going in that area.

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, exactly. And it looks at it by different parts of the sector as well, so it’s interesting to have a look at that. And the third thing on there is estimates of change as well. So that’s another big thing that’s been possible this year for the first time. Now that we’ve got two years of financial data we’ve been able to talk about how charities have changed from 2014 to ’15.

Matt Crichton:

OK, so previously we only had one set of financial data so we couldn’t make those comparisons with previous years, but this Report is able to do so?

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, that’s right.

Matt Crichton:

Just before we do move on, some viewers might have thought already that we’re referencing the 2015 Report and it’s already close to halfway through 2017. Can you give us an explanation why that may be, I think a few people might be thinking that we’re either really slow or we haven’t focused on the 2016 Report yet?

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, that’s a good point. So the 2015 Annual Information Statement, even though it’s called the 2015 Statement, for most charities it wouldn’t haven’t been due until the start of 2016 or even the middle of 2016. So it’s simply a matter that we just had to wait for all the statements to come in before we could analyse them, and then obviously it takes a few months to do all the number crunching and produce the Report.

Matt Crichton:

So it’s the most up to date information that we have and it just so happens to be that that’s the data that came in the 2015 reporting period.

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, exactly.

Matt Crichton:

This Report does cover the most charities that we’ve ever had a look at and it is the most comprehensive data set. Can you give us a brief overview of the charities that were included, the ones that might not have been included in the research and why they weren’t included?

Ross Gillott:

So some people, eagle-eyed viewers if you like, may have noticed that 51,000 charities isn’t every charity. We do have about 54,000 charities on our Register at any given time. But some of them haven’t been included and the reason for that, there’s about 800 first of all that report to the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations or ORIC, so they were excluded because we don’t actually have any information really. But also, there are a small number of charities that haven’t provided statements to us for two years and therefore they meet the criteria to be deregistered, it’s just that they haven’t quite been yet, so those ones were excluded.

Matt Crichton:

OK, so at the time that the data was downloaded or accessed for analysis there were a bunch of charities that fit the bill for deregistration, but just hadn’t been deregistered yet, so they make up the number of 54,000 registered charities, but of course, they couldn’t be analysed because we didn’t have the data that was required.

Ross Gillott:

That’s right and, I guess, we had to sort of think that if they hadn’t lodged for two years that they may not have been operating that year, so we left them out just in case.

Matt Crichton:

A third point on this slide says, modelling to estimate financial data for 25 per cent of charities, is this what you were talking about before with the extrapolation that the researchers did?

Ross Gillott:

Yes, it is. And it might seem like a lot of charities to estimate, 25 per cent, however, the researchers said because the charities are quite small, generally, the ones that we’re missing the data for, they think it’s only made up to a five per cent difference to the overall headline numbers.

Matt Crichton:

OK, right. So even though that the sheer amount seems like a lot, that it only refers to say a small slice of the total pie?

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, that’s right.

Matt Crichton:

Having a look at some of the details of the Report, can you give us an overview of what we’ve learnt – the bigger picture?

Ross Gillott:

The first big message I’d say we can get from this Report is that it’s a very significant sector; it’s not only one that makes a huge contribution to Australian society and helps people all over the country and the world. But is also a major employer, a big recipient of income, a big source of expenditure as well on delivering services, and yeah, a very big employer. In fact, the Report found that income is about eight per cent of overall GDP.

Matt Crichton:

Right, I think that’s probably a stat that most people would find surprising about the charity sector. The income there, people can see on the screen at the moment a screenshot from the data on the website, the total income 134.5 billion dollars, that’s an increase on the previous years’ report?

Ross Gillott:

Yeah it is. So the previous years’ report didn’t include all charities, so it would have been lower anyway. It was always going to be an increase, but the Report did find that the income of those charities that lodged last year and this year rose by about two per cent.

Matt Crichton:

OK, right. One of the other interesting pieces of information on this slide in particular, in the bar graphs there, we can see the top Religion is under Number of Charities by Sector, Religion makes up the greatest number of charities the Report found?

