Australians’ generosity a “mixed bag”
20 August 2019 at 8:23 am
Charities need to focus on communicating with their supporters if they want more donors, a sector expert warns, in the wake of new research that found the number of taxpayers making deductible gifts has fallen continuously for nearly a decade.
Analysis on the latest tax data by Queensland University of Technology’s Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies (ACPNS) found the overall amount donated to charity in 2016-17 hit a record $3.5 billion, but the percentage of taxpayers donating dropped to 32 per cent – the lowest amount in 15 years.
The analysis did not include giving by corporate and trust taxpayers, or “non-tax contributions” such as raffles, sponsorships, fundraising purchases or volunteering.
The report found the average tax-deductible donation made to charities was $770, an increase of 21.5 per cent from $633.72 in 2015–16, but the median amount donated and claimed remained the same as the previous year, at $110.
Dr Wendy Scaife, ACNPS director, told Pro Bono News while some Australians were donating larger amounts, which pushed the average figure up, for many taxpayers giving to charity was not a big priority, or was something they were unable to afford.
She said this could be because of the “mixed” economic conditions of the time.
“At the time that people were making these donations we were in this really mixed time economically. Unemployment was looking a little bit healthier, but we had a falling GDP, and subdued domestic prices and wages,” Scaife said.
“I think most people were just a little more cautious about their giving.”
She said that if charities wanted to grab the attention of the more cautious givers, they needed to communicate their mission and why it was important to support community causes.
“I don’t think a lot of Australians know the joy of giving, or the difference that their giving makes or the real needs which are hidden in their community whilst they’re safe at home in their own space,” she said.
“We really have to make sure as individual organisations, whether that be grassroots or bigger, that the people who support us know what it is we do and they know how much they are a part of our mission and how much they are needed.”
She also said some charities needed to rethink the way they were conveying their story and who they were asking to tell it.
“Charities need to look at who the champion supporters are and who can post on Facebook to promote the work the charity does,” Scaife said.
“People sometimes listen to a third-party voice more than someone from their own organisation,” she said.
Taxpayers in New South Wales made the most deductible donations at $1.24 billion, representing nearly 36 per cent of the national total. Victoria followed closely, at just over $1 billion, representing 29 per cent of the national total.
The Perth postcode of Cottesloe and Peppermint Grove (6011) claimed the highest average gifts in the country at $96,111 followed by the central Victorian town, Mansfield (postcode 3724) at $92,301.
In NSW, suburbs Darling Point, Edgecliff and Point Piper (postcode 2027) had the highest average tax deductible gift amount of $33,636.
Scaife noted that the postcode average could be skewed by particularly big donations and that giving initiatives seen in states such as WA could have made a difference.
“WA has hosted various initiatives to foster giving such as Giving West that ran for some years and special incentives for matched giving to new private ancillary funds at one stage,” Scaife said.
The report also found 74 per cent of police officers made a tax-deductible donation, making it the occupation with the highest percentage of donating taxpayers for the seventh year in a row.
Machine Operators followed at 62.8 per cent, and school principals after that at 62.3 per cent.
CEOs or managing directors claimed the highest average gift, at $7,871, followed by authors, book or script editors at $5,603 and internal medicine specialist at $4,034.
Women gave approximately 0.41 per cent of their taxable income compared to 0.43 per cent of men.
A full copy of the report can be found here.