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Cost of living issues impact Australian charity sector: latest ACNC data

Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission 3 mins read
Commissioner Sue Woodward AM, Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC)

The latest data from the national regulator shows cost of living issues have impacted charities.

The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) today released the 10th edition of the Australian Charities Report.

It finds total sector revenue rose by $11 billion (or 5.6%) to a record high of just over $200 billion in the 2022 reporting period, compared to the previous period. However, the growth in revenue was outstripped by the increase in expenses, of $22 billion (or 12.6 %). The growth in expenses was around double the inflation rate.

Employee expenses rose by nearly 10% the highest annual rise ever recorded. The sector remains a major employer, accounting for 10.5% of the Australian workforce. Still, it continued to depend on volunteers, with more than half of all charities operating with no paid staff. Volunteer numbers increased to 3.5 million – up from 3.2 million in the previous period.

Commissioner Sue Woodward AM said this comprehensive analysis helps us understand some of the challenges affecting charity operations.

“Our latest data demonstrates charities make an enormous contribution to Australia’s social fabric, its economy and employment. It is important to recognise that the rise in expenses and liabilities outpaced the rise in revenue and assets in percentage terms,” Ms Woodward said. 

Donations to charities grew by 4.4%. Donations and bequests totalled $13.9 billion, a rise of more than $584 million. Interestingly, charities distributed $11.7 billion in grants and donations primarily to other charities and not-for-profit organisations, mainly in Australia.

“That’s an increase of 21% on the previous period, which is a substantial rise in philanthropic giving. As the government considers the Productivity Commission’s recommendations to boost giving in Australia, this data offers an important insight,” Ms Woodward said.

Focus on extra small charities

The 10th edition includes a spotlight on extra small charities – those with annual revenue of less than $50,000. They make up around 31% of the sector, but operate with just 0.1% of sector revenue.

In contrast, extra large charities - those with $100 million or more in annual revenue – comprise 0.5% of the sector but operate with more than 54% of the aggregate revenue.

The five-year analysis in this focus section, comparing data from the 2017 and 2022 reporting periods, shows almost 90% of extra small charities operated with no paid staff. Further, they had a 17% drop in the number of volunteers and an 18% drop in paid staff.

“The differences between the smallest and largest charities could not be starker,” Ms Woodward said. “This five-year focus data shows the cost of operating and delivering services has increased but extra small charities haven’t received sufficient revenue or donations to keep pace.

“This edition of the Australian Charities Report really highlights the enormous diversity among charities. While the ACNC does not set policy, we can highlight that most of the sector operates on low revenue with no paid staff. When we talk about charities or when policy is made, we must be mindful of the difference in resources and capacity – variation between the charity sector and the business sector but also within the charity sector itself. So many Australians rely on the programs that charities provide, especially as cost of living pressures impact across the community.”

About the data

We base our analysis on charity size. Size thresholds changed in 2022. Data gathered since the change shows 74% of charities now report as small, compared to the 65% before the shift.

The Australian Charities Report 10th edition aggregates data submitted to the ACNC by 51,536 registered charities in their 2022 Annual Information Statements. This includes 7% of Basic Religious Charities that provided financial data (though they are not required to do so). 

Read the full Australian Charities Report 10th edition. Interrogate the data on the Charity Data Explorer. For example, you can compare key statistics state by state, and for the first time, by post code.

Go to the Charity Data Hub to see previous editions of the Australian Charities Report.

Media inquiries: 

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact ACNC Media or 0481 456 411


Key Facts:

Cost of living issues impacted the Australian charity sector

Growth in revenue was outstripped by the increase in expenses - around double the inflation rate.

Employee expenses rose by nearly 10% the highest annual rise ever recorded.

Sector employs 10.5% of the Australian workforce

Data is from the national regulator in the latest Australian Charities Report.

About us:

 The ACNC regulates around 60,000 Australian registered charities.



Contact details:

ACNC Media 0481 456 411


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