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Commentary January 13, 2016

Landmark report provides insight into the Australian third sector

Snapshot of the 2014 Australian Charities & Non-for-profits Commission (ACNC) report

In December last year, the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) released its 2014 report into the financial performance and sustainability of the Australian charitable sector. The report - produced in partnership with the Centre for Social Impact, and the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales - revealed an extremely diverse and growing sector, with more than 38,000 registered charities currently operating within a $103 billion dollar industry.

Key insights of the report include:


Around one in five Australian charities are considered as ‘large’, with an annual income of $1 million dollars or more. Some 22 per cent of ‘large’ charities reported incomes over $10 million dollars. Two thirds of all Australian charities are smaller charities - with an annual income of less than $250,000. NSW and Victoria dominate the charitable sector, and more than 85 per cent of charities operate in one state or territory alone.


Almost one third of charities are religious organisations, while 18 per cent stated that their main activity sat within research and education. The most common purpose was to advance religion (one in three charities), closely followed by advancing education (one in five charities).


Australian charities employ more than 1 million people and engage 1.8 million volunteers - almost half of charities have a mix of both. Almost half (44%) of charities operate with no paid staff, with philanthropic organisations operating predominantly with the help of volunteers.


In 2014, more than 40 per cent of charities had a Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status, an increase from the 31.5 per cent reported in 2013. Recently, 182 charities have had their charity status revoked by the ACNC, due to not meeting their reporting obligations. The income of the $103 billion dollar industry consisted of $42 billion in government grants, $6.8 billion in donated income, and $54.5 billion in other income and revenue. More than six out of every ten charities received no income from the government. Australian charities spent $95 billion in 2014. This was for employee expenses ($51.8 billion), securing grants and donations ($4.5 billion) and other expenses ($38.7 billion). This other income includes the sale of goods, user contributions to services rendered, member fees, interest, and dividends.

These are just some of the highlights of the report, which will be used as a resource and benchmark that charities and observers can use to gauge a better understanding of this evolving sector. Read the full report at: