The future of nonprofits in Australia. Secular or dodgey?

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You are probably too busy working for Australian nonprofits to listen to lengthy discussions about the future of Australian nonprofits but it’s OK – we have you covered.

RN’s Life Matters (a great friend of Hootville) recently interviewed Dr Stephen Judd who is the CEO of faith-based Hammond Care who feels that charities have “lost their way”. He has contributed to a new book Driven by Purpose: Charities that Make the Difference (forward by Rev Tim Costello). We won’t be buying it.

faith-based charities in australia

Worth a read?

We found the interview annoying. Dr Judd’s statements are broad in the extreme. He feels that many “charities” have lost their way and have no clear sense of who / what they are. His specifics are few though we certainly sense his agenda: faith-based = good; secular = bad.

The one example he gives of a charity with a clear idea of itself is a faith-based medical outfit in the ACT which refuses to provide vasectomies despite being government funded. This is apparently a positive example.

He also decries religious organisations changing their name to something less Godly.

When explaining the proliferation of faith-based Australian nonprofits he fails to mention the issue of religious organisations and their tax-exempt status. In many sectors (education, disability, employment services) private, tax-paying services must tender against tax-protected faith-based organisations.

About 8 minutes in he also claims that donors prefer to give to faith-based charities as opposed to a “dodgey brothers” option. That’s bloody insulting to non faith-based services, the thousands who toil in them and millions who donate to them. 

Dr Judd also favours the word “charity” as opposed to “nonprofit” but frankly we don’t care as much about that as the other stuff though we note that Hammond Care is a $140 million organisation which proudly describes itself as a “Catholic, independent, charity”.

In truth this extremely large nonprofit runs almost exclusively on government funding. Its annual report shows that it is 72% government funded, 18% fee for service funded and only 3% donation funded.

That’s a lot of dodgey secular tax dollars in the form of government contracts and a very small percentage of charity making things possible. Hardly independent.

An an organisation that is only 3% donor driven which calls itself a “charity” could be perceived as being awfully cute with the truth. About 97% cute.

 Your comments welcome.


7 Responses to The future of nonprofits in Australia. Secular or dodgey?

  1. Aurora says:

    Thanks Hootville, I’m listening to this interview right now. Like you, I find it a suprising example of best practice to cite a health care facility that won’t provide vasectomies or abortions (2012 yet?!).
    I think that Stephen Judd had an interesting point about the importance of being clear in purpose and mission – but yes, it is not only charieties who do this.
    There are also other important traits for non-profits and charities.

  2. Bluntshovels says:

    It was a galling interview, with a very old-fashioned view of the NFP sector. Given the profound changes coming with the NDIS and Aged Care reforms, plus the new Charities Commission, I would have hoped for a slightly more sophisticated take on the sector.

  3. MelJ says:

    Leading a secular NFP of 28 years standing, we are clear on our mission, values and raison d’etre. We are clear that we are independent of religion, are non-judemental and focus on harm reduction in an inclusive service model. A good example is the question of gay rights, where our support is unequivocal. We don’t struggle to justify homophobia while claiming to be inclusive and non-judgemental, like some religious charities. But the largest NFPs are owned by religious organisations, are generally held in good stead and work well with independent NFPS such as ours. I am, however, mystified by the massive funds going to school chaplaincy when existing models using qualified practitioners are starved of funding for youth mental health. Thanks for shedding light on this absurd view. It needs to be challenged. Oh and did anybody watch 4 Corners last night? Just sayin….

  4. Jason says:

    In Queensland, religious bodies are exempt from the Anti-Discrimination Act and can therefore legally discriminate against LGBT people. It frustrates me that this is still legally acceptable when LGBT tax dollars are funding their government grants.

  5. jilea says:

    I wonder how Judd views charities which work on environmental and animal welfare issues? It seems they may not exist for him!