The charity sector has won a small victory when consumer affairs ministers agreed to clarify that the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) applies to fundraising. The ministers met in Melbourne on 31 August 2017 and announced that regulators will issue guidance clarifying the current application of the ACL to the activities of charities, not-for-profit entities and fundraisers. The ministers will assess the effectiveness of the proposed guidance on not-for-profit fundraising, further regulatory actions, and whether any amendment to the ACL is necessary during 2018–19.
The announcement came after a concerted push ahead of the ministers’ meeting by the not-for-profit sector as part of the national #fixfundraising campaign. Governance Institute, a member of a coalition led by Community Council for Australia and Justice Connect has urged governments to reform fundraising regulations, described as a ‘total dog’s breakfast’.
More than 600,000 not-for-profits operate in Australia. Charities alone (which represent only ten per cent of the broader not-for-profit sector) employ more than one million people and contribute over $120 billion to the economy. They are supported by more than 6.1 million volunteers, generating a wage equivalent of $15 billion each year. Charities and other not-for-profits deliver important community services in a myriad of areas that together form an essential part of Australia’s social and economic infrastructure. As demand for these services grows, government funding is decreasing. The motivation of not-for-profits to support as many people as possible often means they spend considerable time and effort raising funds from the public. However, not-for-profits are forced to waste significant amounts of time and money to meet outdated and fragmented fundraising laws.