Let's talk: Are there too many charities in Australia?

Aussies always support a good cause, but there are currently over 54 000 charities in our country. With so many charities to choose from, our dollars are stretched thin and charities even more so.

Whilst the debate about money and resources looms, it’s got some people wondering whether there are in fact too many charities in Australia? At Starts At Sixty, we want your thoughts on this topic today!

The Community Council for Australia (CCA) has warned that charities should either “merge or disappear altogether because too many of them are wasting valuable resources competing with each other”.

“Self-interest can be a hard thing for charities to put aside, however we are in the business of serving communities, not ourselves”, said David Crosbie from the CCA.

Mr Crosbie added that charities should, “work much harder at collaboration and possible merges, not just because it is in their interests but in the interests of the communities they serve”.

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However, his comments have been dismissed by Susan Pascoe from the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC). Her commission is responsible for registering each charity in the country.

Ms Pascoe has argued that having thousands of charities allows Australians to ensure a broad variety of community needs are being served.

“Many private hospitals and aged-care facilities… thousands of churches, temples, synagogues and mosques across Australia are registered with the ACNC, as are most non-government schools”, she said.

Ms Pascoe also argued that mismanaged or refuted charities are often deregistered by the ACNC. For example, Shane Warne’s foundation was recently shut down after failing to lodge its annual audit.

“(Since) late 2012, we have registered around 8,000 new charities”, Ms Pascoe explained. “In the same period of time, we have revoked or removed over 13,000 charities”.

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The Commissioner did acknowledge that charities have a strong voice within Australian culture though, and agreed that charities have become very good at vying for our attention.

“Nearly every day we see charity street collectors and receive window-faced envelopes in the mail, read crowdfunding requests and watch charity television ads”, she acknowledged.

Ms Pascoe stopped short of agreeing there are too many charities in Australia, though: “To answer the question – are there too many charities in Australia?”

“In my view, we can only say yes to that when we are confident that we are efficiently and effectively meeting all community needs not covered by government in every part of this vast continent”, she said.

Where do you stand? Do you think charities should act more like “businesses”, and merge their efforts and resources? Or is having over 50,000 charities reasonable for a country the size of Australia?