Charity Sector Pushes to Change Outdated Fundraising Regulations
30 August 2017 at 9:31 am
A coalition of more than 180 organisations is leading a push to reform fundraising regulations in Australia, which advocates have described as a “total dog’s breakfast”.
Community Council for Australia (CCA) and Justice Connect are leading the charge to enact change, which comes as the consumer affairs ministers are set to meet on Thursday.
Regulations for the sector differ from state to state, leading to a lack of consistency and clarity which makes it hard for many charities to be fully compliant.
CCA chair, Tim Costello, estimated that less than 20 per cent of Australian charities comply with current fundraising regulations.
He told Pro Bono News these regulations were extremely difficult for charities to navigate.
“The truth is, when you’re a national organisation like so many charities are, it costs you ridiculous amounts of money to comply,” Costello said.
“And we know compliance is rarely checked on, there are at least 20,000 charities that simply aren’t compliant, for instance doing crowdfunding without a license.
“Charities are incurring costs to be compliant for something that’s overlapping, out of date and not enforced, which is really unfair.”
Acting CEO of Justice Connect, Sue Woodward, told Pro Bono News these regulations are not only inconsistent, but also severely outdated in certain areas, with little legislation provided to cover modern innovations like crowdfunding and the internet.
“We still have regulations that talk about collection tins on poles that date back to collecting from people in horse-drawn carriages. Obviously this is ridiculous,” Woodward said.
“There’s also all sorts of detailed rules about the types and sizes of fonts used on name badges and so forth.
“We are pushing to keep the ministers aware that this is a hot topic for the sector, so they’ll vote accordingly on Thursday.
“We’re concerned they don’t think it’s enough of a priority. We want the ministers to know that the sector is calling out loud and strong that enough is enough and it’s time to fix the fundraising laws.
“Obviously they’re dealing with competing things, but if this was something that was relevant to small business, we’re pretty sure it would be a higher priority.”
Costello agreed that governments pandered too much to business interests and underestimated the importance of the not-for-profit sector, which employed around 1.1 million people across Australia.
“Government’s will jump very quickly if business coughs or sneezes, but we’ve had a series of productivity commission reports [on the sector’s contribution] and yet no government has done anything. When it’s a $135 billion sector this is ridiculous,” he said.
Sector advocates want to get the ball rolling by changing the Australian Consumer Law, so that the legislation more clearly covers fundraising activities.
“We just want some change to the Australian Consumer Law to cover charities. We can use the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), which already collects all the details on charities, to actually be the regulator,” Costello said.
“We have the apparatus there, we just need a change in the law, and changing the Australian Consumer Law will do this.”
Woodward said these changes could be enacted fairly quickly, if the relevant legislation was soon drafted.
“These reforms to the Consumer Law… could be done in the first half of 2018 for Parliament to consider in the middle of next year,” she said.
“That creates the right environment for the states to repeal their state-based legislation which has become pure red tape.”
Costello said: “Things can be changed really quickly. If they can be bothered to actually put up a small amendment, it can go through parliament quickly.”
Woodward said this would ensure charities do not have to divert resources to satisfying unnecessary compliance measures, and can instead focus on making a difference to the community.
“It will save millions of dollars. It will mean that volunteers and employees of charities will no longer have to wade through seven definitions of what is fundraising, and a whole lot of different forms and paperwork,” she said.
The not-for-profit coalition has released a ‘Let’s Fix Fundraising’ video to accompany its campaign, which outlines the sector’s concerns.
CEO of Save the Children Australia Paul Ronalds said: “We cannot afford to have a regulatory framework that is out-of-date, inhibits innovation and is costly and complex.”
CEO of the Global Women’s Project, Briony McKenzie said: “Charities like ours waste millions because of fundraising laws.”
CCA estimated the current regulations were costing the not-for-profit sector around $150 million, along with $15 million wasted in the charity sector.