Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2021) Philanthropy and charitable giving, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 01 December 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2021). Philanthropy and charitable giving. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/philanthropy-and-charitable-giving
Philanthropy and charitable giving. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 16 September 2021, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/philanthropy-and-charitable-giving
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Philanthropy and charitable giving [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2021 [cited 2022 Dec. 1]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/philanthropy-and-charitable-giving
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2021, Philanthropy and charitable giving, viewed 1 December 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/philanthropy-and-charitable-giving
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In Australia, philanthropy and giving to charity occur in many ways. Monetary donations to registered charities can be tax deductible if the Australian Taxation Office has endorsed the organisation as a deductible gift recipient (DGR) (ATO 2021a). Fewer than half of charities in Australia have DGR status.
Some charities are set up primarily to deliver structured philanthropy through a range of legal structures, such as ancillary funds and trusts. For others, distributing grants may be only one element of their operations (Cortis et al. 2018).
The legal environment in Australia for making financial donations is complex; hence the information on this page is a broad overview of key elements only.
Volunteering – time willingly given for the common good and without financial gain (VA 2015) – is also considered to be philanthropy and/or charitable giving. See Volunteers.
For more detail on financial philanthropic and charitable donations see the in-focus report Philanthropy and charitable giving.
The Charities Aid Foundation ranks Australia as the eighth highest of more than 140 countries over 10 years (2009 to 2018) of the World Giving Index, with 3 in 5 Australians making a financial donation to a charity (CAF 2019). People choose to give for a variety of reasons, including to align with values and cultural identity, for personal satisfaction and caring about doing the right thing, and ‘giving back’ (McGregor-Lowndes et al. 2017).
The Giving Australia 2016 study reported the top 3 reasons why people gave as:
The study also found that the majority of individual givers donated to non-profit organisations without intending to make regular or planned ongoing donations to that organisation (Scaife et al. 2016). Three in every 5 respondents reported that they generally gave on the spur of the moment, with the highest percentage of donations (57%) made through doorknock appeals (McGregor-Lowndes et al. 2017).
Donors favoured social services (65%) and health organisations – including medical research (61%) – followed by international (25%) and religious organisations (24%). On average, those donating to religious organisations gave the highest amounts ($932 on average per person) (McGregor-Lowndes et al. 2017).
Donations by individuals of $2 or more to a DGR are deductible from an individual taxpayer’s assessable income. If the donation is property, it must be valued at more than $5,000 to be tax deductible (Martin 2018).
Income tax returns do not show where donations are made, nor do the donations represent all giving by individuals. Tax-deductible donations obtained from tax returns represent only a subset of individual giving as not all donations made can be (or have been) deducted from income tax. Such non-deductible donations might include, non-tax contributions (raffles, sponsorships, fundraising purchases, donations made directly to people), volunteering, donations to non-DGRs or donations made by those who are not required to lodge a tax return.
From 2007–08 to 2018–19:
This chart shows that individual taxpayers claimed $3.9 billion as tax deductions for donations in 2018–19. This represented a real increase of 1.1% from the previous year.
Business giving is often driven by an ethical imperative to give back to the community in which the business operates, and to have a social impact. Businesses also recognise the benefits a giving culture has on employee recruitment, retention and engagement (Burns et al. 2017).
Survey data from Giving Australia 2016 estimated that in 2015–16:
Workplace giving is a joint relationship between employers, employees and charities that enables individuals to donate a proportion of their pre-tax salary. Some employers match staff donations (WGA 2021).
Australian Taxation Office data showed that in 2018–19:
Private Ancillary Funds (PAFs) enable an individual, family or organisation to put aside money in a trust to support charities over the long term. PAFs cannot raise funds from the general public but are endorsed as a DGR.
Public Ancillary Funds (PuAFs) are communal and philanthropic structures that must raise funds only from the general public. A PuAF is a DGR and therefore donations are tax deductible.
Ancillary funds cannot operate programs or deliver services, but they play a supporting role by funding eligible non-profit organisations.
From 2011–12 to 2018–19:
Note that donations to ancillary funds by individuals may also be captured in Tax-deductible donations.
In December 2020, there were around 58,600 registered charities in Australia (ACNC 2020a). Charities make up a diverse sector working across Australia and internationally in a broad range of areas, including health, education, social welfare, religion, culture, human rights, the environment and animal welfare (ACNC 2020b).
This chart shows that in 2018–19, Public Ancillary Funds received $850 million in donations and Private Ancillary Funds received $550 million, and that the funds distributed $400 million and $560 million, respectively. In real terms, from 2011–12 to 2018–19 donations to Public Ancillary Funds increased on average by 13% per year and Private Ancillary Funds by 29%.
By June 2020, almost $300 million had been donated to 3 major charities to support recovery following the 2019–20 bushfire season:
As well, funds were raised via:
These donations were not only directed to the immediate recovery and support of bushfire-affected areas but also pledged to help create a national plan to mitigate bushfire threats in future, with a focus on climate change.
