Governance Institute’s mission is to drive better governance in all organisations, which will in turn create a stronger, better society.
We promote good governance in charitable and not-for-profit organisations through our education and advocacy. Many of our members have primary responsibility for developing and implementing governance frameworks in these organisations. They have firsthand experience of the regulatory burden imposed by the patchwork of out-of-date inconsistent state laws applicable to charitable fundraising. Following two years of pandemic and natural disasters, the sector should be able to focus on the vital services it exists to deliver and not spend its resources on complying with outdated and complex regulation.
We are a founding member of the #fixFundraising coalition which has consistently advocated for nationally consistent, principles-based regulation of charitable fundraising. We welcomed the Federal Treasurer’s announcement that the Council on Federal Financial Relations (CFFR) has made charitable fundraising rules reform one of its top 10 priorities for 2022.
Three things need to happen to #fixFundraising
Single point of registration
If a charity is registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) and complying with its requirements, it should not have to apply for an authority to fundraise in every state and territory. Being an ACNC registered charity should give that charity ‘deemed authority’ to fundraise. This system of deemed authority should extend to those employed or engaged to fundraise on its behalf. To promote transparency, the names of any commercial (third party) companies fundraising on behalf of the charity should be publicly available on the ACNC register.
Single set of rules to help ensure ethical fundraising practice
Seven different sets of fundraising laws are not workable, particularly because most fundraising does not happen within state borders. Fundraising is increasingly conducted online - a shift that is being hampered by outdated laws. There are too many layers of regulation and too much inconsistency. There will be better compliance if the rules are simple and consistent. Australia needs fundraising regulation that is the same in every jurisdiction, promotes transparency and ethical behaviour with remedies for potential public harm and is consistent with the Australian Consumer Law and existing self-regulatory codes of conduct. The sector has designed the draft Australian Fundraising Principles (AFP) which are principles of ethical behaviour which are future-proof and allow charities to consider their particular situation. The AFPs are a draft proposal which have been tested with charities and experts. Each state would need to adopt the AFPs instead of applying their existing requirements to ACNC registered charities.
If a charity breaches the AFPs, the relevant state or territory would be able to investigate and if necessary, remove that charity’s deemed authority to fundraise. The ACNC would be notified and may choose to conduct its own investigation, for example, if it were concerned that the funds raised had not been used for the charitable purpose for which they were given.
The Australian Consumer Law would remain the as it is. The existing Guidance would remain in place and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission would continue its focus on scam fundraising.
Single place of reporting – ‘report once, use often’ via the ACNC
With this regime in place, fundraising charities would only be required once a year, to one regulator: the ACNC. Each state and territory needs to align with the ACNC reporting and auditing thresholds and remain aligned when the Federal government increases the current reporting tiers from 1 July 2022. Charities would report their compliance with the AFPs to the ACNC through the Annual Information Statement. It would be on the public register for donors and available to state and territory regulators.
25 May 2022