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Australia’s community sector charities make an important social and economic contribution Analysis

Australia’s community sector charities make an important social and economic contribution

Today, the national charities regulator, the Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission (ACNC) released its annual report, Australian Charities 2014. The report highlights the important social and economic contribution of the Australian charitable sector including:

  • Generating $103 billion to the Australian economy in 2014.
  • Employing over one million paid staff. This is estimated to be 9.7 per cent of the Australian workforce. Charities’ value is further leveraged by 1.8 million volunteers.
  • The majority of income for Australian charities is from sources other than government grants with $6.8 billion from bequests and donations, and $54.4 billion from income sources other than government grants.

VCOSS, in its analysis of the 2013 ACNC data Strengthening the state: A snapshot of Victoria’s community sector charities, aligned our definition of community sector charities with the 2010 Productivity Commission definition “the sub-set of human services that involve a range of services that provide: relief of poverty, social disadvantage, social distress and hardship; the provision of emergency relief or support; and the advancement of disadvantaged groups[1]”.  With this definition, community sector charities are charities whose main activity as specified in the ACNC Annual Information Statement (AIS) is:

Aged care activities; civic and advocacy activities; economic, social and community development; emergency relief; employment and training; housing activities; income support and maintenance; international activities; law and legal activities; mental health and crisis intervention; other education or health service delivery; and social services.

Using this definition of community sector charities the new national 2014 ACNC AIS data shows a number of important insights into the Australian community sector.

  • There are 11,823 Australian community sector charities representing 32 per cent of charities registered with the ACNC.[2]
  • Australian community sector charities employ almost half a million Australians (452,892) made up of 155,834 full-time, 217,767 part-time and 108,672 casual employees.[3]
  • The value of Australian community sector charities is further leveraged by a significant volunteer workforce, with 610, 755 people volunteering.[4]
  • The income generated by community sector charities is $42.1 billion which represents 41 per cent of all charitable income in Australia in 2014.[5]
  • Community sector charities are on the whole well managed. For example over 90 per cent of social service charities and 93 per cent of law and legal services operate with surplus or balanced budgets[6].

The community sector is a significant contributor to society’s wellbeing. In the VCOSS report Building on the value of Victoria’s community sector the unique and valuable role the sector plays was highlighted. The sector offers a diverse range of programs and services to help people overcome disadvantage and poverty, advocates strongly for policy solutions, supports a wide range of people with multiple and complex needs, can be innovative and collaborative, and generates significant income, employment and volunteering levels.

The ACNC data provides a critical platform for demonstrating the value of the community sector and builds trust in the sector; no longer does the sector need to rely on anecdotes to quantify its value. ACOSS and the state and territories COSS network have longstanding support for the transparency and accountability delivered through the establishment and the ongoing operation of the ACNC.

VCOSS looks forward to continuing to analyse the ACNC charities data to further quantify the value of the community sector in Victoria.

[1] Productivity Commission, Contribution of the Not-for-Profit Sector, Research Report, Canberra, 2010, p. 23.

[2] ACNC website, australiancharities.acnc.gov.au accessed 4th December 2015

[3] Cortis, N., Lee, I., Powell, A., Simnett, R. and Reeve, R. (2015) Australian Charities Report 2014. Centre for Social Impact and Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW Australia, p. 41

[4] ACNC website, australiancharities.acnc.gov.au accessed 4th December 2015

[5] ACNC website, australiancharities.acnc.gov.au accessed 4th December 2015

[6] Cortis, N (et al) opt cit p. 68