‘The impact of the COVID-19 crisis on Australian philanthropy is forecast to be significant, with the biggest impact not this year but next when total giving is expected to drop back to 2012 levels.’ (PA 2020b).
The economic downturn triggered by the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic put financial stress on the non-profit sector (PA 2020a). As many Australians faced unemployment and financial hardship, a general tightening of budgets – compounded by hygiene concerns around the use of cash – resulted in a drop in the value of charitable donations at a time when they were needed most (F&P 2020). Many fundraising events were also cancelled or postponed (Masige 2020).
In April 2020, 47% of 366 charities surveyed reported that they had experienced a substantial drop in donation fundraising income, with another 20% reporting a slight decrease (Institute of Community Directors Australia 2020).
Analysis undertaken during the pandemic estimated that total giving would fall around 7.1% in 2020 and by a further 12% in 2021 (McLeod 2020).
For more information on philanthropy and charitable giving in Australia, see:
ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company) News 2020a. Australian fires: celebrity, business and sportspeople donations hit great height for charity and bushfire relief. Ultimo: ABC. Viewed 5 December 2020.
ABC News 2020b. Bushfire donations topped $282 million between three major charities – almost half’s still in the bank. Ultimo: ABC. Viewed 5 December 2020.
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2021. Consumer Price Index, Australia. ABS cat. no. 6401.0 (reference period December 2020). Canberra: ABS. Viewed 2 February 2021.
ACNC (Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission) 2020a. ACNC home page. Melbourne: ACNC. Viewed 28 December 2020.
ACNC 2020b. Are there too many charities in Australia? Melbourne: ACNC. Viewed 28 November 2020.
ACNC 2021c. Australian charities report, 7th edition. Melbourne: ACNC. Viewed 19 May 2021.
ATO (Australian Taxation Office) 2021a. Gifts and donations. Canberra: ATO. Viewed 22 June 2021.
ATO 2021b. Taxation statistics 2018–19. Canberra: ATO. Viewed 6 June 2021.
Burns W, Wang S & Arias D 2017. Business giving and volunteering. Giving Australia 2016, report series commissioned by the Department of Social Services. Sydney: Centre for Corporate Public Affairs, the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies, Queensland University of Technology, and the Centre for Social Impact Swinburne, Swinburne University of Technology.
CAF (Charities Aid Foundation) 2019. CAF world giving index: 10 years of giving trends. 10th edn. Kent, United Kingdon: CAF. Viewed 26 November 2020.
Cortis N, Powell A, Ramia I & Marjolin A 2018. Australia’s grant-making charities in 2016: an analysis of structured philanthropy and other grant-makers. Sydney: Centre for Social Impact and Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales.
F&P (Fundraising and Philanthropy) 2020. The impact of Covid-19 on fundraising. 24 November 2020. New Lambton: F&P. Viewed 14 January 2021.
Institute of Community Directors Australia 2020. COVID-19: community sector impact survey. North Melbourne: Our Community. Viewed 14 January 2020.
Martin F 2018. Tax deductibility of philanthropic donations: reform of the specific listing provisions in Australia. Australian Tax Forum 33(3).
Masige S 2020. ‘Charities that rely strictly on cash will face a decline in donations’: how charity fundraising is changing thanks to Australia going cashless during COVID-19. Sydney: Business Insider Australia. Viewed 14 January 2021.
McGregor-Lowndes M, Crittall M, Conroy D, Keast R, Baker C, Barraket J & Scaife W 2017. Individual giving and volunteering. Giving Australia 2016, report series commissioned by the Department of Social Services. Brisbane: Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies, Queensland University of Technology, the Centre for Social Impact Swinburne, Swinburne University of Technology, and the Centre for Corporate Public Affairs.
McGregor-Lowndes M, Crittall M & Williamson A 2019. Ancillary funds 2000–2017. Brisbane: Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies and Queensland University of Technology. Viewed 9 February 2021.
McLeod J 2020. Where to from here? The outlook for philanthropy during COVID-19. JBWere. Viewed 30 November 2020.
PA (Philanthropy Australia) 2020a. Philanthropy and COVID-19. Philanthropy Australia. Viewed 27 November 2020.
PA 2020b. Lessons for COVID from the GFC. Philanthropy Australia. Viewed 30 November 2020.
Scaife W, McGregor-Lowndes M, Barraket J & Burns W (eds) 2016. Giving Australia 2016: literature review summary report. Brisbane: Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies, Queensland University of Technology, the Centre for Social Impact Swinburne, Swinburne University of Technology, and the Centre for Corporate Public Affairs.
VA (Volunteering Australia) 2015. Volunteering Australia Project: the review of the definition of volunteering. Canberra: VA. Viewed 11 December 2020.
WGA (Workplace Giving Australia) 2020. FY19 ATO data and giving research. Sydney: WGA. Viewed 1 January 2021.
WGA 2021. Why workplace giving? Sydney: WGA. Viewed 4 February 2021.
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