The charity sector
The charity sector in Australia is large and diverse, covering a broad range of activities. While it is hard to get an accurate snapshot of just how far reaching and impactful charities’ work is, the recent introduction of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) and their commitment to gathering and analysing data on the sector is helping to increase understanding about this important work in Australia.
Many charities are built around a particular cause or purpose and some have multiple purposes to their work. The ACNC outlines the most common charitable purposes as:
- aged persons—addressing the needs of aged people such as by providing accommodation, nursing and health care or addressing isolation and loneliness
- animals—protecting, caring for, preserving or studying animals
- arts and culture—promoting arts and culture
- defence and public order—contributing to the defence of Australia and helping maintain public order
- disasters—addressing the needs of victims in natural and other catastrophes or preventing catastrophes
- education and research—advancing education (if the organisation is for public benefit and not for profit) and researching matters useful to the community
- environment—protecting, preserving, caring for and educating the community about the environment
- health—advancing health (if the organisation is for public benefit and not for profit)
- Indigenous people—addressing the needs of Indigenous people
- industry, commerce and agriculture—advancing industry commerce or agriculture (if the organisation is for public benefit and not for profit)
- local area or neighbourhood—benefiting a particular town, city or region
- people with disabilities—addressing the needs people may have as a result of living with a physical or mental disability
- poverty and unemployment—addressing need arising from poverty and unemployment
- religion—advancing religion
- science—advancing science.
Employment in the sector
The charity and not for profit sector contribute significantly to employment in Australia and to the community as a whole. A report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) found that the sector employed almost 890,000 people in 2006–2007 and used the services of more than 4.5 million volunteers in the same year. The report also found that the sector contributed about $43 billion to Australia’s gross domestic product (GDP). (Australian National Accounts: Non-Profit Institutions Satellite Account, 2006-07, ABS).
While this highlights just how much the sector relies on volunteers to carry out their work it also shows the reliance on paid workers to undertake tasks. Many of the duties paid employees carry out are related to particular fields where workers have qualifications or specialised skills. These include a range of areas in both business administration and care such as accounting, law, marketing, counselling, occupational therapy, childcare, social work, pastoral care, nursing and information services.
Why people work for a charity
People who decide to work for a charity often do out of their benevolent nature and a genuine desire to help others. Many experience a sense of happiness and satisfaction in knowing that their work days are spent contributing to the greater good of humanity and the environment. There are a number of reasons people may find working for a charity worthwhile:
- Meaningful and measurable contribution
Much of the work undertaken by the sector is very visible and workers are often able to see measurable, tangible results. This can be an enormous encouragement and spur individuals, teams and organisations on to increase and develop the work they do.
- Worthwhile work
Charities and not for profits provide workers with great job satisfaction. Whether the rewards are personal, emotional, mental, spiritual or physical in nature the privilege of doing something that you truly believe in is a great motivator for workers in this sector.
- Colleagues with integrity and depth
The growth and popularity of the sector means that charities employ high quality, interesting people who are often very experienced and driven to make the world a better place.
- Vibrant, creative workplace
Organisations often face the challenge of maintaining relevance and addressing current needs with very limited resources. Many have become highly adaptable, open to new ways of working and creative in their solutions. Workers have the ability to play their part in providing solutions and initiating fresh approaches.
- Skills development and career path diversification
Within small organisations there is often the need for workers to undertake a range of tasks relating to the business needs of the organisation. This gives workers the opportunity to increase their skills and gain experience in new areas. Larger organisations that employ people in more specialist roles often provide the opportunity for workers to diversify their work and develop their career within the organisation.
- Contribution recognised
Charities are increasingly being approached by people who have spent significant time in the corporate or business world and have decided they would like to make a change. They find that their knowledge and expertise is valued, harnessed and appreciated in the sector. Increasingly, the lines between community and corporate sectors are crossing and the value of people from each sector is being understood and taken advantage of.