How, Why and How Much Australians Give to Charity: 3 Important and Surprising Findings

How, Why and How Much Australians Give to Charity: 3 Important and Surprising Findings

giving australia 2016

giving australia 2016Giving Australia 2016 is the largest research effort into philanthropic behaviour, designed to understand how, why and how much Australians give to charity. It sheds light on the shape of the field and trends for the future. As we wait for the further reports to come out, AskRIGHT examined the initial results released this past December. Our Senior Fundraising Consultant Jim O’Brien discussed with Professor Wendy Scaife, who led the research, the most important and surprising findings.


Overall Giving: The number of Australians giving to charity declined but those who give are giving more

The percentage of Australians giving to charity has declined, but those people that do give are giving at a higher rate (these results are consistent with data on tax deductions from the ATO).  During 12 months in 2015-2016, 14.9 million Australians gave $12.5 billion to charities and non-profit organisations. That’s more than 80% of the population, giving an average of $764 to support the communities served by, among others, schools, hospitals, universities, arts organisations, aged-care providers, environmental groups, local sport clubs and quite a few single-disease research, education and advocacy groups.


giving australia - amount donated planned vs spontaneous

The median gift was $200, meaning that more than half of all donors last year gave more than $200 with the other half giving less than $200. With a mean of $764, this indicates that there are a number of larger gifts that are influencing the average.  In fact, the World Giving Index indicates that Australians, as a nation, are ranked third in the world in terms of their generosity to charities. Giving is widely accepted and expected

Among donors, 40% plan their giving while 60% give spontaneously. Those who do plan, give on average six times more than donors who give spontaneously. For fundraising organisations, this finding is particularly noteworthy.


Giving larger amounts requires careful planning and consideration, not only to identify and clarify personal passions and goals, but to explore the options, including whether to give from income or savings, looking at how charities spend their funds, the charity’s mission and programs, the impact of giving, the costs of raising a dollar, etc. Engaging family members, including partners and children, in making these decisions and educating donors about effective giving practices will only strengthen the sector, improving the quality and impact of giving.


The Growth in Business Giving is higher than anticipated

One of the most important and surprising findings, according to Scaife, was the level of business giving – it was far higher than anticipated. In 2015–16, businesses reported giving $17.5 billion during their last financial year. This comprised:  $7.7 billion in community partnerships, $6.2 billion in donations, and $3.6 billion in (non-commercial) sponsorships.

giving australia - amount donated planned vs spontaneousWhile large businesses make up 0.2% of the survey respondents, they accounted for more than half of all business giving.  Large businesses are more likely to partner with not-for-profit organisations than small businesses. Scaife notes that corporate boards are increasingly aware of the triple bottom line and the importance of achieving social, environmental and financial targets. This awareness is driving giving decisions.

To successfully attract corporate dollars, fundraisers and not for profit leaders need to familiarise themselves with all sources of funding, including partnerships, one-off donations and sponsorships. Furthermore, fundraisers would benefit their organisations and communities by familiarising themselves with the conversations and concerns in corporate boardrooms if they want to tap into the funds. The corporate sector looks to not-for-profits to achieve goals that are important to themselves as businesses.  Fundraisers would do well to remember this.


Bequests: Less than half of the adult population has a will

bequestsIn 2005, 58% of the adult population had a will and 7.5% of those who did include a charity. In 2016, the percentage of people that had a will declined to 49% with 7.4% leaving some or all of their estate to charity. Similarly, in the US and UK, less than half of the adult population has a will.

We know that the likelihood of having a will is a function of age and socioeconomic status (wealth and education). Estate planning is most relevant as we age and with greater financial resources. This suggests that there are tremendous opportunities for fundraisers to educate their donors and stakeholders about estate planning, especially if their primary asset is a house or the remains of a superannuation fund.

Whether they are expected or not, bequests can make a lasting difference to an organisation’s capabilities well into the future. Over the long-term – and it is a long-term but important investment – there is tremendous value in educating your donor community about planning their estate, preparing their wills and leaving significant gifts to the charity of their choice. This is especially true for regular donors who make modest contributions over their life and are unlikely to have financial advisers or estate plans.



Managing your fundraising program in a rapidly changing environment presents new challenges and opportunities. Understanding trends and adjusting your strategies in light of the reality that lies behind these statistics can be daunting for fundraising leaders.


For further information about Giving Australia 2016 and to download the latest study results, please click here.


AskRIGHT is committed to staying abreast of the latest trends and supporting your effort to maximise your income from charitable giving.  We analyse and share the new trends identified in the Giving Australia research:

– during seminars around Australia (including Perth and Tasmania)

– during webinars focused on selected sectors (health and medical research, arts, universities, environment and animal welfare)

– with training focused on opportunities (bequests, young donors, women’s philanthropy)



Jim O'Brien

Jim O'Brien

Senior Fundraising Consultant at AskRIGHT
Jim O’Brien is a highly sought-after fundraising professional with more than twenty years’ experience fundraising leadership. He is committed to supporting organisations and communities raise more money and develop results-oriented strategies.

Jim is based in Sydney. To find out how Jim can help your organisation, contact
Jim O'Brien

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