In the first of her series on the Giving Australia 2016 report, Associate Professor Wendy Scaife provides an overview.


Giving Australia 2016Despite the strict economic logic of our modern market economy, giving and volunteering behaviours have been resilient in transitioning from ancient cultures to remain a vital social exchange valued as the mark of a caring and compassionate society. (Individual Giving and Volunteering report, Giving Australia 2016 report series

To what extent Australian individuals, businesses and foundations are practically caring and compassionate formed the bedrock of the Giving Australia 2016 study, the largest such research ever undertaken in this country. In coming issues, F&P will profile core findings. This first article provides a background to the study, explains why it’s important and delivers some headline findings released so far.

Why countries study giving and volunteering

More than 20 countries conduct national studies of giving and volunteering, most more regularly than in Australia. Our last comprehensive investigation was the original Giving Australia in 2005. These studies are often funded by government (as with Giving Australia 2016, which is an initiative of the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership and funded by the Department of Social Services). National giving studies are big and to run a household survey costs money. The logic is for government to assist many givers, volunteer-involving organisations and volunteers with more of the data they need to plan and compare. The report’s findings also inform policy.

Large-scale studies directly embrace thousands of people. They fire up opinion leaders and foster a climate for change. Research breeds action. Already Giving Australia 2016 has touched nearly 10,000 households, businesses, foundations and nonprofit organisations. Such studies are about hard data along with attitudes, issues, barriers, ideas and opportunities. In an area that is as much about emotion as logic, this qualitative data is critical.

Why now?

Some core aspects of giving and volunteering are unchanging but other elements evolve as does the world in which these activities operate. Big data, technology and collective giving are just some of the areas that have grown since 2005 that Giving Australia 2016 respondents have highlighted.

Who contributed?

The research involved individual givers in Australian households, philanthropists, foundations, large corporations, small and medium enterprises and nonprofits.

While the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies led this research, it has deliberately been a collaboration to gain as many insights as possible from different perspectives. The Centre for Social Impact Swinburne at the Swinburne University of Technology and the Centre for Corporate Public Affairs partnered with QUT in this effort. Sector partners were the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal, Fundraising Institute Australia, Philanthropy Australia and Volunteering Australia. Many people also piloted surveys, read drafts and served on an expert panel to consider the data as it emerged.

What was studied?

Seventeen research questions were considered across the populations indicated for each question:

1 What are the rates and patterns of giving and volunteering in 2015/2016 (individuals and businesses)?

2 How are giving and volunteering behaviours changing over time, including the use of innovative giving and volunteering platforms
(individuals, businesses, not-for-profits, philanthropists and foundations)?

3 How are innovations in social media and technological development influencing giving and volunteering (individuals, businesses, nonprofit organisations, philanthropists
and foundations)?

4 What factors influence people to utilise methods of giving, such as bequests, workplace giving and collectives, for example, giving circles, and foundations (individuals, businesses, not-for-profit organisations, philanthropists and foundations)?

5 How do Australian patterns of giving and volunteering compare with other like countries and what factors contribute to these differences (individuals, businesses, philanthropists and foundations)?

6 What are the critical factors that motivate giving and volunteering behaviours in 2016 (individuals, businesses, philanthropists and foundations)?

7 Are there differences in motivation and behaviours among people in relation to age, gender, geography, cultural background, family structure, income or employment status (individuals and businesses)?

8 What are the key factors that motivate individuals to move from spontaneous to planned giving and volunteering (individuals, philanthropists and foundations)?

9 What are the opportunities to grow levels of giving and volunteering among individuals and businesses (individuals, businesses, philanthropists and foundations)?

10 What is the role of intermediaries, such as foundations and ancillary funds, in giving and volunteering (philanthropy and foundations)?

11 What are the current trends in levels of corporate social responsibility, including participation in workplace giving and corporate
volunteering programs and is this changing over time (businesses)?

12 What factors contribute to differences between the approaches of businesses to corporate social responsibility, in relation to their size, industry sector or location (businesses)?

13 How is the not-for-profit sector’s ability to raise revenue being affected by changes in patterns of giving and volunteering (nonprofit organisations)?

14 To what extent are different sectors, including arts, environment, community services, health, education etc, changing their fundraising approaches in response to changing patterns of giving and volunteering (nonprofit organisations)?

15 What does information about changing patterns of giving and volunteering in 2016 tell us about the future of philanthropy in Australia (individuals, businesses, not-for-profits, philanthropists and foundations)?

16 How do philanthropists select a charity (philanthropists and foundations)?

17 How does reporting on performance and outcomes influence decisions made by philanthropists about donations (philanthropists and foundations)?

What are the outputs for sector use?

The Giving Australia 2016 report series currently includes a 19-chapter literature review, a two-page summary, a version of that literature review with 10 key readings, a background paper and a growing series of fact sheets, including a literature review summary, literature review and background paper along with fact sheets on individual volunteering, individual giving, philanthropy, not-for-profit organisations and business. These are available from

In coming months, the following five reports will also be released:

Giving Australia 2016: A Summary
• Philanthropy and Philanthropists
• Giving and Volunteering – the Nonprofit Perspective
• Business Giving and Volunteering
• Individual Giving and Volunteering.

What to look out for from here

Beyond the reports, a webinar series is planned where sector experts will talk about the data and the uses they see for it. We know the funding spent on this research will be leveraged many times over in greater giving and volunteering, better resourcing decisions and new relationships. Look out for ways to use the data to help grow giving and volunteering in your area.
Read Associate Professor Wendy Scaife’s next article on Giving Australia 2016 in our April May 2017 issue.

Headline findings

These include:

• 80.8% of Australians made donations, contributing a total of $12.6 billion to charities and nonprofit organisations
• 43.7% of Australians volunteered a total of 932 million hours in support of charities and nonprofits
• the average amount donated by Australians has increased by $210.16 per annum since Giving Australia 2005
• givers who donated via a planned arrangement contributed six times more than spontaneous givers
• those who volunteer their time are also the most generous with financial donations, contributing an average of $1,017 – nearly double that of non-volunteers
• in 2015/2016 businesses gave $17.5 billion comprising $7.7 billion in community partnerships, $6.2 billion in donations and $3.6 billion in non-commercial sponsorships
• in a shift from 2005, larger businesses are giving more in total than small and medium enterprises
• 56% of businesses report providing matched giving for their payroll giving programs
• 46% of businesses had a formal workplace volunteering program
• the top five beneficiaries of trust/foundation giving were social services at 63.7%, education and research at 62.7%, health at 52.9%, culture and recreation at 33.3%, and development and housing at 25.5%.

Associate Professor Wendy Scaife FFIA, FPRIA

Wendy is Director, Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies – QUT and National Project Director for Giving Australia 2016. She serves on a wide range of committees and chairs a community heritage project. She was previously CEO of a major health nonprofit.  



Already a subscriber? LOGIN HERE

F&P brings you all the latest in fundraising including case studies, best practice, strategy, trends and benchmarks, thought leadership & industry insights.


subscribe now

  • Latest print and digital magazine edition delivered to your door, computer, tablet and mobile
  • Multi-user subscription packages at a nice price so all your staff can enjoy F&P
  • Online access to all our archived magazine articles
  • Fortnightly enewsletter
  • 20% discount off F&P conferences (save hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars a year)