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, that’s right, so religious charities make up the highest proportion of the sector, so it’s about 31 per cent of charities that have religion as their main activity.

Matt Crichton:

So what does it mean to be Religion and fit into this category?

Ross Gillott:

So it just means that they nominated that their main activity was religion. So that could mean that, for example, they were a church or a mosque, a synagogue, etc. It could also mean that while they have that as their main activity that they’re involved in other things, too, like health or education.

Matt Crichton:

OK, so it’s not solely religious activities, it could be, the main thing being religion, but it could come in collaboration with a bunch of other things?

Ross Gillott:

That’s right.

Matt Crichton:

And I think one surprising thing on this slide, just before we move on, that people may find interesting as well, is right down the bottom, International, I think a lot of people have an impression that the charity sector is made up largely of organisations that operate overseas in developing nations or conflict zones. And the data shows that this is actually quite a small number of charities.

Ross Gillott:

So another big name charity that you can think off might be thought of as international charities, but they definitely don’t make up the bulk of the sector. But an important thing to note is that a lot of charities in the other categories, so charities whose main activity wasn’t international, they would still, as many of them have involvements overseas.

Matt Crichton:

Ah OK, again, so the point being these categories aren’t mutually exclusive and they’re not sole categories. So if an organisation has listed international activities as its main, they may have several other activities that they also fit into. So this is showing just what charities identified as being their own main purpose?

Ross Gillott:

That’s right, yep.

Matt Crichton:

The Report found that there was quite a discrepancy across the country. Can you just give us a run down on that?

Ross Gillott:

So this graphic shows the percentage of the total charities in each state and territory. And it does map fairly closely to their population across Australia, say for example New South Wales, about a third of the charities, they also have about a third of the population. And you can see that charities are spread across, they’re not all in the cities, so two thirds of them are, but there’s a further 30 per cent in regional areas and three per cent in, what was referred to as rural areas.

But there are some differences as the next chart shows in terms of charities not being exactly equally distributed around the country. So, for example, in Queensland you can see there are relatively low numbers of charities per head of population, so there’s 1.6 charities for each 1,000 people based in Queensland. And on the other extreme, in the A.C.T., there are 2.9 charities per 1,000 people.

Matt Crichton:

And those two colours and the two different numbers that we see there in that graph, we’ve got Based in Jurisdiction and Operated in Jurisdiction – can you just explain what the difference between those two are?

Ross Gillott:

So a charity might be based in one state or territory, but also operate in another state or territory. Some, as this chart shows, some states or territories have a lot more charities operating in them per head of population than are based there. So just taking one extreme, in the Northern Territory there you can see, for every 1,000 people there are 15 charities operating in the N.T.

Matt Crichton:

Yeah, right. But only two charities based.

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, exactly, so that sort of indicates that there are a lot of charities from other states and territories helping people in the N.T.

Matt Crichton:

Right, OK. And moving on, having a look at what the report found about charity size, I think this might surprise some people as well.

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, so most charities are small and by small we mean they have less than $250,000 in income. So that’s about two thirds of charities that fit into that category. Being within that, 37.1 per cent of charities are extra small, so they have less than $50,000 of income.

Matt Crichton:

So the ACNC’s category will define anything under $250,000 annual revenue as small, but even a large proportion of that is quite big compared to how small many of the charities are?

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, exactly. And then on the other side of things there are some very large charities in Australia, so there are at least about four percent that have more than ten million of income each year.

Matt Crichton:

Yeah, right. But the ACNC’s category for large is just from a million dollars onwards?

Ross Gillott:

That’s right.

Matt Crichton:

So even though some go way beyond that, they still fit within the category of a large charity?

Ross Gillott:

Yes.

Matt Crichton:

But for the purpose of this report the researchers have figured it was useful to break it down a little bit further to show there are some, well as we’ve got on this screen, extra-large charities within the broader category of large charities.

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, exactly. So it just gives a bit of a richer picture than our three categories.

Matt Crichton:

And how does that compare with the income of the sector?

