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Timeline: Key moments in the campaign to #fixfundraising
August: Submission to the Treasury on developing a Transparency Code
The government is proposing to introduce a voluntary transparency code for charities receiving donations related to disaster recovery. Justice Connect lodged a submission saying that we do not support the introduction of the code. To fix fundraising, we need a single set of rules and principles for all.
To promote transparent and ethical fundraising, we recommend that all states and territories adopt a single set of clear principles for all fundraising − the Australian Fundraising Principles (AFPs) − that are backed by registration and reporting to the ACNC. Developed in consultation with many charities and experts, the AFPs have been drafted so that they are consistent with the Australian Consumer Law and existing self-regulatory codes of conduct.
May: Fundraising Survey reveals the ineffectiveness of Australia's current fundraising laws
The Charities Crisis Cabinet, in partnership with the #FixFundraising campaign coalition, is releasing the Fundraising Survey 2021 which reveals just how ineffective, complex and slow Australia’s current fundraising laws are.
Involving over 600 charities and not-for-profits, the research report by Piazza Research warns 40% of Australian charities say current fundraising rules are causing them “an unnecessary financial burden”. Moreover, 1 in 5 of Australian charities believes the current rules and regulations for charities have become a major barrier to fundraising.
December: #fixfundraising is now on the national agenda
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Senator Zed Seselja announced reforms to fundraising regulations to create a single, cross-border recognised registration point for charities.
The #fixfundraising reforms will:
- Reduce costs and the administrative burden on ACNC registered charities that operate across multiple states.
- Simply financial reporting requirements
- Improve transparency by centralising registration and reporting through the ACNC.
Justice Connect has been advocating for these changes for years and will continue to do so until all the changes needed to #FixFundraising in Australia are implemented.
Read more about this development on the Justice Connect website.
October: More sector pressure on governments to reform fundraising
The Charities Crisis Cabinet, together with the #fixfundraising coalition and other supporters published the paper ‘Proposing a way forward for better fundraising regulation’.
In this paper, Australian governments are urged to build on the work currently proposed by states, to go further to reduce costly red tape and create a genuinely national system in the three main areas: Registration, Regulation (ongoing obligations) and Reporting. It also proposes that the ethical fundraising practice principals drafted by the Charities Crisis Cabinet (the Australian Fundraising Principles) will be simultaneously adopted by each jurisdiction in their own laws as the ‘Standard Conditions of Deemed Authority’.
September: Steps towards fundraising harmonisation
We filed a response to the proposed Charitable Fundraising Regulation 2020 (NSW) on 2 September 2020. Further information and a copy of our response are published on our #fixfundraising news webpage.
The Federal Government has taken a possible step towards fundraising harmonisation with the release of a discussion paper on a proposed cross-border recognition model by the working group of state and territory officials. Under this model, a charity already registered with the ACNC would be deemed to hold a local fundraising authority in each participating state or territory. While there are further details to consider, we welcome developments that could lead to the harmonisation of fundraising laws in Australia and continue to work for a full solution. The deadline to file submissions in response to the discussion paper was 18 September 2020. Read our submission published in our news article 'Possible step towards fundraising harmonisation'.
August: A press release from the Shadow Government and positive legislative changes in Victoria
The Shadow Assistant Minister for Charities and Senator Catryna Bilyk published a press release noting that Australian charities continue to spend more than one million dollars per month complying with outdated laws, almost two years after the Morrison Government was urged to take action to reduce the administrative burden.
The Victorian Consumer Legislation Amendment Act 2019 (Vic) (the Act), which makes some welcome changes to the Fundraising Act 1998 (Vic) (the Fundraising Act), received assent on 3 December 2019. We summarised these changes in a published news item. The changes are effective from 31 August 2020.
July: Western Australia cuts fundraising red tape
- charity licences in Western Australia no longer have an expiry date (this means they don’t have to be renewed every three years as was required previously), and
- from the 2020 financial year, most Western Australian charities registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) will no longer need to submit annual financial statements to both agencies
For more information, read the Government of Western Australia’s online announcement.
June: New regulatory approach to fundraising in Australia during COVID-19
Regulators across the country have acknowledged that charities face a unique challenge with COVID-19 which will have an impact on fundraisers.
