Australia’s charity sector urged to innovate to remain relevant, a new report has found

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Australia has the largest number of charities per capita in its history, yet the industry faces an ageing volunteer workforce and has difficulty accessing risk capital for innovation, a new report has revealed today.

The JBWere Cause Report is the first major in-depth look at the state of Australia’s $200 billion per year not-for-profit industry, tracking its growth over the past 20 years.

Releasing the report today, JBWere Chief Executive Officer, Justin Greiner said: “There is no question that Australia’s charity sector, which helps the most vulnerable and needy people in Australia and overseas, is crucial to our country’s future prosperity.

“But after two decades of strong growth, the sector is fast approaching a crossroads. With overall spending growing at about 8.4% a year since 1996, and the sector facing potentially tighter funding models, something has to change.’’

Highlighted in the report is that Australia now has its highest concentration of charities ever, with one charity per 422 Australians. This compares to the US, where there is one charity per 648 Americans.

The Cause Report also found that the industry today is supported by a shrinking and ageing volunteer workforce, with many charities struggling to attract younger people.

“There are real concerns around where the sector’s next generation of supporters will come from,’’ Mr Greiner said.

“Everything comes back to the need for the sector to consolidate its operating models, through reinvigorating the way activities are carried out in Australia.

“The report shows us that charities and not-for-profits are not operating productively as they could be within the sector, leading to the uneven distribution of assets and services for worthwhile causes.”

Mr Greiner believes one of the biggest opportunities for the not-for-profit sector lies with corporate Australia.

‘’Charities need to rethink the way they use the corporate sector,’’ he said. There is a real opportunity for businesses to become a ‘skilled partner’ to charitable organisations.

Rather than focusing on well-intended philanthropy, we need to focus on structured, strategic partnerships that benefit both parties in keeping with a shared-value approach.

“At the end of the day, in order for the Australian charity sector to work productively and thrive, we need to prompt a sensible sharing of assets and knowledge between not-for-profits, corporate supporters and individual donors.

“It’s only then that we will be able to evolve as an industry and ensure we produce the greatest impact both here and overseas.”

The Cause Report also found that:

  • There are 56,894 charities in Australia. The number is doubling every two decades and approaching almost 10 new charities established per business day
  • The charity workforce includes 1,081,900 people, representing 8.5% of Australian employees (1.5 volunteers for each paid employees).
  • The Australian charity sector sources income from Government (38%), non-Government self-earned income (54%) and philanthropy (8%)
  • Australia has 0.23% of individuals giving as a percentage of GDP, compared to 1.44% in the USA
  • The sector is relatively asset rich with $350 billion in assets, of which two-thirds is property

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