Economic impact of charity sector revealed

The Australian Charities Report 2014, produced by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) in collaboration with the Centre for Social Impact and the Social Policy Research Centre at UNSW, shows that Australia’s charity sector has a combined income of $103 billion. The first report to analyse the financial information of charities held on the ACNC’s Charities Register, it reveals the enormous economic significance of the sector. The report also found that Australian charities employ more than one million people — a major contributor to the workforce — and has approximately two million volunteers.

The report underlines the significance of the Charities Register, which displays the financial and governance information of all registered charities in Australia. The Register provides data on the state of the charity sector in Australia, which can be utilised to inform not only research and analysis of its needs, concerns and challenges, but also evidence to support policy proposals

Of the combined income of $103 billion of Australian charities, nearly $7 billion comes from donations and bequests, with the largest five per cent of charities receiving 80 per cent of the sector's total income. Over the same period, charities spent $95 billion pursuing their charitable purposes, with the remaining $8 billion set aside for future charitable investment.

As noted at the launch of the report, those figures suggest most charities operate a balanced budget. Some charities were even able to achieve a surplus, highlighting that the sector as a whole is healthy and sustainable.

Commissioner Susan Pascoe noted that, ‘The most common activities undertaken by Australian charities were religion, education and research, and health. Education and research was the largest charitable activity in terms of income, followed by health, and development and housing.’

The report also highlights the sector’s recognition of the vital role that the ACNC plays in supporting charities, as it is only in being able to compel the information held on the Charities Register as a regulator that has seen this vital data collected and displayed. Having access to the data facilitates greater understanding of the sector, and also assists in demonstrating the impact of charities both socially and economically. This in turn should have impact with the government when it is deciding policy on funding.

The Australian Charities Report 2014 is available free of charge at australiancharities.acnc.gov.au.

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