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Push to #fixfundraising ramps up after bushfire royal commission

2 November 2020 at 6:23 pm
Maggie Coggan
“After decades of inaction, a national scheme could be decided on in time for Christmas,” a fundraising advocate says.   

Maggie Coggan | 2 November 2020 at 6:23 pm


Push to #fixfundraising ramps up after bushfire royal commission
2 November 2020 at 6:23 pm

“After decades of inaction, a national scheme could be decided on in time for Christmas,” a fundraising advocate says.   

The fight to fix fundraising regulation is back in the spotlight after the bushfire royal commission recommended setting up a single national scheme for charity fundraising as a way to reduce red tape and donor confusion in times of extreme crisis. 

The Royal Commission into Natural Disaster Arrangements was established in February to figure out how to deal with future natural disasters, in the wake of the extreme bushfire season of 2019-20. 

In a report handed down on Friday, it said fundraising during natural disasters was significant, and that it was important the community understood the legal framework for fundraising, as well as the various limitations to how funds are dispersed by charities.  

It highlighted a lack of public awareness around the various fundraising laws during the 2019-2020 bushfires, leading to a recommendation that a single national scheme be created for the regulation of charitable fundraising.

Read more: Celeste Barber’s story shows us the power of celebrity fundraising… and the importance of reading the fine print

Charity advocates have long fought for the repeal of fragmented state and territory fundraising laws, and the implementation of a nationally consistent model for regulating fundraising activities.

In September, a proposal was put forward by the Charitable Fundraising National Working Group to allow a charity registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) to be automatically given authority to fundraise in all participating Australian states and territories.

This would mean charities no longer need to complete an individual application process in each jurisdiction – making it much easier to conduct online appeals across the country.

But the latest royal commission report argued the legal framework could be more effective if there is a single regulator and scheme governing fundraising. 

“For example, the Law Council of Australia, the Australian Red Cross and Justice Connect have all suggested that rather than harmonisation of the state and territory fundraising laws, these laws should be repealed and replaced by an amendment of the Australian Consumer Law,” the report said. 

Sue Woodward, from Not-For-Profit Law, told Pro Bono News that a “bigger and braver” step forward was needed. 

“Ultimately, we have to be able to answer the question of what does a charity do if they put a donate button on their website?” Woodward said.

“If the answer to that question is that they have to look at seven different laws just to work out how to comply… we haven’t answered the question and we are holding the sector back at a most crucial time. 

“We’re living in a pandemic, we’re coming up to Christmas and a very important fundraising season, and we’ve got members of the public who are wanting to donate, so we need to take away barriers that are holding back any sort of innovation.”

One last opportunity 

Woodward said that with the consumer affairs ministers expected to meet as soon as this week, there was a real opportunity for action to be taken on the issue. 

“It may well be the last meeting of the consumer affairs ministers under all the new arrangements with COAG, and [how fitting] that after decades of inaction, they could agree to a national scheme in time for Christmas,” she said. 

“But there needs to be the political will and cooperation.” 

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

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

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