Media Release: Australia’s small charities offer big benefits to community

Report: Australia’s small charities offer big benefits to community

Australia’s smallest charities account for more than a third of the charity sector, according to new a report released today by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC).

The report, Australia’s Smallest Charities, was produced by the ACNC in collaboration with the Centre for Social Impact and the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales. Australia’s Smallest Charities is a sub-report of the Australian Charities Report, an annual analysis of the data reported by charities of all sizes in their Annual Information Statement.

ACNC Commissioner, Susan Pascoe AM, highlighted the significant contribution that ‘extra small’ charities make to the sector and the wider community.

“There are almost 19,000 extra small charities in Australia – that is, charities with annual income under $50,000,” Commissioner Pascoe said.

“Extra small charities account for 37% of charities in Australia, and make an important contribution to the local community.

“These charities in particular often provide more specialised, locally-focused services – and those communities appreciate their hard work and dedication.”

The report, which includes case studies from seven of Australia’s smallest charities, highlights the variety of activities undertaken, and the causes supported by registered charities across the nation.

“As with the sector itself, the most common main activity for extra small charities is religion,” Commissioner Pascoe said.

“Social services, culture and recreation, and philanthropic activities are also popular activities for extra small charities.

“The case studies serve to show the value of an organisation which focuses on providing niche services of importance to their communities.

“They provide a snapshot of the incredible impact small charities can have locally, nationally and globally.”

Gary Burke, treasurer of the Diamond’s Creek Men’s Shed, hoped the report would help to highlight the importance of small charities across Australia.

“Small charities provide great services to their local community, from helping people to get back on their feet and providing support, to offering safe spaces, providing education and more,” Mr Burke said.

“In our organisation specifically, we provide support services to men in our local area – but we also provide an opportunity for men to give back to their communities, by getting involved in projects and working with other organisations locally.

“There are many positive benefits that a charity can provide – beyond helping the community and making a difference, many organisations provide a positive environment where people are able to build networks and friendships.”

Despite undertaking activities to support the general community in Australia, four in five extra small charities engaged no paid staff.

“Volunteers are incredibly important to all charities across Australia,” Commissioner Pascoe said.

“Extra small charities often rely solely on the generosity and support of volunteers in order to achieve their goals.

“According to the report, over two-thirds of extra small charities operated with volunteers only, compared to only 39% of all charities.

“More than 400,000 people generously donated their time and expertise to extra small charities in Australia.”

Mr Burke echoed the importance of volunteering for small charities nationwide.

“Our organisation is entirely volunteer-run,” Mr Burke said.

“So volunteers are absolutely critical for our Men’s Shed, and every other small charity.”

In total, extra small charities reported a combined income over $300 million in 2015, and held assets worth over $5 billion.

“The income of small charities is different to the wider sector,” Commissioner Pascoe said.

“For example, extra small charities received 38% of their income from donations and bequests – this figure is only 8.3% for all charities.

“Similarly, extra small charities only received 5.7% of their income from government grants – whereas government grants comprised 41.4% of income for all charities.”

The Australia’s Smallest Charities report, and the Australian Charities Report 2015 are available to download at




ACNC Media Contact:

0466 089 108