Australian Donor Trends and Medical Research

A snapshot of donor trends with in Australia and it's applicability to medical research.

Decorative only

NB: Much of the research was completed for a project prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and thus contains sources and references relevant to a pre-COVID-19 time. Many of this is still relevant, but there are some considerations in the wake of a post pandemic world.

Australian Statistics

  • 94% of all donations go to the top 10% of fundraising charities <superscript>4<superscript>
  • The average annual donation in Australia is $181 per person <superscript>11<superscript>
  • 48% of people give to causes championed by their friends on social media <superscript>4<superscript>
  • Subscription model donors give 6x more than other donors <superscript>4<superscript>
  • Only 20% of donors will become regular donors. <superscript>4<superscript>
  • The World Giving Index ranks Australia as number 5 in the world as an aggregate total of ‘donating money’, ‘volunteering time’ or ‘helping a stranger’. However, philanthropy and donating is generally decreasing in Australia <superscript>6<superscript>
    Regardless of the method of donation, the avenue of asking for money matters. Australians are already a charitable group, but as society’s ability to reach people has grown through the internet, the ability for charities to ask has increased <superscript>15<superscript>
  • Australians are experiencing donor fatigue - although tired being asked for money, Australians are not tired of giving <superscript>15<superscript>

Individual Trends

The average donor in Australia is:

  • A 46-year old female,
  • Australian born,
  • Earns between $52,000 - $64,999,
  • Works full time and has dependent children <superscript>4<superscript>
  • Of the estimated 14.9 million Australians that donate per year, Good2Give reports that 47% of people would give more money if they could <superscript>5<superscript>
  • Individuals tend to donate to non-profits that align with their own passion for a cause, that absolutely needs their funds or if they or someone they know has been affected by the charity <superscript>1<superscript>
  • Individuals are more likely to donate after first participating as a volunteer <superscript>1<superscript>

Why Australians donate

According to Charities Aid Foundation's Australian Giving Report - the top reasons Australians give are: 

Generational Giving

Baby Boomers, Generation X, Y, and Z all donate to different causes for different reasons. Generational identity influences donation habits in the following ways:

  • Baby Boomers tend to donate due to family unity in support of friends, family, and important connections and in support of health related non profits  in support of health related non-profits <superscript>15<superscript>
  • Generation X trend toward Community Services non-profits, and are particularly brand-conscious. Gen X do respond well to some health related fundraising such as cancer and heart disease, but are targeted less often than Baby Boomers <superscript>15<superscript>
  • Generation Y donate to seek a ‘helpers high’ and an increased sense of purpose. Gen Y place high importance on relationships over brands, but can respond well to ‘well known ‘ brands in fundraising <superscript>15<superscript>
  • Generation Z are targeted for fundraising far less than other generations <superscript>15<superscript>

Online Giving

  • Offline giving (such as giving at events, in collection plates, or street fundraisers) carries social currency and visibility <superscript>7<superscript>
  • The success of online donations depends on the donor’s perspective of the non-profit efforts they are donating to, sense of trust, reputation, and transparency <superscript>16<superscript>
  • Online giving is inherently private and individual, with no social visibility unless the donor chooses to make this visible through sharing on social media networks. As such, where offline giving can be greatly influenced by social factors such as peers and family, online giving doesn’t experience the same impact and is dependent primarily on trust of the particular non-profit and alignment with the individual’s personal values and interests <superscript>16<superscript>

Effect of COVID19 and Giving Trends

  • Giving was predicted to fall 11.7% in 2021 due to COVID-19 <superscript>13<superscript>
  • According to the NAB Charitable giving index - the fall in giving to December 2020 saw a 4% decrease when compared to the previous corresponding period (pcp) to FY 2019/20, and a 16% fall when compared to the pcp in the half year to Dec 2020, taking giving back 5 years to mid 2016 levels <superscript>9<superscript>
  • In Australia, we face the effects of both a catastrophic bushfire season in late 2019 with unprecedented public giving followed by the major loss of jobs in COVID-19. As a result, giving may drop by 7.1% in 2020 and a further 11.9% in 2021. <superscript>13<superscript>
  • Generally speaking, charities are in for a rough road ahead, with as much as a 20% fall in in revenue and 17% of charities risk closing within six months <superscript>17<superscript>
  • There is evidence suggesting late 2020 may have been the turning point for a recovery in giving, possibly confirmed by the recent Good Friday Appeal in Victoria <superscript>9<superscript>
  • By May 2020 more than $10.3b had been committed by global philanthropists in the wake of the pandemic <superscript>12<superscript>

