ACNC Won’t Force Charity ‘Shotgun Marriages’
1 December 2015 at 9:14 am
Despite an average of 10 new charities being registered every day in Australia, the national regulator said it would not force “shotgun marriages” to reduce charity numbers.
The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) Assistant Commissioner, Murray Baird, told the Governance Institute of Australia's Contemporary Governance Conference that over the past 12 months “2,558 [charities] have come onto the register, and that’s about 10 a day” for every working day.
Baird said that, in addition to the ACNC’s primary functions, preventing charity “duplication” was a priority.
“We have three objectives that very clearly are our mantra – public trust and confidence, healthy and robust and innovative charities, and independent charities… and then cutting duplication,” Baird said.
“There was the mention… of the danger of duplication. We’re certainly playing our part in trying to identify and drive out duplication.”
However, he said the regulator would not force charities to merge, despite the Community Council of Australia’s recent call for charities to merge or shut down.
“We’ve found ourselves in the midst of some conversation as to whether there are too many charities and whether we should stand at the gateway to stop them coming in, and/or whether we should be encouraging mergers and other collaborative arrangements,” he said.
“Our view thus far is, again, this is a matter for independent, innovative Boards to consider how they’re using their resources and we will not force shotgun marriages.
“We will ask charities, on establishment, whether there are other ways to achieve their charitable purposes, but we will not close the gate for innovation and identification of gaps in the market.”
When asked whether there were too many charities in Australia, Baird told Pro Bono Australia News that the ACNC worked with applicants to explore other options.
“Our view on the number of charities is that everyone should be able to consider where there is a need in the community and to meet that need,” he said.
“We will always discuss with new applicants, ‘is there another way of achieving your purpose, could you work through another charity, could you work through a sub-fund of a community foundation?’.
“But if the organisation fulfils the criteria to become a charity we will consider their application on its merits.”
Earlier this year Pro Bono Australia News revealed that nine new charities were being registered every day. Baird said this figure was comparable to the current rate of registration, and the total number of Australian charities was 55,000.
He also said that addressing the number of charities had always been a priority for the ACNC, not just since the recent calls to merge.
“This [call to merge] hasn’t taken us by surprise, it has always been an issue – how many charities there ought to be and how they are using their resources, so it’s a continuing issue,” he said.