Charities complain of funding difficulties


Many charities claim they have never felt poorer, despite enjoying income and asset value growth. 

A new report from the not-for-profit body Community Council of Australia says charities now have less money for discretionary spending, and aren't being given enough money by governments.


It's a problem facing dozens of not-for-profit groups around the country.


Just how will the future look for them as governments provide less funding and there is more competition for philathropic donations?


It's an issue that prompted a report by the Community Council of Australia.


It found that charities have been enjoying major growth with 175-billion dollars in assets, and turnover of more than 107-billion dollars.


But the Chief Executive of World Vision, Tim Costello says most of the growth in the sector came before the Global Financial Crisis, when Australians were optimistic and charitable.


He says it's been an uphill battle since, added to by the increasing demands on not-for-profit groups.


"Not for profits are dealing with the epidemics of depression, dealing with ice, dealing with mental health and other issues which are of absolute importance as to whether Australia not just has a safety net but flourishes in the future. And the cuts in government funding, the uncertainty about having funding for only 3 months or 12 months sees them unable to really deliver the services."


One of the report's recommendations is that not-for-profits should look for different revenue sources besides governments.


Lifeline Chief Executive Jane Hayden says it's about making operations far more efficient and will will require a new way of thinking and doing business.


"Many things we are doing now are services that were provided previously by a government and if we are going to the community... well what are the things that we can do to collaborate, to share our assets and to work out funding models that are going to allow the sector to plan for the long term."


Tim Costello from World Vision agrees, but adds that the not-for-profit sector needs remain engaged with governments, to be involved in policy formulation.


"Where it is appropriate, and there is reduplication, we can look at mergers and acquisitions between smaller not-for-profits. But we also know we need to be at the policy table. Business and unions are always invited but the charitable sector, which employs a million people and five million volunteers is always overlooked and yet when it is at the coalface and it has policy ideas about a richer, better Australia, we need to be there invited and at the table."


Tim Costello says he's optimistic about upcoming talks with Assistant federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg.


"Josh Frydenberg has made some changes to ancillary funds that will allow private funds to donate a bit more generously with less compliance costs. He emphasised that abolishing the new charity watchdog was low priority. The sector has welcomed it."


Lifeline's Chief Executive Jane Hayden is also hopeful about the possible outcomes of talks with the government.


"We are talking about how we can work collaboratively together and with government to try and map out a future plan for the not-for-profit sector for Australia."