Business Philanthropy

  • Corporate giving is on the rise, and large businesses donate the lion’s share <superscript>4<superscript>
  • In 2018, Australian businesses gave $6.2billion in donations, $7.7billion in community partnerships and $3.6billion in non commercial sponsorships <superscript>4<superscript>
  • Although only making up 0.02% of total businesses in Australia, large corporations provide the majority of donations. Across all business types, the education sector received the most donations (22%), followed by culture and recreation (19%) <superscript>4<superscript>
  • A study of the top companies in all corporate giving in Australia found that the 50 biggest corporate donors gave $945million in total <superscript>8<superscript>
  • In 2019, only 16 Australian companies met the 1% benchmark <superscript>3<superscript>
  • Only 4.7% of people offered workplace giving programs take part <superscript>4<superscript>
  • Koda Capital's Snapshot of Australian giving shows the top reasons why people participate in workplace giving:

Medical Research

  • Health and medical research (HMR) is a significant and strategically important part of our economy <superscript>14<superscript>
  • Medical Research Institutes (MRI) and Universities account for the bulk of health and medical research undertaken in Australia and do so on a not-for profit basis as registered charities <superscript>14<superscript>
  • Funding for HMR in universities and MRIs is derived from a range of sources <superscript>14,2<superscript>
  1. Commonwealth Government funding
  2. State and Territory government funding
  3. Competitive grants and targeted funding from charitable organisations
  4. Donations and bequests direct to universities and MRIs
  5. Their own revenue from other sources such as teaching, investment income and commercialisation of intellectual property
  6. Private sector contracts and partnerships.
  7. Many hospitals and health providers that participate in and support research are also charities and foundations themselves that support their work and fundraise actively on their own behalf.
  8. In 2017-2018 total spending on health and medical research accounted for 0.3% of GDP and 3% of total health spending. 


  1. Abila & Finn Partners. (2016). Donor Loyalty Study.
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing. (2021). Health and Medical Research
  3. Australian Financial Review (2020). Australia's Top Corporate Givers
  4. Charities Aid Foundation. (2019).  Australia Giving Report 2019,
  5. Charities Aid Foundation. (2020).  Giving in Australia: the fast facts, Philanthropy Australia
  6. Charities Aid Foundation. (2021). World Giving Index
  7. Doob, A., & McLaughlin, D.S. (1989). Ask and You Shall be Given: Request Size and Donations to a Good Cause1. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 19, 1049-1056.
  8. Giving Large. (2019). Giving Large Report 2019
  9. JBWere, NAB. (2021). Charitable Giving Index 2021
  10. Koda Capital. (2018). A Snapshot of Australian Giving
  11. McGregor-Lowndes, M et al. (2020). An examination of tax-deductible donations made by individual Australian taxpayers in 2017-18: Working Paper No. ACPNS 73. The Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Qld. An Examination of Tax-Deductible Donations, QUT)
  12. Mckinsey & Company (2020). Here’s how the positive changes in individual and institutional philanthropy sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic can take root and grow.
  13. McLeod, J. (2020). Where to from here? The outlook for philanthropy during COVID-19
  14. Research Australia.  (2020). COVID-19 Series: Report 3 - Philanthropy in health and medical research - the impact of the pandemic
  15. Sakakibara, J. (2014). Re-conceptualising the donation behaviour of Australians: a general perspective, University of Wollongong Thesis Collection
  16. Shier, M. & Handy, F. (2012). Understanding Online Donor Behavior: The Role of Donor Characteristics, Perceptions of the Internet, Website and Program, and Influence from Social Networks. International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing. 17. 219-230. 10.1002/nvsm.1425.
  17. Social Ventures Australia and the Centre for Social Impact (2020). Will Australian Charities be COVID-19 casualties or partners in recovery? A financial health check