Ross Gillott:

So, the main thing to note with the income in the sector is it’s not evenly distributed across charities, as you might expect with some of those very large ones there. In fact, 90 per cent of the income is received by the top ten per cent of charities.

Matt Crichton:

So that would be, probably the XXL’s and the XL’s take up pretty much most of the… well, the reported income of within the charity sector.

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, that’s right. And then you can see on this chart what it shows as well, this page, is the proportion of income that comes from different sources. So on the Annual Information Statement we ask about three categories, so you’ve got Donations and Bequests, Government Grants and then, I think that should say Other Revenue. So you can see there that the majority of money for charities actually comes from this one described as Other Revenue and then Government Grants are another significant part. Donations and Bequests, overall, on the scale of the whole sector are about 8.3 per cent.

Matt Crichton:

Which is pretty small I would think? A lot of people would assume that donations probably make up the largest part of a charities revenue and is often thought of as the life blood of a charity. But the Report shows that it’s really small, compared with government grants and this other revenue, again, if though the slide there says Income and Revenue, it should say Other Revenue. So Other Revenue and Government Grants actually dominates the income in the sector, broadly, at the aggregate level?

Ross Gillott:

That’s right, at the aggregate level. So for some charities donations and bequests certainly would make up a very large part of their income. But on an aggregate level it gets influenced by things like universities or schools, they receive a lot income from things like fees, or say aged care, they might get a lot of fees and services fees paid, so that ends up being sort of overwhelming, I guess, a lot of the other stats.

Matt Crichton:

Right. So it distorts the view a little bit, because at the aggregate level it’s influenced by, as we’ve mentioned, these larger charities, which might not rely on donations, by the nature of what they do, in the same way that some of the smaller or medium charities do, and therefore the stats suggest that there is less demand on donations, then there really might be for a lot of the charities.

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, that’s right. And the great thing about this interactive data cube and even the larger report, the 140-page one, is you can see the more detailed breakdown by size and sector and things to sort of get through some of the distortions perhaps.

Matt Crichton:

Yeah, right. So whilst it’s good and interesting to see some of these aggregate level stats, they don’t really paint a finely detailed picture of the charity sector and individual charities doing work.

Ross Gillott:

That’s right, yeah.

Matt Crichton:

And how about, we touched on this, but how about the income as according to the sector? What does the Report tell us?

Ross Gillott:

So as you can see there, there are a whole lot of circles and each one represents a sector of the charity’s population and the size of the circle represents how much money, how much income that sector had. So education and research is the largest one there, then followed by health, social services and then development. So, I guess, that’s just sort of showing you the size by income of each sector.

Matt Crichton:

And that’s probably, again, we speak about distortions at the aggregate level, but education research involves lots of research institutes and university’s. So by the nature of them being as big as some of them are, it’s naturally going to be the biggest circle in this diagram.

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, that’s right. And you see there religion, even though it’s the largest by number, it’s not the largest by income. And, I guess, it makes sense if you think about say churches and things, they may not be get donations, they might not have a huge volume of income from say the government or fees.

Matt Crichton:

And, just incidentally, this is a screenshot from the website. This is the sort of visual representation that you’ll be able to access when you do login and have play around with the data. What does the Report tell us about donations? We mentioned that at the aggregate level, once again, the aggregate level, it doesn’t represent the greatest amount of revenue for the charity sector, but what are some of the details the Report does tell us?

Ross Gillott:

I think, a very interesting one is that there were 11.2 billion dollars of donations made to charities in 2015, so obviously that’s a huge amount in a population of 20-million people. They make up a small proportion, as we said, of total income, but one quarter of charities do rely on donations to make up half or more of their income. And as I mentioned, we were able to see how financial information changed between 2014 and ’15, and so we found that donations grew by 2.4 per cent in that year, which is actually a bit more than inflation.

Matt Crichton: Yeah right, which is encouraging, I guess, for a lot of charities out there to know that the Report shows that people are still giving and still have a commitment to the charity sector and want to give.

