Giving Trends in Australia
Written by Bridget Brown
Recent industry reports show that while the average donation amount has increased in recent years, the number of Australian taxpayers making donations continues to decrease. This change in giving trends highlights for those in the sector, that a relationship first approach rather than a transactional approach may be key to maintaining donor interest and boosting participation rates into the future.
Queensland University of Technology’s Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Non-profit Studies (ACPNS) yearly report uses Australian Taxation Office data to provide a summary of tax deductible giving in Australia.
The most recent report using the FY19 figures found that while the average size of donations increased in 2018-19 to a record $933 per person from $846 in 2017-18, the number of people giving decreased from 31.1% to 26.7%. This is the lowest percentage of Australian taxpayers giving since 1978-79.
While these figures provide confidence to those in the sector that donation amounts are increasing, the downward trend of the participation of donors is of concern.
This point has become more pertinent in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Though vaccinations rates continue to rise in Australia, we continue to live with restrictions and limitations to our everyday lives. Anecdotal evidence from those working in the field, indicates giving remained on track through FY20 despite the pandemic, although now into its second year and with long lockdown periods in key states across Australia, the FY21 figures are difficult to predict.
ACPNS Centre Director, Associate Professor Wendy Scaife said, ‘The 2018-19 data will become also the benchmark for the tumultuous giving years that have followed due to the bushfires and pandemic.’
In an interview with Pro Bono News Associate Professor Scaife comments that while there was no way to tell for sure from raw data why the percentage of donors dropped, 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.’
Community Council for Australia, Chief Executive David Crosbie, said there had been a clear fall in the proportion of people giving to charity since the end of the global financial crisis. He said there was a close connection between charitable giving and consumer confidence – the more optimistic people were about the economy and their future, the more likely they were to give.
Interestingly data from the USA shows similar decreases in participation. A study published by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy found that from 2000, when 66% of US households donated to charitable organisations, the number had dropped to 49.6% in 2018 (from a sample of 9000 households studied).
So knowing these market trends, where does this place those organisations engaged in fundraising practice?
Giving Architects Australia, Founding Partner, Nigel Harris says the past year has challenged those in the sector to think about and do things differently around connection and engagement.
In healthcare philanthropy in particular this challenge is particularly acute – and timely. So, if your focus is identifying and engaging a donor constituency, it is essential to leverage the connections of healthcare professionals in growing patient philanthropy.’
Harris goes on to say that engaging people as advocates and connectors is a significant path to building a donor constituency – especially in healthcare, and particularly if those people enjoy a special relationship with patients and families in the way clinicians and healthcare professionals do.
The trends suggest this is the time to embrace your natural constituency and really develop the culture of philanthropy with the people in your own organisation. Grow the relationships with your natural community so that if and when they are in a position to donate, you’re already top of mind for receiving a donation.
Roger Craver comments in the Vanishing American Donor that it is difficult to do the hard work with smaller gift donors, or donors who aren’t yet giving the big gifts.
‘To meet the challenges reflected in the declining trend in the number of donors, it’s essential we all learn to take the steps necessary to retain those donors we have and properly nurture them for today, next year and two decades from now.’
Giving Architects Australia sees the merit in this approach and has developed a series of webinars to highlight the current trends in the markets and how those in the sector can develop fundraising strategies with these in mind.
Nigel Harris, Founding Partner of Giving Architects Australia will join with Ruth Knight (ACPNS) and Mauria Brough and Kelley Marchbanks (Advancement Resources) to explore the current market and how healthcare fundraising teams can engage with their natural constituency to boost donations now and into the future.
For more information and to register your interest in the webinar, visit Giving Architects Australia, www.givingarchitects.com.au
3-Part Webinar Series
Understanding Trends and Trust
Join Advancement Resources’ Mauria Brough, Ven Batista-Pedro, and Kelley Marchbanks and Giving Architects Australia’s Nigel Harris as they dive into the history and philosophy behind Advancement Resources’ 20 years of research in medical, academic, and nonprofit philanthropy.