Aussies remain generous in face of tough economic times

Posted on 28 Nov 2023

By Greg Thom, journalist, Institute of Community Directors Australia


Charitable giving in Australia has fallen by a relatively modest 3% over the past year to $1.9 billion, despite challenging economic conditions ranging from high inflation and multiple interest rate rises to lack of rental affordability.

The finding is contained in the Commonwealth Bank's inaugural Australian Charity Trends Report, which examines giving and donation trends across the nation.

Key findings from the study conducted by CommBank iQ, a joint venture between the Commonwealth Bank and data science firm Quantium, included:

  • One in five Australians have donated to charity in the past year
  • Medical research charities bucked the trend of declining donations across charity categories, increasing 5.1% on last year to account for almost one fifth of charitable giving
  • ACT residents emerged as the most charitable in the nation, with one in four making a donation, and the average annual amount donated $714
  • Charity donors have increased their overall contributions by 1.6% to an average $428 over the past year.

Researchers said the increase was driven by a higher volume of donation transactions, which was most likely powered by the many charitable appeals over the course of the year.

The analysis of charitable giving for the 12 months to September 30, 2023, was based on the activities of CommBank’s seven million customers weighted against Australian Bureau of Statistics Census information.

“Even in challenging times we’re a nation that supports those in need.”
Commonwealth Bank's head of community investment, Nathan Barker.
Comm Bank donation trends report 1

Commonwealth Bank's head of community investment, Nathan Barker, said he was not surprised by the slight drop in charity donations.

“The economic environment has been challenging for many Australians, and when family budgets are under pressure it is understandable to see some reduction in share of wallet for charitable donations,” he said.

Mr Barker said the natural generosity of Australians had ensured people continued to reach into their pockets to help those less fortunate than themselves.

CommBank donations report graphic

“After many years of natural disasters and covid restrictions, the sense of mateship and community has always shone through.

“It doesn’t surprise me that even those of us doing it tough are doing what they can to help others in their community.”

The report found an estimated 20.8% of Australians donate to charities, a drop of 1.3% on the previous year.

Those aged over 65 were the most generous overall, donating an average $798 a year – more than six times the rate of 18–24-year-old donors.

The organisations that older donors preferred to give to included animal, community, aged care and disability charities.

Comm Bank report national breakdown
Breakdown of giving trends across the nation.

The report found most young people preferred "aggregator charities" (giving platforms) and were largely one-off donors, with only 10% of 18–24-year-olds giving on a regular basis.

The executive director of the online donations platform GiveNow, Cathy Truong, said her experience echoed CommBank's findings, with only a slight softening in donations over the past two years despite the changing narrative about the economy.

“The generosity of Australians is notable, especially when it comes to the small to medium-sized community organisations who have a loyal and meaningful connection with their supporters,” said Ms Truong.

“If anything, we note that the block is with organisations who are hesitant to run a fundraising campaign for fear of asking too much of their community, but when they do, they’re pleasantly surprised that the response is positive.”

The most popular donation amounts on the GiveNow platform were between $20 and $50, while the frequency of donations increased 2.1% on the previous year.

Comm Bank report key donation trends

Medical research top of mind for donors

Mr Barker said Australians' covid experience appeared to be a significant factor in fuelling an increase in donations for medical research.

‘’The pandemic has certainly shone a light on the impact of medical research and how funding research can change lives, which would have likely inspired some donors to more actively consider medical research more than they otherwise might have in the past.”

Nathan Barker
The Commonwealth Bank's head of community investment, Nathan Barker.

Mr Barker said overall, even though many Australians were doing it tough, they still had room in their hearts to help those less fortunate than themselves.

“Whilst a slight decline, one in five Australians are currently donating to charity to help create brighter futures in the community,” said Mr Barker.

“Even in challenging times we’re a nation that supports those in need.”

More information

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