The Report also had a look at the people involved in charities, and you mentioned briefly at the very beginning it’s a large employer in the country. Can you just run through some of the details that the Report shows about the people involved in charities?

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, sure. So as the slide says, charities employed 1.2 million Australians, which if you looked at charities as being an industry they would be second only to the retail industry in terms of employment. Large charities, I guess, intuitively have more staff then smaller charities, in fact, a lot of charities don’t have any staff at all. Those that are more likely to have staff are the ones involved in education, aged care and social services.

Matt Crichton: I think that would probably be consistent with most people’s view of the sector, because it’s hard to run an aged care home or a university without any staff. Just on the backs of volunteers, it’s a little bit tricky.

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, that’s right.

Matt Crichton:

But again, on the flipside, there are a lot of charities that, because of the nature of what they do and the size and where they are, they may be able to operate solely with volunteers.

Ross Gillott:

And even those that do have staff, you can see 80 per cent of all charities engage at least one volunteer. So in many cases it might be one or two staff members, but then also, very much supported by volunteer effort as well.

Matt Crichton:

And I think this stat, the 1.2 million employees, again, is probably… well it’s probably surprising for a lot people, but it’s probably a reflection of the types of organisations that are registered as charities, but many people wouldn’t ordinarily think of as charities, and we’ve referred to these quite a bit so far, but your university, a school, aged care facilities, hospitals in some cases as well. So even though we say 1.2 million are employed by the charity sector, it’s across a wide range of organisations that probably go beyond what many people ordinarily think as charities.

Ross Gillott:

Yeah.

Matt Crichton:

You mentioned at the beginning that one of the focuses of this Report was sustainability, financial sustainability in particular, what did the Report tell us about the sector and its sustainability?

Ross Gillott:

I do need to say, it is a very complex picture and it’s hard to make any generalisations about the whole sector, so it is important when looking at any of these stats to realise that organisations have different natures, different funding environments, different strategies. But the Report did take a look at a few key indicators. So they looked at financial performance, I’m talking about how much surplus or deficit charities had at the end of the year. Financial position, which looks at the strength, I guess, of the assets that the charity has built up against their liabilities. And then it tries to sort of combine both of those and some other ratios to build what they’ve called a Sustainability Framework. So it might be a bit tricky to go over that in the webinar today, but you can have a look at that in the Report and also on the interactive data cube.

Matt Crichton:

OK. And this is another one, as you mentioned, it’s tricky and it probably doesn’t do individual charities a service by looking solely at the aggregate data. So if we have a look at the data from a really high level and see what the sector, as a whole looks like, that’s not going to tell the story of particular charities, in particular locations at a particular time. There may be some that map almost perfectly to the aggregate assessment. But then there would be some that buck that trend and are nowhere near as financially sustainable, and others that are very well secure.

Ross Gillott:

That’s right. And what’s something that really illustrates that is, I think on the next slide, you can see that overall, if you look at the whole sector, it had an average net income of 8.7 per cent. So that means, on average, charities had 8.7 per cent more income than they had expenses. But within that there would be charities that negative net incomes or that had positive net incomes.

Matt Crichton:

Again, it’s interesting and it’s a good look at the sector from a high level and to get an idea of the sort of direction that it’s taken, broadly, it’s not really the sort of stat that you would use to make definite conclusions about any particular type of charity, or any particular service provider in a particular region.

Ross Gillott:

That’s right.

Matt Crichton:

So view these stats with an eye of interest but also caution.

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, that’s it.

Matt Crichton:

The Report also had a look at change in the sector and this being a feature because of the access to a second lot of financial data, following the 2014 Annual Information Statement. What did the Report this year, what was it able to tell us about change in the sector?

Ross Gillott:

This section of the Report looked at about 30,000 charities that had reported in both 2015 and 2014, so we were able to directly compare those and see how they’ve changed. So somethings that were interesting to see where that employment grew, so there was an increase of 7,368 employees, or about 0.7 per cent of the total. And they grew, primarily, in part time and casual employees. There was also increased staff numbers, in particular in primary education, but then there was a bit of a drop off in higher education. As to why, I couldn’t say, it prompts a question, I guess, for others to look into.

