Giving to charities and not-for-profits is woven into Australian culture and identity. The country’s oldest charities date back 200 years, and today there are over 50,000 in existence. More than four in five Australians (82%) give to these organisations in some capacity. Of these, 61% believe that not-for-profits are an essential pathway for Australians to fulfill their human duty of providing hands-on-help to others in need.

82% of Australians give

Our research into the not-for-profit and charity sector reveals changing priorities in how, why and where Australians are donating. Shifting societal and demographic trends hold several implications for not-for-profits and charities as they seek to capture the altruistic desires of the population.

Responsibility for social issues falls to charities

Australians believe that charities and not-for-profits are responsible for an abundance of social issues. These organisations are viewed second only to the government in terms of responsibility for issues like disaster response, unemployment, housing/income support, mental health, Indigenous services/closing the gap, and the environment.

While individuals have minimal influence on how government spending is directed, they hold sole responsibility for the nature, direction and size of their own contributions to charities and not-for profits.

Younger givers favour advocacy more than older givers

Younger givers are much more likely to prefer advocating and raising awareness for a specific issue or cause than their older counterparts (33% Gen Z compared to 12% Builders). This demonstrates the desire of younger generations to develop relationships with charities beyond a transaction. In contrast, older generations tend strongly towards the more traditional donation of goods (71% Builders).

Hearing a need or issue

Older givers are more frequent in their giving

Among Gen Z, 59% give when they hear about a need or issue, while only 6% are likely to give on a regular basis. Baby Boomers on the other hand are more likely to give frequently (22%) or when responding to a need or issue (36%).

These giving trends may be influenced by each generations’ perceptions of what will generate the greatest impact, what is most personally meaningful for them and may also be reflective of the life stage they are in (Baby Boomers having higher net wealth, for example).

Australians are highly motivated to give to disaster response

The recent Australian bushfires revealed the extent to which Australians give to disaster response; over half of givers (54%) seek to contribute to organisations associated disaster response in Australia. This was the top cause to give to across the board, and in the top two causes by generation.

There have also been notable increases in environmental giving, which moved from the 12th top cause in 2019 to 7th in 2020, driven by younger givers (41% Gen Z, 34% Gen Y, 26% Gen X, 21% Baby Boomers and 13% Builders).

Disaster response giving

Medicine and cancer research are top causes for older givers

More than three in five Builders (61%) and 46% of Baby Boomers name medical and cancer research as their top cause to give to. Generations Z, Y and X all have in common animal welfare and wildlife support, and disaster response in Australia as their top two causes. Another popular cause among those most likely to be caring for children is children’s charities (47% Gen Y, 45% Gen X and 43% Baby Boomers).

Australian givers prefer to donate to local or national focused charities

A growing sense of nationalism is a key giving trend among Australians. One in five givers solely donate to charities with a local or national focus (21%), while a further 46% prefer to support charities with a local/national focus. This is ascribed to the belief that charity begins at home, and addressing the needs of Aussies’ own backyard before extending a helping hand overseas.

These insights offer an understanding of the causes close to the hearts of Australians, and the preferred methods of their giving. The ability to successfully locate and transform the donations of the 82% of Australians who give to charities or not-for-profits is crucial to the future of the not-for-profit sector.


Download the Australian Communities 2020 report