Is Australia generous enough?

Fewer people are giving but there’s more being given. What’s going on?

Key Points

  • Latest “pre-COVID” data shows less people giving to charities. 

  • Wealthiest give the most but number of rich givers declined. 

  • Latest figures are a benchmark against forthcoming post-COVID giving data. 

First the good news.

We’re donating more money to non-profit charities and society’s wealthy people give the most.

The bad news is, the proportion of the population giving to charity has hit a 40-year low. 

Information about how the pandemic has impacted on our giving is yet to come but these figures set a benchmark for comparison when those figures are available. 

While the total amount of money given to charity in 2018/19 jumped 5% from the previous year, the percentage of taxpayers who claimed a donation fell to the lowest figure in four decades. 

The latest analysis of Australia’s tax data, compiled by QUT's Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies (ACPNS), revealed that just under $4 billion was claimed by individuals as tax-deductible donations in 2018/19, compared to $3.75 billion for the previous income year.  

The average donation amount also increased from $846 in 2017-18 to $933 in 2018/19.  

More dollars for charities is a good thing but charities are concerned about the continuing downward trend of the number of donors.  

Just 26.7% of the Australian population made a donation in 2018/19, a 5% decrease on the previous year.  

This is the lowest percentage of donors Australia has seen in four decades and is the first time since 1978/79 that the figure has fallen below 30%. 

Associate Professor, Wendy Scaife, ACPNS centre director, told Pro Bono News that the raw data didn’t explain why the percentage of donors dropped, however, previous research has indicated that there are a multitude of reasons causing donor hesitation.  

“A big one is that many people believe they can’t afford to give but there are also issues around trusting that the charities will spend the donation where they say they’re going to spend it and issues around the cost of administration,” Ms Scaife said. 

“A few of these are long held but probably mythical concerns, because you have to spend dollars to make dollars and impact is the best measure of a donation.” 

Report highlights

  • Women give more of their taxable income than men. In 2018/19 more women made taxable donations but the average donation claimed by men was greater. 

  • Chief executive and managing directors were once again the group donating the highest average amount, although the amount decreased by 13.76% between 2018-19 and 2017-18. 

  • Western Australia was the most generous state, with the highest total and highest average donations claimed in 2018-19. It was also the Australian postcode with the highest percentage of taxpayers claiming a donation (Joondalup DC).

Affluent Aussies (mostly) giving more than ever 

For the past few years, Australia’s wealthiest have been giving more, which has boosted the total donation rate. In 2018/19 it was no different. 

The average tax-deductible donation for the 8,000 taxpayers that earned $1 million and over was $138,611, a significant increase from the previous year’s figure of $93,645.  

Ms Scaife also noted, that compared to the rest of the population, who on average donate 0.43% of their income, this demographic gave 9% of their income to charitable causes. 

“Those high-net-worth individuals who are giving, are giving really generously,” she said.  

Wealthy giving good but dropping

The data found that just four in 10 high-net-worth individuals were giving.   

“We would assume that people with a larger amount of income might wish to share some of that or have the capacity to share some of that but it’s still only 55% of the people who are earning above that $1 million who are appearing in our figures,” Ms Scaife said.  

Ms Scaife said, it was critical for charities to tap into both the wealthy Australians who had the potential to donate more and the average Australians who could become life-long champions of charities.  

“Charities need to think about the strategies that enable them to interact with more affluent Australians who have got greater capacity to give, because the more you earn, the more you give,” she said.  

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