New Insight Into Charity Sector

22/12/2015 12:29 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

Last week I had the pleasure of launching the Australian Charities Report 2014 -- the

second-ever charity census.

While the Australian Charities Report 2013 captured attention as the inaugural census of Australia's charities, the 2014 edition is the first to include financial information.

Amazingly, until the launch of the report, much of this information was simply unknown.

How is that possible, you ask?

Until the 2014 reporting period, there was no requirement for registered charities to provide the ACNC with financial information, making this kind of analysis impossible. Now we have this information, we are committed to sharing it with the Australian community and the not-for-profit (NFP) sector by publishing it on the Charity Register.

Publishing charities' information on the Charity Register has dramatically increased the level of transparency between the sector and the public. However, this focuses on the individual charities rather than the sector as a whole. The Charity Register provides information that donors, volunteers, philanthropists and others can use to do their due diligence on individual charities before they make a commitment.

The ACNC has withdrawn 9,000 charities from the Charity Register since December 2012, and will continue to ensure the data is accurate and up to date so the public can use it with confidence.

The purpose of the annual Australian Charities Report is to dig a little deeper to highlight the sector's key trends, concerns and challenges.

The report, which the ACNC produced in collaboration with the Centre for Social Impact and the Social Policy Research Centre at UNSW Australia, analysed the information provided by 38,000 registered charities in their mandated annual report to the national regulator.

The report has been written in an easy-to-understand style, and in addition to the report, we have also created a dedicated microsite to allow people to play with the data themselves.

You can now use filters to create your own reports about charities in your area that do work that interests you. The 2013 and 2014 data are also available on

The Australian Charities Report 2014 gives the community a new insight into our charities. We've always known that the charity sector was big, but just how big is it?

Well, the Australian Charities Report 2014 found that Australia's charities have combined income of $103 billion, expenses of $95 billion for charitable activities, and over 1 million employees.

To put it that in context, that's similar income to the agricultural industry and around four times as many employees as the mining sector.

Similar to patterns in the for-profit sector, the charity sector is dominated by the big players. The report found that 5 percent of Australia's registered charities receive 80 percent of the sector's total income.

Interestingly, nearly one third of registered charities operate with annual income of less than $50,000, meaning they are heavily reliant on Australia's 2 million volunteers.

Another key finding from the report was that Australians are a generous bunch, contributing $6.8 billion to charities through donations and bequests.

If nearly $7 billion is donated by the public, where does the rest of the money come from?

The report showed that governments contribute $42 billion in grants (mostly for service delivery), and the remaining $54 billion is actually from other revenue sources -- for example, business activities, memberships and fee-based services (think hospitals, aged care, and universities).

The Australian Charities Report 2014 also has some new insights into the work charities are doing in our communities.

Perhaps not surprisingly, religion was the most common charitable activity. This makes a lot of sense when you consider that most churches and other places of worship across the country are registered as individual charities.

However, economically, education is the largest charitable activity in Australia. It might surprise you to find that some of the largest charities in Australia by income are actually some of our most famous universities.

While this has likely been the case for quite some time, until the launch of the Australian Charities Report 2014 we didn't know for sure.


You can find the full Australian Charities Report 2014, the disability sub-sector report and the data used to create the reports at

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