Matt Crichton:

OK. The decrease in staff numbers in higher education, given that this type of charity is likely to represent a greater number of staff, do you think that would have a disproportionate effect on the overall view of the charities employee numbers?

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, they could do. It could be one of the reasons.

Matt Crichton:

Where an organisation has a lot of employees, loses a few it might have a greater impact and maybe even provide a distorted picture of how many employees might have been lost in that year.

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, that’s true.

Matt Crichton:

Again, the aggregate level was pretty difficult when you consider the diversity of the charity sector and the range of organisations that are included.

Ross Gillott:

And this slides just looking at the finances again. So I think we mentioned income went up by about two per cent. Assets also grew by five per cent and that seems to have been quite a bit more than CPI. And again, it was highest for health charities. So health charities grew by 8.7 per cent. Again, because they’re such a big part of the sector that might have amplified the total asset growth number.

Matt Crichton:

Right. Any indication why health charities in particular or… no? Is that something for people to look up.

Ross Gillott:

Exactly, yeah.

Matt Crichton:

The Report, given that it’s the most significant one thus far, it’s had the most comprehensive data set and it’s allowed us to compare in a way that we haven’t been able to previously. What are the main messages coming out of the Report?

Ross Gillott:

So again, I guess, it’s just very clear that it’s a very significant sector, but also that it’s very diverse. So, I think, we’ve touched a few times during this webinar on the difference it can make when you look at the overall sector, but when you drill down and look at all the different parts of it, it’s really quite fascinating to see the differences that do exist in all kind of characteristics. I think that as the first comprehensive data set, it’s really laid a great foundation for us to build on over time and keep looking at change in future years.

Matt Crichton:

And it is there available freely for everyone at the australiancharities.acnc.gov.au. I will mention once more don’t put the www at the beginning there, it might take you to an error page and confuse people the way it did me. So just type it in as it is and you should be able to find it.

Ross, we did have a couple of questions that came through, the answers of which will be useful for people having a look at the data. But one of the most common ones that we go for people registering for the webinar was seeking a list of the top charities – is there a top ten or an easy way to get a list of the biggest?

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, so when we say top charities, I’m guessing people might mean by income. So the Report actually does have in there, the 140-page version, Appendix C has lists of charities with the highest income, both overall and also within each of the specific sectors.

Matt Crichton:

We did get a couple of questions about the top, not income, but top performing charities, or the way to assess charities. It seems that this is a fairly interesting aspect of research on the charity sector. Does the Report cater for that?

Ross Gillott:

So the Report allows you to see the, I guess, key financial indicators for sectors. It doesn’t attempt to sort of rank charities or give charities ratings or etcetera, and that’s just because it is so difficult to do that. As I think we’ve displayed throughout the webinar, there’s no one size fits all metric or way to assess such a diverse group of organisations.

Matt Crichton:

Yeah. And trying to do so for one charity that does a particular thing in a particular area won’t necessarily give you the right result when you apply it to another charity in another area doing a different thing, so whilst you can look at some key financial indicators or the things that you might think are important in running a charity, the Report doesn’t make that judgement.

And, again, it’s important to know that it’s one that’s almost impossible to make given how different the organisations within the charity sector are and the different services that they provide.

Another question that we had that came in through the registration report was about religious charities, why they are the largest in the sector. Again, a lot of people wouldn’t think of religious organisations as being “charities” as such, but they make up the greatest number.

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, that’s right. So they just, I guess, to a certain extent they just are, it’s hard to say, but religion is certainly a recognised charitable purpose and, I guess, there’s just a large number of them, thousands of churches and other religious organisations.

Matt Crichton:

Do you think it might have been, because you mentioned at the beginning that this is based on the Annual Information Statements that charities provide to the ACNC. So an organisation that does a few things, religion being one of them, or maybe the underlying purpose. Do you think organisations that maybe choose to select that as their main might influence this number, whereas, they also do a whole bunch of other things, but then when you look at that stat alone it’s probably almost a disproportionately large amount because they’ve decided just to select religions as their main, as opposed to other types of activities?