Organisations will still need to acknowledge multiple registrations if fundraising in more than one state or territory.
However, regulators will take a 'supportive and educative approach' for organisations that cannot comply because of COVID-19.
The NSW Office of Fair Trading has published a statement to this effect on behalf of regulators across Australia.
May: Not-for-profit working group established to investigate how charities can assist during and after COVID-19
In Mid-May, a not-for-profit working group was established by the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC).
The working group will investigate how charities can help support communities during and after COVID-19.
The group will also look into supporting the charity sector with top priorities being dropping donation levels and fundraising regulation.
April: Charities Crisis Cabinet advocates for fundraising reform in response to COVID-19.
A crisis cabinet was formed in March with leaders from the not-for-profit sector, including Sue Woodward, co-head of Not-for-profit Law, Justice Connect.
- On 23 April, the Cabinet published an open letter to the government as well as a position paper calling for greater facilitation of fundraising activities so that charities can continue to operate during the pandemic.
March: Government response to the ACNC legislation review 2018
In a blow to the #fixfundraising campaign, the Federal government (in a report dated 6 March 2020) has rejected the recommendation of its own expert panel by:
- refusing to reform fundraising through use of the Australian Consumer Law supported by a mandatory Code of Conduct, and
- failing to embrace a nationally-consistent, fit-for-purpose regulatory regime that will help charities and not-for-profits fundraise effectively
The Coalition for fundraising reform issued a media release on the same day.
October: Breakfast forum to #fixfundraising
On Tuesday 22 October, leaders from the charity, business and philanthropic sectors met with regulators and advisers at a forum to drive action to reform Australia's antiquated fundraising laws. Read our report about the event.
September: Hope for federal support
Zed Seselja, Assistant Minister for Finance, Charities and Electoral Matters, attended a forum hosted by the Governance Institute of Australia and listened to household name charities discuss the need to #fixfundraising.
August: Consumer Affairs Forum
State and territory consumer ministers miss an opportunity to discuss fundraising reform. Fundraising reform did not make it onto the agenda at the annual Consumer Affairs Forum meeting in New Zealand on 30 August.
Opposition charities spokesperson Andrew Leigh MP expressed disappointment that the coalition government hadn’t followed through with its election commitment.
May: All major parties have made an election commitment to #fixfundraising
All major parties have committed to fixing Australia's fundraising laws as part of their election platform.
April: Call for an election commitment to #fixfundraising
It is well past time to #fixfundraising. Please join us in calling on each of the major parties to make an election commitment to reform the laws that apply to the fundraising activities of charities. We need this to be an election promise so we can hold them accountable. This needs to be a political priority.
We seek a commitment from each of the major parties that, if elected in May 2019, the new government will:
- Within its first 30 days, commit to implementation of recommendation 25 from the Strengthening for Purpose: Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Legislative Review 2018 Report (that 'The Australian Consumer Law be amended to clarify its application to charitable and not-for-profit fundraising and a mandatory Code of Conduct be developed').
- Within its first 100 days, convene a meeting of all Ministers with responsibility for the Australian Consumer Law with the sole purpose of discussing amendments that would support better regulation of fundraising activities by and on behalf charities, including consideration of a core mandatory code.
- Support the repeal of existing fragmented State and ACT fundraising laws by ensuring the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission is enabled as the one-stop shop for relevant reporting and registration, including its ability to securely share data with State, Territory and Commonwealth regulators.
Read the full letters:
February: Report of the Senate Select Committee on Charity Fundraising in the 21st Century
The Select Committee on Charity Fundraising in the 21st Century was set up to inquire and report on the current framework of fundraising regulation for charities and options for reform (on 19 June 2018). We attended a hearing on 29 October 2018 and later submitted answers to questions that we had taken on notice.
More than 95 submissions were made. Read the submissions.
In our submission we made one recommendation:
That the Senate Select Committee on Charitable Fundraising in the 21st Century recommends the Federal Government actively support and assist with the development of a nationally-consistent, contemporary and fit-for-purpose charitable fundraising regime for implementation no later than mid-2019 by:
- initiating (or at least supporting) amendments to the Australian Consumer Law to ensure its application to fundraising activities for and on behalf of charities (and other not-for-profit organisations) is clear and broad;
- urging the repeal of existing fragmented State and ACT fundraising laws; and
- working with other Australian Consumer Law regulators, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, self-regulatory bodies and sector intermediaries to draft and consult publically on a core mandatory code to be enforced under the Australian Consumer Law multi-regulatory framework.
