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ACNC review highlights importance of fundraising reform

In its submission to the five-year review of the Australian Charites and Not-for-profit Commission (ACNC) Acts, Governance Institute has highlighted the importance of fundraising reform to address regulatory inefficiencies and costs impacting charities, while praising the work of the commission.

‘Our support of the ACNC is based on its constructive presence as a regulator, its effectiveness in raising the accountability and governance standards of charities and its success in providing significant education to the sector, as well as providing the sector with visibility,’ says Governance Institute chief executive Steven Burrell.

The terms of reference of the Review asked respondents what activities or behaviours by charities and not-for-profits have the greatest ability to erode public trust and confidence.

‘Apart from criminal misconduct such as fraud or theft it is issues surrounding charitable fundraising, including the costs of fundraising, which are the activities and behaviours with the greatest ability to erode public trust and confidence in the sector,’ Mr Burrell said.

‘Current regulation forces charities and not-for-profits to waste significant amounts of time and money in meeting outdated fundraising laws that differ considerably across Australia’ he said.

Governance Institute, as part of the #fixfundraising coalition, has previously called on the Government to reform the regulatory regime through three easy steps. In its submission, Governance Institute reiterated its call to create a nationally consistent regulatory system by:

  1. making minor amendments to the Australian Consumer Law to ensure application to fundraising activities is clear and broad
  2. repealing state-based fundraising laws, and
  3. working with other regulators to improve fundraiser conduct.

‘Despite our public campaign, which has received widespread community support, the Government has followed the recommendation of Consumer Affairs Australia and New Zealand and limited its response to clarifying, through regulator guidance, the current application of the ACL to the activities of charities, NFP entities and fundraisers’ Mr Burrell said.

‘It would also further improve accountability and transparency if all not-for-profit entities were covered by the same regulator and if the general public were able to access information on all not-for-profit entities from the same register,’ added Mr Burrell.

‘However, any extension of the ACNC regulatory framework to NFP could only take place following broad consultation with all relevant stakeholders on the practical aspects of such a model to determine the appropriate level of regulation’ he said.

Governance Institute commended the work of the ACNC in reducing red tape for charities, in particular its work with states on harmonisation, and recommended the Government continue to pursue further harmonisations and take the lead in advancing inter-governmental co-operation.

‘We recommend the Government encourage greater uptake of the ‘report once, use often’ framework to reduce reporting and paperwork demands on charities’ Mr Burrell said.

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