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ACNC commissioner reveals CLASSIE new marketplace for charities

5 August 2019 at 5:30 pm
Wendy Williams
The charity sector does not need new regulations or standards, just good information, says Dr Gary Johns, who announced the new ACNC Charity Marketplace will commence on 1 July 2020. 

Wendy Williams | 5 August 2019 at 5:30 pm


ACNC commissioner reveals CLASSIE new marketplace for charities
5 August 2019 at 5:30 pm

The charity sector does not need new regulations or standards, just good information, says Dr Gary Johns, who announced the new ACNC Charity Marketplace will commence on 1 July 2020. 

From July next year, when charities complete their annual information statement they will be given the option to include a more accurate description of what they do at a program level, using CLASSIE software.

CLASSIE is a social sector taxonomy for Australia and New Zealand designed by Our Community, that enables systematic classification of social sector initiatives and entities.

Speaking at the 2019 CLAANZ Conference, Johns said the aim behind the initiative was that anyone visiting the ACNC website would be able to find a “richer menu” of information, beyond the name and credentials of a charity. 

“At the moment when I read the answers to the question of their activities they don’t tell me a lot. They are written in a way that it is impossible to compare charity with charity,” Johns said.

“I think the solution is that they report their programs, because that is the language they use… So we’re going to give them the opportunity in the AIS to tell us the purpose of the program, who it is for and where it is delivered.”

He said the additional information would be a “big booster to credibility” and could be used for a number of purposes.

“Charity practitioners can find a community of practice, people coming into a town can find what’s on offer, large charities can find out whether someone else can pick up the business that they really don’t want to do, governments might occasionally look at what the left hand and right hand are doing in a particular field and in a particular place,” he said.

Johns said in creating the marketplace the ACNC was doing “nothing more than acting as the postman”.

“I am in the camp that says I don’t think we need new regulations or standards, we just need good information, so that people who are interested can make their decisions,” he said.

But some in the sector have questioned whether there is a market for the new marketplace.

Overseas evidence has suggested that when it comes to giving it is not a market based decision, donors are ruled by their hearts rather than their heads.

Krystian Seibert told Pro Bono News he thought CLASSIE was an excellent way of categorising the activities of charities and lines up well with classification systems used overseas.

But he questioned the premise of the Charity Marketplace initiative.

“The available evidence from the United States shows that providing more data has little impact on donor decisions,” Seibert said.

He said it was important that an evaluation framework be built into the initiative, in order to rigorously assess its impact and effectiveness. 

“There’s a lot of discussion about charities needing to measure outcomes and the impact of their work, and I think the same logic applies to the work of the ACNC,” he said.

“It also needs to be remembered that the ACNC was not established to primarily be a donor information service, and that providing information on charities is only one part of its various responsibilities.”

Johns told Pro Bono News he wanted the ACNC to be a really good data agency.

“I want to drive the data to much greater use, if we can achieve that… I think we’ll have done a good job,” he said.

It comes as Assistant Minister for Finance, Charities, and Electoral Matters Zed Seselja confirmed the government was developing a response to the ACNC review.

Senator Seselja told attendees at the Annual ACNC Regulatory Conference he wanted to hear from the charity sector the areas that were causing the most concern.

“I have heard a number of messages, but if I were to collate them into three consistent messages: you want a reduction in red tape for the sector so you can focus your resources on serving the community; you want to enhance transparency in the sector to build public trust and confidence; and you want the government to support a steadfast, independent and effective ACNC,” Seselja said.

“I can assure you these three themes will be the foundation of the reform agenda for the sector over the term of this government.”

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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