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The conservative political lobby group Advance Australia has made a claim on their Facebook wall about progressive political lobby group GetUp!:

In 2019 GetUp! spent only 16 cents in the dollar of their donations on campaigning

Pie chart with text of claim

Is this accurate?

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Yes... and no, depending on your definitions.

In October 2019, GetUp! submitted a "Political Campaigner Return" to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC)

Snippet of Political Campaign Return

With "electoral expenditure" of $2,314,890 and total payments of $14,446,914, Advance Australia can argue that only 16% of the payments went on electoral expenditure in financial year 2019.


GetUp! haven't published a 2019 annual report. If we look at last year's FY18 annual report, we find this explanation:

Expenditure

GetUp’s expenditure in the 2017-18 financial year was $10,230,453. Of this, 15.5% was for administrative costs, allocated to accountancy and legal services, amortisation, administrative staff and associated expenses, bank charges, rent and outgoings, filing fees, and insurance. 84.5% of our expenditure was related to campaigns.

As a third party campaigner, GetUp is required to report certain “political expenditure” to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). Political expenditure is narrowly defined. For this financial year, GetUp disclosed 7.3% of our total expenditure to the AEC as “political expenditure”, which forms a part of the above expenditure related to campaigns.

So, GetUp! argue that the strict definition used in the AEC returns doesn't reflect the true situation. They are far more efficient than this picture paints.


GetUp! have also published their 2018-2019 audited Financial Report.

It describes the donations in Note 4:

Revenue breakdown table

We can see $12,423,247 was received in FY19.

But donations weren't their only revenue. They made an additional $804,600 in other income.

(Should this be included in the calculation? Based on the exact claim, no, but perhaps it would paint a fairer picture if the answer was yes.)

Excerpt from Profit and Loss Statement

Also included on in this table is Campaign Expenses, of $3,626,131.

So, we can quickly calculate Campaign Expenses as a proportion of Donations: 29.2% Or we can calculate Campaign Expenses as a proportion of total Revenue: 27%

So, by these figures, GetUp! still seems rather inefficient (which is the implicit claim).

It is difficult to see from the Financial Report directly where GetUp!'s figure of 84.5% (for FY18) comes from, but clearly they include a large proportion (or all) of the employee benefits as related to campaigns.

It is also difficult to see where the reported AEC figures come from, but they clearly use definitions different to the values that are normally recorded in financial statements.


This boils down to an argument in definitions, with Advance Australia choosing a particularly strict definition, which makes GetUp! look far less efficient than GetUp! have historically claimed.

| improve this answer | |
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    90% of campaign work is done by campaigners (social media, email writing, lobbying visits, trainings, organising events) so I think it's fair to include as campaign expenses. They should really separate fundraising into a separate expense category though, like other non-profits do – Fred Stark Feb 11 at 4:45

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