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2015 Australian Charities Report – Perth

in Latest News, Stories of Independence

On Monday 20th February the 2015 Australian Charities Report was presented in Perth, hosted by VisAbility. Chaired by Murray Baird, Assistant Commissioner, General Counsel, guests were welcomed by Dr Clare Allen, CEO VisAbility before hearing industry insights from Debra Barnes, COO, VisAbility, David Gilchrist, Director, Curtin Not-for-profit Initiative, and member of the ACNC Advisory Board and Professor Kristy Muir, CEO at the Centre for Social Impact at UNSW.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Charities have combined total income of over $134 billion, an increase of 2%
  • The largest 10% of charities receive 90% of the sector’s income
  • Donations grew by 2.4% to $11.2 billion
  • Charities employ over 1.2 million staff – 10% of Australia’s workforce
  • Four out of five charities engage volunteers, and there are 3 million volunteers overall
  • 38% of registered charities have deductible gift recipient status

The full report can be downloaded here

Industry Insight


Debra Barnes, Chief Operating OfficerWhilst we look forward to how this data can serve us all in the future as we grow and evolve as a sector, it was the stories of the people behind the data that inspired the address of Debra Barnes, COO VisAbility. Debra believes it is VisAbility’s committment to empathy marketing, story-telling and engagement, that will allow VisAbility to continue to better understand and meet the needs of the people they exist for.

Read Debra Barnes’ full address here:

Let me start with a story.

Frank was a generous but humble man. His support for VisAbility began in the 1980’s, and over three decades his generosity progressed from regular giving to becoming a major donor.

Frank was an “everyday man” who gave discreetly. On the rare occasions he stopped by to make his donation he would leave quickly with a simple instruction “this is for the blind children”.

Unbeknown to us, he had made the most generous of all decisions, a bequest to VisAbility in his will. We are sure Frank’s empathy toward people – and in particular children – who are blind or vision impaired was genuine and heartfelt.

This was reflected in his approach to life and his desire to support others in the community. When Frank passed away, we invited his family to visit our organisation to enjoy a morning with the puppies at Puppy Class. Soon after, his family decided to further honour Frank’s memory and sponsored a Guide Dog puppy with the remainder of the funds from his estate.

This gorgeous black pup ‘Mitchell’ recently entered the Guide Dog program and, like Frank, will one day change a life.

There are thousands of Western Australians just like Frank. In fact according to the 2015 Australian Charities Report, Western Australians gave over $850M in charitable donations alone.

With just over 5,000 charities, with a combined income of over $14 billion, employing over 134,000 people and just over 225,000 volunteers, we can say that the Western Australian Charity and Not for Profit Sector is a significant contributor to the WA economy.

We know much of the work we do, cannot, or would not be undertaken by government or the for-profit sector. Equally, many of the activities we undertake cannot be measured in terms of financial outputs. Activities that generate benefits that go beyond the recipients of those services. Activities that create community connections and strengthen our civil society.

Despite all the greatness we achieve as a sector, we are facing an era of significant change. A time of increased public accountability, contractual reporting and regulation. Compliance burdens, workforce and volunteer pressures. Increased competition. A shift in block-funding to consumer-directed, individualised funding. An increased need for marketing and advertising. Increases in government outsourcing. A decline in government spending. Mergers, acquisitions and partnerships.

This coupled with a rapidly ageing population and economic pressures will ultimately result in a rise in the number of disadvantaged Western Australians, and a subsequent increased demand for services.

As a sector we have always risen to a challenge. After all, challenges generate innovation and opportunity. Attributes that have led to the very existence of many and embody our sector. Delivering our mission and staying true to our purpose, in a growing fee for service world may become our biggest challenge. It is essential that the community clearly see the benefits our sector brings.

Our organisation receives 30% of its total funding from donation and bequests. We not only recognise the importance of operating in a fee for service environment. We appreciate the importance of giving. This is why we have invested considerable resources into understanding the internal stories of our clients, donors, supporters, and invaluable volunteers.

We believe that through empathy marketing, story-telling and engagement, we will continue to understand and meet the needs of those we serve and better understand the motivators of our donors and volunteers. We have humanised our brand and speak with our brand voice through story-telling.
We are a liberator.
An enabler not a provider.
We connect through story-telling. Not our story. The stories of our donors, supporters and clients.
As a sector, I believe our future sustainability depends on our ability to deliver sound business outcomes and to build on our core purpose. We need to continue to engage government, the community and our staff in supporting our purpose.

We must manage our resources appropriately to ensure the effective fulfilment of those purpose.

We need to better understand the needs of our clients in a changing world of client-centred practices and consumer choice and control. Most importantly we must continually ask ourselves, are we delivering our mission? Are we making the right decisions that meet the needs of those we are here to serve? Sustainability will come from knowing our staff, donors, supporters, volunteers and clients. Being part of their story.

I started with Frank’s story and I would like to end with Liam’s.

We should never forget people like Frank make it possible for us to help people like Liam. This is his story.

Liam Haven | Stories of Independence from VisAbility on Vimeo.