Uncertain economic times are notoriously challenging for charities, as people tighten their belts, reassess their budgets and cut back on expenses (including donations) where they can. And just as the proportion of Australians 14+ who believe our ‘economy appears to be improving’ has plummeted from 57% to 35% over the last five years, so too the proportion who donated to charity in an average 12 months has declined from 71% to 65% over the same period.
This decline is most evident in South Australia, where 64% of the population donated to charity in the 12 months to March 2014, down from 73% in the year to March 2010. Tellingly, the ‘Festival State’ is feeling less than festive about the national economy, with just 31% of its residents believing that our economy appears to be improving (down from 58%).
Charity donations and economic optimism: how each state compares
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), April 2009-March 2010 (n=18,929) and April 2013-March 2014 (n=17,773). Base: Australians 14+
Queensland and Western Australia also saw fewer residents donating to charity in the 12 months to March 2014 than in the same period to March 2010, with about 10% of each state’s donors dropping off over this time. The proportion of charity donors in Victoria and NSW also fell, as did optimism about Australia’s economic improvement.
Heavy donors on the rise
Despite the overall decline in Australians donating to charity, the proportion of heavy donors (those who donated $200 or more in an average 12 months) has increased slightly in the last five years. In the 12 months to March 2010, 30% of all people who donated to charity gave $200 or more; in the 12 months to March 2014, this figure rose to 34%.
Of the individual states, New South Wales and Western Australia residents are slightly more likely to be heavy donors.
Norman Morris, Industry Communications Director, Roy Morgan Research, says:
“The decline in Australians donating to charity appears to be linked to increasing pessimism about our economic future rather than any trend away from charitable values. In fact, three quarters of the population still think ‘charity organisations make long-term differences to the world’s poorest people’ and more than half believe that ‘everyday people can help to raise living standards’.
“In encouraging news for not-for-profits, however, the proportion of heavy donors has risen slightly; an indication that charities should not be shy about appealing to people’s generosity even in these uncertain economic times.
“Furthermore, the proportion of Aussies who agree ‘a percentage of everyone’s income should go to charities’ has risen slightly in recent years. In view of this, perhaps charities that are feeling the pinch should consider putting more effort into promoting their workplace-giving programs? After all, it’s a win-win situation: the employee has a small amount deducted from their salary each pay before other expenses eat it up (plus they can claim it on tax) and the charity receives a steady flow of income.
“Many companies — such as JB Hi-fi, Australia Post and NAB — already offer workplace giving programs to their staff, but our data indicates that this kind of fundraising has the potential to grow even more popular.”
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