Ross Gillott:

Yeah, definitely, that seems sensible.

Matt Crichton:

Another question we had, more about on the financials of charities, is about the spending. So why have charities spent 91 per cent of their income on expenses?

Ross Gillott:

So the Report found that charities received over 134 billion dollars of income and spent 123 billion on pursuing their charitable purchases. Obviously, I guess, to pursue your charitable purposes and to help beneficiaries you do need to spend money. Whether that’s on wages or providing services, or buying goods to distribute, etcetera.

Matt Crichton:

So when we say expenses in this, I think a lot of people might get confused about that. They think that an expense is an unnecessary cost that could be cut, or at least saved on, that’s not what it refers to, right?

Ross Gillott:

That’s right. So expense just means everything that the charity had to spend money on, but that could include things like paying a wage for a nurse to deliver aged care services, or a teacher to teach a class of disadvantaged people, or whatever it happens to be. For example, a hospital is heavily reliant on staff and schools and universities and scientific research can’t be undertaken without scientists.

Matt Crichton:

OK. So it’s not that charities are using 91 per cent of the income on things that they don’t need to do and that’s the expense that a lot of people might think. It’s that they are using their money on precisely the activities that they’re setup to do and that’s what’s considered expenses.

We have one more question that we think might be useful for people. At the beginning the numbers of total charities and the numbers that were analysed was not the same, we talked about that. But why are some other charities withheld from the data? We mentioned the ones registered with ORIC, how about some of the others?

Ross Gillott:

So throughout the Report it includes all the charities in the sector. Basically, if you got to the data cube you won’t quite see that many on there. And the reason for that is because under the ACNC’s legislation some charities are able to apply to have their data withheld. There’s only limited circumstances where they can do that and that’s things like where it could endanger public safety, such as say a women’s shelter, if their address was published on the data cube or able to be seen in the map, obviously that would be of a concern.

Matt Crichton:

Yeah, right of course.

Ross Gillott:

And so when that’s the case we’ve left them out of the data cube

Matt Crichton:

OK. That is about it from us today and that wraps up todays webinar. Of course, we wouldn’t want you to leave the Charities Report there, so we do encourage you to go to the website, australiancharities.acnc.gov.au and explore the data for yourself. You can find out some really interesting things about the sector or about particular areas of Australia, or particular services provided by particular organisations. It really is up to you what you want to have a look at and it’s all there, freely available for you to play around with.

If you do have any questions about the Report or anything you want to follow up with us, feel free to send us an email to education@acnc.gov.au we’ll be able to get back to you pretty promptly and answer whatever questions you might have. The next Report, Ross, I presume is going to be called Australian Charities Report 2016?

Ross Gillott:

That’s right.

Matt Crichton:

When can interested people expect that?

Ross Gillott:

So I’d be looking out for that about December this year.

Matt Crichton:

OK, later in the year we’ll expect the release of that one. And again, we can assume that it’s going to have even more features and tell us more about the charity sector?

Ross Gillott:

That’s it.

Matt Crichton:

OK. Thank you very much for joining us for today’s webinar. If you are interested in our webinar program, please go to our website at acnc.gov.au/webinars, we have a list of the topics that we’ll cover this year. Usually our webinars are once a month and if you’re interested in any of the upcoming topics for the rest of the year, please register there. Also, if you have any feedback about the webinars more generally, beyond just todays and the Australian Charities Report, also send us an email to education@acnc.gov.au – we always appreciate feedback and we like to improve things, so if you have any comments, suggestions, please let us kno

Once again, thanks for joining us today, we hope you found it interesting and we hope you can find the time to go the Report website at australiancharities.acnc.gov.au and have a play around with the data and see what you can find.

Thanks for joining me today, Ross.

Ross Gillott:

Thanks, my pleasure.

Matt Crichton:

Thanks everyone, we look forward to having your company at the next webinar, bye.