August 18, 2019; Sydney Morning Herald
According to research by the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies, tax deductible donations to charities in that country are up in terms of dollar amounts but—and this is a critical point—the numbers of households making and claiming those gifts is down. This means the average donation has grown by $138 to around $770.
The study reports the percentage of donating taxpayers is down to 32.6 percent from 33.4 percent last year. This is part of a persistent downward trend that started in 2010–11. Since then, 400,000 donating taxpayers have been lost.
Dr Wendy Scaife, the Centre’s director, says that the US, the UK, and the Netherlands are showing similar trends. The report indicates that a small group of 6,746 well-heeled taxpayers accounted for almost 20 percent of all tax-deductible donations in 2016–17.
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One of the interesting differences between Australian reports and similar reports from the US is that Australia tracks givers by occupation; there, the group with the largest share of giving, at 74 percent, was police officers—for the seventh year in a row. Authors and book or script editors donated a bigger proportional share of their income than any other occupation at 3.92 percent, with religious leaders coming in a very distant second place at 1.91 percent.
Chief executives and managing directors gave the highest dollar amounts at $7781.56, but they gave at a lower rate than the writers and religious leaders, who presumably make quite a bit less.
That said, the important finding here—that the trend toward ever fewer donating households extends beyond the US—makes us wonder about the factors leading to that outcome. We’d love to hear from readers on what they think is at play.—Ruth McCambridge