It is commonly claimed that Australians are less generous than Americans when it comes to philanthropic donations, but how do we really measure up?

According to Philanthropy Australia it is high net-worth individuals in particular who are less generous. In a report that aimed to investigate methods to increase giving in this income group, it was found that Australian high net-worth and ultra-high net-worth individuals tend to give at comparatively low levels when compared to their counterparts in the USA, UK and Canada.

In fact, percentage-wise, Australian high net-worth individuals donate only slightly more of their taxable income than Australians on lower incomes. According to Philanthropy Australia, in 2010 high net-worth Australians gave less than 2% of their taxable income. In comparison, Canadians gave 3.2% and those in the USA gave 3.5% – 7%.

Australians as a whole are actually very generous and scored the highest in the ‘world giving index’, measured as an average of the proportion of the population who have given money to a charity in the last month (70% of Australians), volunteered (38%) or helped a stranger (64%).

So, why are wealthy Australians so much less generous?  Philanthropy Australia cite a number of potential reasons:

  • The rise in wealth of the high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth populations in Australia has been recent and rapid.
  • The Australian taxation and social welfare system results in a perception that the Government plays the main role in addressing issues
  • Cultural differences in wealth perception: in the USA, wealth is viewed as a combination of assets and philanthropic donations whereas in Australia assets alone are considered.
  • A reluctance of many high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth individuals to appear wealthy.  These individuals prefer to donate inconspicuously and thus inadvertently prevent the promotion of a culture of giving.  Philanthropy Australia believe this is, in part, due to fear of being perceived as a ‘tall poppy’.

In Australia there are approximately 5000 Foundations that give around one billion dollars per annum. This includes over 1000 private ancillary funds and around 2000 charitable trusts and foundations.  Competition for these funds is fierce.


‘Strategies for Increasing High Net Worth and Ultra High Net Worth Giving’, Prepared for the Commonwealth Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs

‘Charitable Giving by Country’, The Guardian