Predictions for 2020: Charities
10 February 2020 at 5:12 pm
Charities can expect transparency, fundraising regulation, wealth transfers and innovation to come under the spotlight as we move into the 2020s, writes Dr Gary Johns, commissioner of the Australian Charities and Not-for profits Commission (ACNC).
Australian charities have begun the new decade with a burst of activity and a flurry of public attention. The bushfire crisis has highlighted the generosity and goodwill of our nation. And now public attention has been drawn to the need for charities to ensure they are helping those affected by the fires, with the money they have raised.
This attention is not new. Public interest in how charities are managed waxes and wanes, yet it is ever persistent. The increased demand for transparency that we are currently seeing is a trend that will continue. The sector must unite in its messages to counter rumours and misinformation, including debunking myths around costs. Charities will need to use all channels to communicate effectively with their donors and translate their work into language that is understood.
New ways to engage and communicate will be critical to capturing the attention of younger donors. Demographers say that younger generations are less materialistic and more altruistic. Charities must not take this for granted. They need to earn the respect of youth, capture imaginations and recruit them as volunteers and donors and employees.
While charities get on with their good work, the public can be assured that registered charities are regulated. They need to meet the ACNC’s Governance Standards and they need to report annually.
Conversely, you cannot be assured that an individual, or organisation that is not a registered charity, is using the money they raise appropriately. It is increasingly easy to raise funds through various third-party platforms. Anyone can fundraise. There is potential for individuals to fundraise and bypass charities altogether. Regulation in this space is patchy. Different fundraising platforms have different rules, and fundraising regulation is not always consistent across states and territories.
Discussion in this realm must continue, as online fundraising is increasingly becoming the norm and will only continue to evolve, presenting both a challenge and opportunity to the sector. We can anticipate that fundraising both by charities and non-charities alike will come under greater scrutiny and potentially regulation in the future.
As we move into the 2020s, we are going to see more huge transfers of intergenerational wealth. This has the potential to make a significant impact in the charity sector. Last year, we saw how this kind of wealth transfer can be brought forward, with Nicola and Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest’s $655 million donation to their Minderoo Foundation. What remains to be seen is how many more of these wealth transfers will flow on to philanthropy. The challenge for charities is to ensure visibility of the work they do and the programs they run.
Over the next few years, the ACNC is building upon the foundations of the Charity Register so charities can provide details about their programs. This will take the Charity Register to the next level. It will further increase the searchability of the register and better enable potential donors and volunteers, as well as philanthropists, to find charities they wish to support based on the practical work the charity does.
The ACNC is more than just the charity regulator. It also works to support a vibrant and innovative not-for-profit sector, this is something you can expect to see more of in 2020. Innovation can help charities to deliver their work more efficiently and creatively. Each week I meet with Australian charities and I am continually impressed by their entrepreneurship and innovative solutions they use to deliver their services. Sometimes innovation is driven by necessity, other times it is driven by circumstance. Regardless of the reason, innovation is strong among not for profits. This is something that should be shared and celebrated.
This article is part of a series of 2020 predictions from experts across the social sector.