Charities Working Overseas Dominate Volunteers - Report
30 July 2015 at 12:00 pm
Despite making up only 15 per cent of Australian charities, those that operate overseas are responsible for more than a third of the country’s two million volunteers, according to a new report by Curtin University.
The Australian Charities Involved Overseas report, commissioned by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) and released yesterday, found that charities involved in overseas aid receive more support from volunteers than those that are not.
Assessing the data provided by 38,341 charities that submitted a 2013 Annual Information Statement (AIS) by 30 June 2014, the report found that 5,816 (15 per cent) of all Australian charities were involved overseas in some way.
Only 0.6 per cent, or 218, of Australian charities considered “overseas activity” to be their main activity.
According to the report, authored by Professor David Gilchrist and Penny Knight from the Curtin Not for Profit Initiative, charities involved overseas received help from a disproportionate amount of volunteers.
“Over 93 per cent report being supported by volunteers compared with 86 per cent of all charities,” the report said.
“The total number of volunteers for the 5,816 charities that are involved overseas and providing data on volunteers was 677,382, which represents more than a third of the estimated two million volunteers for all reporting charities.”
“There were 604 charities involved overseas and 258 charities operating overseas that report having more than 100 volunteers. However, given that these charities often provide a range of services within and outside Australia, it is not clear whether these volunteers are working on overseas or domestic activities.”
The report was written as a supplement to the ground-breaking Curtin Charities 2013 Report, released last year.
It also reiterated calls for charities operating or sending funds overseas to be sure they were not funding terrorism.
“The majority of charities that operate principally in Australia have little to worry about when sending occasional gifts or providing modest resources overseas, particularly when dealing with reputable organisations in other countries,” the report said.
“However, hardship and political instability often go hand in hand and, for charities sending funds to or operating in some of the most deprived or volatile areas of the world, there is risk that these resources could be misdirected or misappropriated.
“The tax concessions held by charities, the opportunity to make tax deductible donations and their frequent movement of funds overseas can also make the Australian based operations vulnerable to exploitation. It is important for those responsible for governing charities to be aware of the potential for their charity to inadvertently breach regulations, for fraudulent or even criminal activity to be perpetrated upon them, and to ensure their organisation complies with national and international laws and regulations.”
The ACNC said in the report that it would “act swiftly and firmly where vulnerable people or significant charitable assets are at risk”.
“For charities operating overseas, our expectation is that they understand the risks they face, including the risks of being misused or allowing funds to be diverted for non-charitable purposes,” the ACNC said.
“There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach and it is up to charities to adopt appropriate practices to mitigate their risks.”
The full report can be downloaded here.