NFP working group to fight for stronger sector and vulnerable Australians
28 May 2020 at 8:14 am
The head of the NFP coronavirus committee says the charity sector will be invaluable during and after the crisis
Tackling dropping giving levels and charity red tape will be the top priorities of the newly established NFP working group to ensure charities can assist during and after coronavirus, the group’s chair says.
Tony Stuart, the CEO of UNICEF Australia and the chair of the Charity, Philanthropy and Fundraising Advisory Group, told Pro Bono News the group aimed to identify the barriers charities faced when providing services.
He said the group would also highlight the ways in which the NFP sector can make a significant contribution to the community during the crisis and the rebuilding phase of COVID-19.
“[NFPs’] contribution to who we are as a country is priceless… and the sector is part of the whole fabric of what this country is,” Stuart said.
“Therefore, any government advisory group looking at how Australia recovers needs to ensure that the not-for-profit sector is represented and has a voice.”
The NFP working group, established by the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) in mid-May, will:
- gather information from the sector on how COVID-19 is affecting vulnerable Australians;
- advise on how charities, businesses and the wider community can respond better to the needs of vulnerable people;
- work out how vulnerable Australians can participate in rebuilding the country’s economy; and
- find how NFPs can contribute to the community during and after the pandemic.
Stuart said the working group was also an opportunity to take a look at reforms that could make the NFP sector a stronger and more effective contributor to crises such as COVID-19.
He said supporting the sector’s immediate needs, addressing dropping donation levels, and fundraising regulation would be the top priorities.
“We have recommended that as part of the broader relief and recovery that the government increases tax deductions to 150 per cent, at least until June 2020, to ensure a larger level of donations to the sector to offset the significant drop in donations,” he said.
“When donations to the sector drop, it unfortunately means service delivery to very vulnerable Australians also reduces.”
For the longer term, he said that the group was supportive of the sector’s calls for immediate fundraising reform.
“The different fundraising requirements are such a huge burden on charities, particularly the smaller ones,” he said.
He added that the NFP sector had taken a massive blow during the crisis, and he hoped that by working alongside the government it would show the government how important charities were in a time of crisis.
“Charities don’t exist for themselves, they exist for their charitable purpose and for beneficial interest as opposed to shareholder interest,” he said.
“That’s why I feel we need to be a priority.”
Integrity of head commissioner comes under fire
His comments come as the integrity of the overarching NCCC, set up by the Morrison government to find ways to revitalise the economy after the COVID-19 crisis, has recently been called into question.
Last week, Guardian Australia revealed a leaked report from the commission which showed it had heavily promoted gas development as a key way to boost economic growth after the coronavirus crisis.
It later reported on Saturday that the head of the commission, Neville Power, was set to step aside from his position as deputy chairman of a gas company over conflict of interest concerns.
But Stuart said the integrity of the commission was not something he was concerned about.
“It’s a very Australian thing that the moment somebody does something, they’ll find a reason to find something wrong with it,” he said.
“I think the commission is doing a great job… and the executives on the ground have been very supportive of working with us.”
The group is also supported by NCCC Commissioner Jane Halton AO, and features a number of prominent sector leaders including Martin Laverty (Adjunct Professor and deputy chair of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Advisory Board), Judy Slatyer (CEO Australian Red Cross), Nicola Forrest (co-chair Minderoo Foundation), Stephanie Harvey (CEO Community First Development), Claire Robbs (CEO Life without Barriers), and Lisa O’Brien (CEO Smith Family).
This article was updated to include all members of the NFP working group.