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Terms of reference

Terms of reference

Review of Philanthropy

I, Jim Chalmers, pursuant to Parts 2 and 3 of the Productivity Commission Act 1998, hereby request that the Productivity Commission undertake an inquiry into philanthropy.


Philanthropic giving underpins the crucial efforts of charities, not-for-profit organisations and community groups to support vulnerable Australians and build social capital and connectedness in Australian communities.

This has been highlighted by the challenges of recent years, with not-for-profits mobilising monetary donations, supplies, and volunteers to support those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters, and the rising cost of living. As we confront these and other challenges, not-for-profits will continue to play a vital role in strengthening and reconnecting our communities.

The Government is committed to taking this opportunity and will collaborate with the philanthropic, not-for-profit and business sectors to double philanthropic giving by 2030. Identifying and assessing opportunities and obstacles to increasing philanthropic giving will provide a roadmap to achieving this objective.

Scope of the inquiry/research study

The purpose of the inquiry is to understand trends in philanthropic giving in Australia, the underlying drivers of these trends, and to identify opportunities and obstacles to increasing such giving. The inquiry should make recommendations to Government to address barriers to giving and harness opportunities to grow it further.

In undertaking the inquiry/study, the Commission should:

  1. Consider the tendencies and motivations for Australians’ charitable giving, including through different donation channels such as workplace giving, bequests, private foundations, in-kind donations, and volunteering.
  2. Identify opportunities to increase philanthropic giving and the extent of their potential impact, including:
    1. The role of, and effectiveness of, foundations in encouraging philanthropic giving and supporting the charitable sector.
    2. Successful public strategies in other jurisdictions — across business, not-for-profits and philanthropic sectors — that have enhanced the status of giving or the level of philanthropic activity.
    3. The potential to increase philanthropy by enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of the use of donations.
  3. Examine current barriers to philanthropic giving, including:
    1. The burden imposed on donors, volunteers and not-for-profits by the current regulatory framework for giving and how this affects their philanthropic decisions.
    2. The ability of donors to assess and compare charities based on evidence of effectiveness, including through impact evaluations and making comparisons across charities. In doing so, the Commission should consider the work of overseas impact evaluation comparison sites.
  4. Consider the appropriateness of current sources of data related to philanthropic giving, and how databases could be enhanced in a cost-effective manner.
  5. Examine the tax expenditure framework that applies to charities. In particular, assess the effectiveness and fairness of the deductible gift recipient framework and how it aligns with public policy objectives and the priorities of the broader community.
  6. Identify reforms to address barriers or harness opportunities to increase philanthropy, and assess benefits, costs, risks, practicalities and implementation considerations. In doing so, the Commission should advise on priority areas for reform, having regard to:
    1. The integrity of the taxation system and the current fiscal environment.
    2. The benefits that flow to not-for-profits from existing programs.
    3. The benefits that would flow from increased philanthropic giving.


The Commission is to undertake an appropriate public consultation process including holding public hearings, inviting public submissions and releasing a draft report to the public.

The Commission should consult broadly, including with Commonwealth, state and territory governments, and the philanthropic, not-for-profit and business sectors.

In undertaking the inquiry, the Commission should have regard to previous inquiries where relevant, including the Contribution of the Not-for-Profit Sector inquiry concluded in 2010, and other reviews in train, including the Not-for-profit Sector Development Blueprint being delivered by the Community Services Advisory Group.

The final report should be provided within 15 months of the receipt of these terms of reference.

Jim Chalmers

[Received 11 February 2023]