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Sector to Name and Shame Obstructionist Fundraising Regulators

9 February 2017 at 8:37 am
Lina Caneva
Charity peak body, Community Council for Australia (CCA) is mounting a campaign to name and shame ministers and senior bureaucrats that block the harmonisation of fundraising regulations in Australia.

Lina Caneva | 9 February 2017 at 8:37 am


Sector to Name and Shame Obstructionist Fundraising Regulators
9 February 2017 at 8:37 am

Charity peak body, Community Council for Australia (CCA) is mounting a campaign to name and shame ministers and senior bureaucrats that block the harmonisation of fundraising regulations in Australia.

CCA CEO David Crosbie said charities across Australia were frustrated with governments not acting to remove red tape and duplication that was costing hundreds of millions of dollars a year in lost productivity.

“Charities have had enough. Governments talk about cutting red tape, but when it comes to freeing up charities to do their work, responsible ministers fall into the arms of ill-informed bureaucratic advisers and wave more forms in our faces,” Crosbie said.

“Fundraising regulations are a classic example of feral bureaucracy.”

Crosbie told Pro Bono News there was now a majority of states and territories understanding the need to harmonise fundraising regulations and that they were willing to do it.

“It’s being blocked by really a handful of people, mostly senior officials, who just don’t think it’s an issue or don’t understand the issue,” he said.

“For us, that’s incredibly frustrating and annoying to get this close and find that a handful of people can stop thousands of staff in offices across charities all across Australia having to spend their time doing ridiculous red tape administration.

“There is no point to the current dog’s breakfast of regulations. They cost thousands of hours of staff time in wasted compliance activity.”

Crosbie said there was an easy fix if all governments agreed to work with the information already collected by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission rather than duplicating and collecting their own.

“For more than a decade governments have been saying they will fix it. Time is up. Please get out of our way and let us do our work,” he said.

Labor’s shadow minister for charities, Andrew Leigh, said: “Reducing reporting duplication would make a serious difference for small charities and local not-for-profit [organisations] like community centres and pre-schools, which often had few staff and resources.

“However, it seems the Turnbull government has no plan to assist operators within this key area of social policy.”

He said the Turnbull government had failed to appoint a minister with specific responsibility for charities and not-for-profit organisations, and had continued Tony Abbott’s efforts to strip environmental organisations of their charitable status.

CCA is a signatory to the #fixfundraising campaign along with over 150  Australian charities and professional bodies.

In September 2016 a coalition of peak bodies called on all Australian governments to provide charities and other NFPs with a nationally-consistent fundraising regime that will deliver more than $15 million in savings every year for charities alone.

The group said, currently, NFPs were forced to spend significant amounts of time and money to meet outdated and fragmented fundraising laws that differ considerably across Australia.

“Charities and other NFPs are wasting millions of dollars on outdated and unnecessary regulation – funds that should be going to Australians in need,” the Australian Institute of Company Directors CEO, John Brogden, said.

“Across Australia’s seven different fundraising regimes, however, there is variation in the requirements for fundraising at each stage, from when and if a licence is needed, to how long a licence is valid, right through to what must be reported and when.

“This duplication and confusion means charities and NFPs are having to spend time and money on red tape rather than pursuing their missions.”

Justice Connect CEO Fiona McLeay said: “For smaller groups, it can be particularly difficult to navigate these complex laws. For larger ones, resources are redirected from service delivery to compliance, with spending on fundraising ‘admin’ a significant deterrent to public giving.

“There is a simple way to provide a better regulatory framework for fundraising – clarify and improve how it is covered by the Australian consumer law and repeal existing inconsistent and out-of-date state and territory legislation.”

Governance Institute of Australia CEO Steven Burrell said: “The motivation of NFPs to support as many people as possible often means they spend considerable time and effort raising funds from the public.

“However, the current regulatory regime creates risks for donors, losses to productivity, barriers to innovation, and negatively impacts the sector’s sustainability and growth.”

The peak bodies put together a three-step plan for fundraising reform:

  1. make minor amendments to the Australian consumer law to ensure application of certain provisions to a broad conception of fundraising activities is clear
  2. repeal state and territory-based fundraising laws
  3. work with the sector and self-regulatory bodies to continue to improve fundraising conduct (work is already underway to develop a single fundraising code).

Director of Justice Connect’s not-for-profit law, Sue Woodward said on Thursday: “It is a solution that could be put in place now. The recent interim report of the Australian Consumer Law review says the ACL already applies to most activities of not for profits, including fundraising.

“Governments need to act. Why wait? As one charity told us: fundraising laws are just bizarre. Governments not doing anything to reduce this waste is just as bizarre.”

Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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