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CHAPTER 7 FUTURE DATA DEVELOPMENT
A regular NPI survey is an essential source for the satellite account. This requirement would have to be embedded in the program.
Stakeholders have a continuing need for Industry Surveys such as Community Services, Performing Arts, Sport and Physical Recreation, and Interest Groups. Large scale surveys of these industries will not be undertaken in the future except on a user pays basis.
ABS industry surveys could provide a vehicle for collecting information on the spectrum of business–giving (see the section below on philanthropy).
Non–ABS information for NPI inputs
Discussions with AIHW and other government organisations are required to examine possibilities for better highlighting the contribution of NPIs in their data.
Discussions are also required with university research institutes such as the Australian Centre of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies at QUT and the recently established Knowledge 4 Social Impact Cooperative Research Centre. They have programs underway to build knowledge systems for the sector.
The ABS can have an important advisory role on best statistical practice through its leadership of National Statistical Service. Volunteering
Available sources would appear to meet most user needs for high level data related to volunteer services provided through NPIs.
There is an emerging interest in volunteering and civic engagement by the business sector. While there have been studies focusing on this, there is a need for consideration to be given to collecting this type of information more regularly.
Census data has potentially high analytical power for analysis of household characteristics down to the small area level. An important area of work concerns the need for ABS to provide advice on the coherence of data from different sources of data on volunteering, including the population census.
The ABS has not provided an estimate of the economic value of all volunteering. The large number of volunteers providing services to government organisations (including the vast number of emergency services volunteers) are excluded by definition from the satellite account. Options should be considered to address this. The satellite account could be extended to include an extra module containing information for all volunteering. It would have to be renamed as the Non–Profit Institutions and Volunteering Satellite Account. Alternatively, a valuation of all volunteering using the same methodology as the satellite account could be included in the ABS Volunteer Survey release.
There is a need to better understand the dimension and characteristics of giving, and the factors affecting decisions to give. The satellite account provides information on the sources of income. What is missing from this is information about the characteristics of givers, the types of organisations they support and the factors affecting the decisions of individuals and entities to give or not to give. ATO data is a useful but limited source of annual information on the occupation and demographic characteristics of individuals making tax deductible donations.
Information on the dimension and characteristics of household and business giving could be improved by:
Information for the sector would be significantly improved if government financial reporting systems provided information on the totality of government financial relationships with NPIs. Consideration should also be given to how to classify the financial relationships, and in particular which payments are in the nature of a grant, and which payments are for services provided. This distinction is important for the satellite account and economic statistics more generally.
Progress on this aspect of information improvement would depend on having the matter considered by an intergovernmental forum. Consideration should be given to the best way of advancing this discussion.
The number and characteristics of Non–Profit Institutions
There is considerable interest from governments and the sector in having a definitive estimate of the total number of NPIs, their characteristics and their location. Depending on the definition, an approximate estimate of 500,000–700,000 organisations is regularly quoted based on the work of Lyons and Hocking (footnote 3).
The ABS business register includes those NPIs that satisfy an economic significance test. This was around 58,000 organisations in 2006–07. It would be feasible to supplement the business register with around 100,000 additional NPIs that have an active tax status with the Australian Taxation Office. An investigation could be undertaken into what data are available from Australian and state government registries of incorporated associations and charities and what needs to be done to make it more useful for statistical purposes. However, it appears that a large number of organisations would remain outside of these administrative systems.
Following Lyons and Hocking, estimates of the potentially large number of small unincorporated associations might be updated and improved by extrapolating from small area samples or by local government questionnaire. These types of studies require a local knowledge of the sector and are probably best undertaken by state and territory governments in collaboration with sector peak bodies and research institutes. The design of such studies should also consider the wider statistical potential of such information and how it might be integrated with existing administrative information on the number and characteristics of NPIs. It is likely that a degree of uncertainty would remain around the meaning and voracity of such estimates.
Productivity Commission recommendations for a National Registrar of Not–for–Profits, if implemented, may provide the best prospects in the longer term.
B. Outputs, outcomes and impacts information
Proxy market values using input costs and shadow prices are widely regarded as providing only a partial measure of the contribution of NPIs. However, the advantage of economic measurement is that monetary units enable aggregation of the wide range of services produced by the sector so they can be placed in the same context as the measurement of the wider economy.
However, such measures do not provide information on the social outcomes and impacts from NPI activity. The Productivity Commission framework aims to tease this out. Also, to assume that output changes over time at the same rate as costs is likely to understate growth in NPI outputs because of expected improvements in the productivity of the NPI sector over time.
Although the need has been established for a suit of quantitative and qualitative indicators to measure the outputs, outcomes and impacts of NPI and volunteer activity, the ABS is not aware of any systematic attempts to apply this approach for measuring the contribution of the NPI sector. The ideas are at the early stage.
Research and consultation is required in order to scope high level outputs, outcomes and impacts indicators appropriate to the sector. This is a substantial project. The work already undertaken to develop indicators for the government sector under COAG initiatives and by the ABS, AIHW and other agencies to measure social phenomena and wellbeing more generally would be important guides. The difficulty will be to develop indicators that are reflective of NPI activity separate to the multitude of other factors that would typically influence community outcomes and wellbeing.
University research institutes in collaboration with sector peak bodies and other agencies might be best placed to lead the early development of ideas and to undertake initial assembly of available indicators.
Progress is likely to be in the longer term.
7.3 MICRO–LEVEL STATISTICAL INFORMATION DEVELOPMENT
There are two main streams of information development needed at the micro–data level:
The ABS is not in a position to lead developments to improve administrative processes. However, it is one of the stakeholders in government initiatives to improve information sharing and public access to data. The design of administrative systems should take into account the statistical potential of any information collected. The ABS has a National Statistical Service role as an advisor on good statistical practice and to promote the capture of administrative data for statistical and research use.
Government agencies that have service contract and other financial and regulatory relationships with NPIs should give consideration as to how to improve the availability of confidentialised micro–data information for research use, and more generally improve information sharing and access to research results consistent with the Australian Government’s National Compact and similar state and territory initiatives. They should also give consideration as to how to improve and streamline administrative processes around financial reporting and program evaluation, and how to optimise the collection and use of information, including for statistical purposes (collect once, use often).
Work is needed to investigate what micro–data sets (if any) relevant to NPIs are publicly available from government administrative systems and other sources. Such a stocktake could be undertaken as part of the National Compact initiatives to provide greater access to publicly funded research and data. Early work by the Australian Centre of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies to assemble and analyse NPI unit record data collected according to the new Standard Chart of Accounts is also worthy of note.
3 Lyons and Hocking 2000, Dimensions of Australia’s Third Sector, Centre for Australian Community Organisations and Management, University of Technology, Sydney. <back
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