‘Small Victory’ for Fundraising Reform
31 August 2017 at 5:28 pm
In what appears to be a “small victory” for the charity sector, consumer affairs ministers have agreed to clarify through “regulatory guidance”, the application of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) to fundraising.
A statement from the meeting of consumer affairs ministers in Melbourne said: “Regulators will issue guidance clarifying the current application of the ACL to the activities of charities, not-for-profit entities and fundraisers.”
It also said the ministers would “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 nod to fundraising regulations came after the not-for-profit sector made a concerted push on Wednesday ahead of the minister’s meeting.
A coalition of more than 180 organisations urged governments to reform fundraising regulations, which advocates described as a “total dog’s breakfast”.
Community Council for Australia (CCA) and Justice Connect led the charge to enact change as part of the national #fixfundraising campaign.
Acting CEO of Justice Connect, Sue Woodward, told Pro Bono News that she saw the minister’s announcement on Thursday as a “small victory”.
“While it is a pity the governments see the need for further reflection, the ineffectiveness of existing fundraising laws has been documented extensively by multiple government and independent inquiries dating back to 1995,” Woodward said.
“We have already put forward the changes to the ACL to make its application to fundraising clear and broad so that it can deliver a modern and national fundraising regulatory regime.
“While we are pleased the project has been given a more appropriate time frame, in our view governments could simply have moved to make the legislative changes we have proposed.”
Woodward said reform may now take longer.
“We are pleased the ACL review process has led to governments recognising that it does apply to many of the activities of not-for-profit organisations including fundraising,” she said.
“Governments have now agreed to apply detailed guidance and we look forward to seeing that guidance.
“We will continue our efforts to push governments to deliver a national framework through legislative change through the Australian Consumer Law.
“Enough is enough. It’s still time to #fixfundraising.”
Fundraising Institute Australia (FIA) welcomed the announcement by consumer affairs ministers.
FIA said the move “to clarify the existing law… and explore options to streamline regulatory processes” showed that “federal and most state governments finally seemed to be getting serious about nationally consistent reporting”.
“With the Australian Consumer Law Review out of the way, consumer affairs ministers have cleared the decks for what promises to be the most concerted push towards red tape reduction since the establishment of the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission (ACNC),” FIA CEO Rob Edwards said.
“In most jurisdictions there is evidence of real progress towards alignment,” Edwards said.
He cited moves by Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and the ACT to hand over some of their routine reporting requirements to the ACNC.
Edwards said repeal of state-based fundraising legislation, while desirable, was not a necessary precursor to harmonisation.
“We need to face reality. The recent ACL Review demonstrated the states and territories have little appetite to surrender their fundraising laws to the Commonwealth. Further evidence of this was the recent amendment to the NSW Charitable Fundraising Act that creates new powers for the government to hold public inquiries into fundraising activities it considers ‘dodgy’.
“In this environment, the best prospect for reducing duplication is to build a reporting platform that enables a charity to satisfy all state and Commonwealth fundraising reporting requirements in a single session.”
While optimistic, Edwards warned that progress could easily be undermined by failure of the states to move ahead together.
“The Consumer Affairs Forum must provide leadership so that all jurisdictions pursue uniform regulation at the same pace.”