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COVID-19 crisis revives battle to #fixfundraising

23 April 2020 at 8:17 am
Maggie Coggan
The Charities Crisis Cabinet is calling for an emergency set of national fundraising rules to help struggling charities 

Maggie Coggan | 23 April 2020 at 8:17 am


COVID-19 crisis revives battle to #fixfundraising
23 April 2020 at 8:17 am

The Charities Crisis Cabinet is calling for an emergency set of national fundraising rules to help struggling charities 

As charities face an estimated 20 per cent slump in fundraising revenue, sector leaders are reigniting the campaign to fix fundraising, calling for governments to press pause on complicated state and territory fundraising requirements until the COVID-19 crisis is over. 

The long-running #fixfundraising campaign seemed lost last year when a leading voice in the fight, Sue Woodward, told attendees at the CLAANZ conference that the likelihood of being able to achieve a fit-for-purpose charitable fundraising regime was “dead, buried and cremated”. 

In a final blow to the campaign, the Federal government rejected a key recommendation in the 2018 charities commission review to fix fundraising laws by developing a mandatory code of conduct and amending Australian Consumer Law (ACL) to ensure its application to fundraising activities.  

The campaign had also called to repeal fragmented state and territory fundraising laws, as the current laws mean that if a charity has a donate button on its website, it needs to comply with seven different regulations, as well as ACL. 

But on Monday, the newly formed Charities Crisis Cabinet released a statement calling for the removal of any “unnecessary or counterproductive obstacles” that got in the way of legitimate non face-to-face fundraising activities as charities struggle to stay afloat.  

“The most conservative estimate of impact across the charitable sector suggests a drop of 7 per cent in fundraising revenue as a consequence of COVID-19. Surveys of charities in Australia and internationally suggest more like a 20 per cent reduction,” the statement said. 

The cabinet called for the introduction of a new set of mandatory COVID-19 charitable fundraising rules and a pause on existing state and territory rules for the duration of the crisis, which they said would reduce red tape for organisations trying to fundraise. 

The new rules would be agreed to by the Commonwealth and all states and territories, would apply to all charities registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, and ACL would still apply.

Woodward, who is a member of the Charities Crisis Cabinet, told Pro Bono News that the overlay of ACL and the reporting and registration requirements of the ACNC  would mean donors would be protected against dodgy or fake charities. 

“You still have the ACNC as the key triage point – the place you go to if you’re worried about whether donations are being used for the charitable purpose. You have the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission’s Scamwatch who are keen to hear about any scam or fake charities,” she said. 

“This is just a way of supporting giving in a time of crisis. A way to make it easier for people who want to give and charities that need the money.”

She said while this was about helping charities in the current crisis situation, it could provide a useful model for deciding how longer-term harmonisation of fundraising laws could be achieved. 

“But at the moment we’re just asking for the pause, because this is an emergency situation and the last thing we want is for charities to be hampered or stymied in their ability to conduct online fundraising; their ability to ask the public for support,” Woodward said. 

A formal letter from the Charities Crisis Cabinet will be presented to the prime minister and treasurer in the coming weeks.   

“We’re asking for the incredible cooperation that’s occurring at the moment between state, territory and federal government to extend to this area as well,” Woodward said.  

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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