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Research projects

The Department of Social Services has commissioned research aimed at improving the knowledge base about giving and volunteering patterns and trends to support evidence-based policy development.

Giving Australia 2016

The Department of Social Services commissioned the Queensland University of Technology Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Non-profit Studies to manage Giving Australia 2016 in partnership with the Swinburne University of Technology’s Centre for Social Impact and Centre for Corporate Public Affairs.

Giving Australia 2016 has collected comprehensive, up-to-date information from individuals, charitable organisations, philanthropists and businesses in Australia and provides critical information about giving and volunteering behaviours, attitudes and trends. This data collection builds on information gathered through Giving Australia 2005.

The Philanthropy and philanthropists report, the first of five research reports from Giving Australia 2016, focuses on the giving patterns of high-net-worth (HNW) and institutional givers. Findings from this report will be of particular interest to philanthropists and grant-makers, financial intermediaries including advisors and planners, and nonprofit organisations.

Selected highlights of the report are on the news page.

Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs, Senator the Hon Zed Seselja, launched the Giving Australia 2016 reports at Parliament House on 1 December 2016. Key findings show that:

  • Compared to 10 years ago:
    • Fewer people are giving more
    • More people are volunteering more hours
  • Planned giving delivers six times more donations that spontaneous giving
  • Philanthropists are most influenced by culture, family and the ability to make positive change
  • Corporate philanthropy is thriving

Giving Australia 2016 reports will be released progressively in 2017.


Social impact investing research

The Department of Social Services commissioned the Social impact investing research report. The report provides a comprehensive summary of the evidence available on various forms of social impact investment and is designed to be a useful reference for government, philanthropy and charitable sectors.

The research aims were to:

  • identify the potential benefit, if any, of different forms of social impact investment
  • quantify how these benefits are realised
  • identify areas where social impact investment approach could be a valuable tool to more efficiently and effectively achieve policy objectives; and
  • provide case studies to demonstrate successful social impact investments.

Key findings include:

  • while the report identified examples of positively performing social impact bonds and realised savings to government, these were based on short term results. Many social impact bonds are not yet mature enough to definitively measure outcomes
  • social impact investing funds show positive short term results, particularly evident in relation to areas where there is significant unmet need such as affordable housing, home and community care and early childhood education; and
  • there is also limited evidence on the benefits of direct private investor social impact investing in Australia. While larger social enterprises such as Goodstart systematically report the social and economic impact of their activities, most sector participants are smaller in size and limited outcomes measurement capability. The United Kingdom’s more substantive evidence base suggests benefits can be realised.



© Commonwealth of Australia 2016

The Commonwealth accepts no responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of any material contained in this Report.

Additionally, the Commonwealth disclaims all liability to any person in respect of anything, and of the consequences of anything, done or omitted to be done by any such person in reliance, whether wholly or partially, upon any information presented in this Report.

This Report is made available on the understanding that the Commonwealth is not providing professional advice.

Before relying on any of the material in this Report, users should obtain appropriate professional advice.

Views and recommendations of third parties, which may also be included in this Report, do not necessarily reflect the views of the Commonwealth, or indicate a commitment to a particular course of action.

Links to any other sites do not constitute endorsement of material at those sites, or any associated organisation, product or service.

Collective giving and its role in Australian philanthropy

DSS, on behalf of the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership, recently commissioned Creative Partnerships Australia to undertake research to develop a better understanding of giving circles in the Australian context.

There are a growing number of collective giving mechanisms appearing in Australia and this research will focus on giving circles. The unique attributes of giving circles include they are made up of individuals who pool their resources and decide together where these funds will be distributed, they are initiated by philanthropists and use social connection and collaborative decision making to achieve shared philanthropic goals. They are inclusive and encourage learning about effective giving and the needs of the local community.

The research will determine the scope of collective giving in Australia, examine the different structures and determine the impact, both of grants given and the impact on the giving behaviour of members. It will include surveys of collective giving groups; host organisations, usually in the form of a community foundation; and charities that have been through the grant-making process. The research will highlight current trends and ideas about support to encourage greater philanthropy through giving circles.

The research is expected to be completed in 2017.

Giving and volunteering in culturally and linguistically diverse and Indigenous communities

DSS, on behalf of the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership, recently commissioned a research report to better understand volunteering and giving within culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) and Indigenous communities.

The research provides some insights and case stories, highlighting the valuable contribution that migrants and refugees make to Australian community life. Key findings are:

  • there is a gap in knowledge in this area
  • volunteering and giving are important drivers of social cohesion in Australia
  • the significant philanthropic and volunteering activity in CALD and Indigenous communities is often under-reported and poorly understood by mainstream organisations, policy makers and academics
  • there are a number of barriers to volunteering and giving among CALD and Indigenous groups
  • there are opportunities for volunteer involving organisations to engage more effectively.


Final report

Literature review

Program Related Investment research project

To support the development of advice to Government by the impact investing and partnership’s working group of the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership, the Department of Social Services commissioned Philanthropy Australia to undertake research in relation to how Program Related Investments (PRIs) could operate in Australia.

“PRIs are investments made by foundations in support of charitable purposes, with the explicit understanding that those investments will earn below-market returns, adjusted for risk and mission … (GrantCraft, ‘Program-Related Investing: skills and strategies for new PRI funders’, 2006, p2)

The project:

  • researches and reports on how PRIs operate in the United States and provides evidence of the potential for PRIs to increase the effectiveness of philanthropic giving;
  • identifies options for how a similar model might operate in Australia, including providing worked examples of PRI models that are likely to suit Australia’s needs/ the Australian context; and
  • analyses the outcomes of the consultation process and recommends a model suitable for implementation in Australia.



This report was commissioned by the Commonwealth of Australia, represented by the Department of Social Services. The purpose of this report is to assist the work of the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership.

Any views and recommendations of Philanthropy Australia expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the views of the Commonwealth of Australia, or indicate a commitment to a particular course of action. The Commonwealth of Australia makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness or currency of the information contained in this report.

Technology and platforms for giving and volunteering

The Department has commissioned the Queensland University of Technology Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Non-profit Studies to research emerging technology and platforms for giving of money, goods and skilled and un-skilled volunteering in Australia and overseas. This project will assess:

  • technology and platforms currently available in Australia and internationally
  • what has been evaluated about technology and platforms for giving that work in Australia and internationally
  • current Australian use and engagement with these, from existing literature and selected stakeholders
  • demographic information on usage:
    • by individual givers
    • by organisations that are effectively using platforms to raise funds (actively and passively)
    • users and non-users, to identify enablers and constraints;
  • emerging technology and platforms (what is on the horizon) in relation to:
    • giving cash and goods/items
    • skilled and unskilled volunteering
    • the potential for Australian givers, volunteers and the charitable sector to engage with these platforms and technologies, identifying any barriers

Technology and platforms for giving and volunteering was completed in mid 2016.