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Melbourne V Sydney – the Capital of Charity and Philanthropy


Thursday, 26th March 2015 at 10:44 am
Lina Caneva, Editor
The rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney has played out in many different ways. Australia’s two largest cities regularly compete on the sporting field, in the fashion stakes and in the culture wars. But which city is Australia’s true centre of charity?

Thursday, 26th March 2015
at 10:44 am
Lina Caneva, Editor


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Melbourne V Sydney – the Capital of Charity and Philanthropy
Thursday, 26th March 2015 at 10:44 am

The rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney has played out in many different ways. Australia’s two largest cities regularly compete on the sporting field, in the fashion stakes and in the culture wars. But which city is Australia’s true centre of charity?

Melbourne has long been seen as the centre for all things charitable in Australia. But an analysis of the latest figures by Pro Bono Australia News showed that assumption may need to be adjusted.

According to the Australian Charity and Not-for-profit Commission’s (ACNC) register there are more charities in New South Wales than any other state in Australia.

In NSW there are 18,255 registered charities while in Victoria there are 13,400. Queensland has 10,035 registered charities, Western Australia has 5822, South Australia has 4139, Tasmania has 1347, the ACT has 1159 and the Northern Territory has 667.

The latest NAB Charitable Giving Index shows however that when it comes to financial donations made by the general public, there is almost nothing separating Melbourne and Sydney.

Residents in the top 20 suburbs for charitable giving in Sydney donated on average $184 over the last 12 months, while in Melbourne they donated an average of $183.45.

The JBWere latest giving trends report found that in terms of the number of people that donate to charity, NSW is king.

According to the research almost 1.5 million people in NSW donate financially to charity while in Victoria the figure sits at around 1.25 million.

The next closest state was Queensland where roughly 800,000 people donate to charity.

But the report claimed that it was in fact the size of the gifts made to charity, rather than the raw number, that was the most important factor.

NSW was once again home to the largest average donations, with people giving close to $600 on average. The mining boom saw Western Australia narrowly overtake Victoria for second place with both States seeing average donations of around $500.

"The growth rates have been reasonably close between States over this period led by Western Australia at 8.3 per cent which passed Victoria for second place in 2012, while Queensland trailed at 6.3 per cent,” the JBWere report said.

“It is interesting that the two resource rich States would be at either end of the range, but with inflation averaging only 2.6 per cent over this period, all States have recorded impressive improvements in giving per donor.”

But it is philanthropy that has seen the biggest shift. Something that Melbourne has long been seen as leading the way in has become very popular in Sydney.

According to JBWere’s latest Private Ancillary Fund (PAF) report, there are more of those philanthropic trusts in NSW than Victoria.

As of November 2014 there were 526 PAFs in NSW, 389 in Victoria and 123 in Queensland.

According to the ACNC, ancillary funds are funds that provide a link between people who want to give and organisations that can receive tax deductible donations as deductible gift recipients.

Author of the JBWere report, John McLeod, told Pro Bono Australia News that while Melbourne was seen as the traditional home of philanthropy, Sydney had overtaken it in terms of the amount of money given through philanthropy.

“Obviously we’ve had a lot of the older style foundations in Melbourne, the Myers and Potters and all the rest, so I think a broader number of people more quickly grabbed the concept of endowed philanthropy,” McLeod said.

“As time’s gone on since then the level of PAFs being set up has headed towards the most populous state and the wealthiest state, so not surprisingly at all, you’ve got more of them in NSW than Victoria.”

When pressed to name which State or city could claim the title of Australia’s home of philanthropy, McLeod said it was still up for debate.

“It depends on what measure you want to use but I wouldn’t blanket that Victoria was the leader in philanthropy because NSW gives more money, there are more people and they give a larger amount of money,” he said.

“Where Victoria leads is, and I hate the term, but in the older style traditional Foundations. It’s got a better history of philanthropy and that’s shown by the number of older style, big name Foundations. It’s shown by the fact they embraced PAFs earlier on.

“The other thing that I think is worth noting is that the culture of philanthropy is better in Victoria in that a bigger percentage of people claim tax deductions for it in Victoria, which is the best measure we’ve got in terms of who’s donating.

“So all that leads to say that Victoria certainly had the better culture of philanthropy and still does in terms of the proportion of people who give, but as NSW has grown in terms of the size of the state and the amount of people and dollars, it’s the bigger home of philanthropy.

“I also think they’re probably doing it a little bit differently as well. You’ve got more PAFs and more dollars being given in NSW and I think probably a bit more of the innovation is happening in NSW. I’d largely equate that to PAFs because they’re doing it differently to how traditional Foundations are doing it.

“I would say the culture is still better in Victoria but the dollars and the size of the gifts are better in NSW.

“It really depends on what you mean by the home of philanthropy. If by that you mean dollars and where new things are being established then Sydney wins. If you’re talking about the history and the culture then Victoria wins. So it depends which one you think is more important in terms of the definition of the home of philanthropy.”

Philanthropy Australia CEO, Louise Walsh, said it was clear that Sydney had become a centre of charitable giving.

“Philanthropy has long had a strong presence in Melbourne, and I think we'll definitely continue to see lots of growth and innovation coming out of there,” Walsh said.

“It's great that Sydney has also caught the 'philanthropy bug' in recent years, and it's fantastic that we're seeing strong growth in the number of PAFs based there.

“Sydney has a strong financial services industry and I think that may be one of the factors driving that growth.

“We're keen to grow philanthropy all over Australia, which is one of the reasons that one of my big priorities as CEO has been to open Philanthropy Australia offices in Brisbane and Adelaide.”


Lina Caneva  |  Editor |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years, and Editor of Pro Bono Australia News since it was founded in 2000.

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