Read our submission:
Review of the ACNC legislation
The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission review panel report was tabled in Parliament on 22 August 2018. It makes 30 recommendations aimed at finding a balance between supporting the sector, reducing red tape, enhancing accountability and addressing misconduct.
Overall, in our view, it is a clear, sensible and well-written report that supports our campaign to #fixfundraising in Australia. It recommends that the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) be amended to clarify its application to charitable and not-for-profit fundraising and a mandatory Code of Conduct be developed to sit alongside the ACL. While it is music to our ears to have yet another independent report attest to what we, and many other organisations and peak bodies, have long been calling for, the time for action is now. Yet another welcome recommendation is that the exemption from financial reporting for basic religious charities (BRC) be reviewed. In our submission (in more detail below), we called for the removal of the concept of BRC, as it's not clear what special attributes BRC organisations have which justifies a lower level of regulatory oversight (no financial reporting or compliance with ACNC governance standards). We will be watching closely how Government responds to this recommendation.
We've put together a video unpacking some of the key recommendations in the 144-page report.
Watch the video here.
You can read our full submission below:
Please read our supplementary submission below:
Review of the Australian Consumer Law
The campaign coincided with the reivew of the Australian Consumer Law. You can see our submissions here. The final report of the ACL Review was published on 19 April 2017. Access a copy of the report here. It confirmed that ‘in many cases the activities of fundraisers in seeking donations are captured by general provisions of the ACL’, however, there is a lack of guidance on the application of the ACL (to fundraising). The report noted the immediate need for such guidance and proposes it be developed as a priority project for 2017. The guidance has been published and you can access it here.
It also proposed that a project be undertaken to ‘assess the effectiveness of the guidance’ and that 'this project will look at how this could inform whether any future reforms are needed to enable the sector to work more effectively to the benefit of the Australian community'. After lobbying by the #fixfundraising campaign, Consumer Affairs ministers agreed the project commence in 2018-2019. We now await further news of the commencement of the project.
Note the final report also stated that ‘some parts of the sector also suggested that the ACL should be amended so that the generic protections in particular apply expressly to fundraising. It was said that this would provide the reassurance needed to help state and territory governments reform their local fundraising laws, potentially in conjunction with enhanced self-regulatory regimes. Some stakeholders had strong views that these local laws were inconsistent, not suited to cross-border activities, online activities and crowdsourcing, and hinder the work of the not-for-profit sector.' No further comment was provided on this suggestion.
The #fixfundraising campaign calls on the Prime Minister and other heads of government to fix our outdated fundraising regime
On Wednesday 5 April 2017, the signatories* of the Joint Statement on Fundraising reform along with the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA) and the Fundraising Institute of Australia (FIA) wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister and all heads of governments. The letter calls on governments to prioritise working together to fix fundraising so community organisations can get on with what they do best - building flourishing communities. The latest version of the letter, 29 August 2017, contains more than 190 signatories.
All of our fundraising reform submissions over the last ten years:
Submission to the Senate Select Inquiry into Charitable Fundraising in the 21st Centure (6 August 2018)
Submission to the Interim Report of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) Review (9 December 2016)
Submission to the Productivity Commission Issues Paper: Consumer Law Enforcement and Administration (30 August 2016)
Submission to New South Wales Government “Charitable Fundraising Review, Discussion Paper (July 2016), including Charitable Fundraising Review Discussion Paper
Submission to the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) Review (27 May 2016)
Submission to Treasury, 'Re:Think, better tax, better Australia White Paper' (2015)
Submission to Treasury, ‘Charitable Fundraising Regulation Reform Discussion Paper’ (2012)
Submission to Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission, 'Inquiry into Victoria's regulatory framework' (2010)
Submission to Productivity Commission, 'Contribution of the Not-for-profit Sector' (2009)
Submission to Senate Standing Committee on Economics, 'Inquiry into the Disclosure Regime for Charities and Not for-Profit Organisations' (2008)