Not-for-profit Law
Legal help for community organisations

Fundraising reform

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The time to #FixFundraising was yesterday

Latest news

December 2020

#FixFundraising is now a national priority

Responding to calls from leaders in the not-for-profit and charity sector, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Senator Zed Seselja have placed fundraising reform on the national agenda. 

The announcement promises a new cross-border recognition model to provide a single registration point for national charities and community organisations, which will reduce the costs and administrative burden for groups that operate across multiple states.

Reforms will also focus on simplifying financial reporting requirements for charities. These changes will improve transparency by centralising registration and reporting through the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC). This is a recommendation we’ve been advocating for over several years.

Read more about this development on the Justice Connect website.

Parliament debates the slow progress of #FixFundraising reforms

Member for Fenner, Andrew Leigh spoke to parliament about the slow progress to reform state-based fundraising laws.   In 2018, the Treasury identified that fundraising law is the major reporting burden on charities. Charity laws have not been updated to take the internet into consideration.  If a charity wants to raise money online, it needs to adhere to seven sets of complicated regulatory standards to comply with each state and territory. 

Complying with these regulations currently costs charities around $15 million each year  In his address to parliament, Dr Leigh said “we tell our kids, don’t put off until tomorrow, what you could do today. Fix the leaky roof now, don’t wait until it rains.”  

Leigh received support from other members such as David Smith and Zali Steggall, who described the compliance requirements as “far more stringent than those applied to [corporates]” 

Read more about this debate on the Justice Connect website.  

October 2020

Charities Crisis Cabinet publishes fundraising regulation proposal

The #FixFundraising coalition, working with the Charities Crisis Cabinet, continues to take action to make sure Consumer Ministers know that fundraising reform is a priority. We don’t accept that the Federal Government’s proposed cross border ‘deemed authorisation’ model goes far enough.

We have presented another option for Australian governments to consider in the paper ‘Proposing a way forward for better fundraising regulation’. (Updated November 2020)

In this paper, the Charities Crisis Cabinet, together with the #FixFundraising coalition and other supporters, urges Australian governments 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’s proposed that the ethical fundraising practice principles 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’.

Fundraising laws in Australia won’t be ‘fixed’ until a charity can put a donate button on their website without having to have to look at and comply with 7 different laws!

September 2020

Charities Crisis Cabinet publishes Australian Fundraising Principles.

Alongside its submission to the Proposed cross-border Recognition model for charitable fundraisers, The Charities Crisis Cabinet (of which Justice Connect is a member) has drafted a set of principles to guide fundraising regulation. The Australian Fundraising Principles provide a national standard for fundraising to replace the current state-based system.

Proposed cross-border recognition model 

The Federal Government has taken a possible step towards fundraising harmonisation with the release of a discussion paper by the working group of state and territory officials on a proposed cross-border recognition model. 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 will keep working for a full solution. 

Read our submission published in our news article 'Possible step towards fundraising harmonisation'.

Link to more information:

Our submission in response to the proposed Charitable Fundraising Regulation 2020 (NSW)

We filed a response to the proposed Charitable Fundraising Regulation 2020 (NSW) (the Regulation) on 2 September 2020.

We made six recommendations in our response:

  1. That reporting for NSW charitable fundraising purposes should be to the ACNC, as occurs for charitable NSW incorporated associations, so NSW charities can report all their activities once to the same regulator (with the ACNC then securely sharing the data with NSW for incorporated association and fundraising compliance purposes).
  2. That the definition of ‘charitable purpose’ contained in section 4 of the Charitable Fundraising Act 1991 (NSW) be amended to adopt the definition of ‘charitable purpose’ contained in Division 3 of the Charites Act 2013 (Cth).
  3. That the current exemption for religious organisations should be restricted to small religious bodies (see recommendation 4).
  4. That the exemption categories be rationalised by introducing a universal exemption based on the charity having an annual revenue of more than $50,000 so that ‘extra small’ charities (based on ACNC data) are exempt from the Charitable Fundraising Act 1991 (NSW) and the Regulation, noting the they are still covered by the Australian Consumer Law.
  5. That the Regulation directly align the new ‘fit and proper person’ test with the ACNC ‘responsible person’ requirements so that disqualification under ACNC Governance Standard 4 becomes the underpinning for this requirement (supporting moves to national consistency).
  6. That, even if the Regulation proceeds, the NSW Government work with State, Territory and Federal governments to establish a set of core, nationally consistent regulatory principles to support modern forms of charitable fundraising and reduce the red tape burden on the Australian charity and broader not-for-profit sector.

A copy of our full response is below.

The NSW Fair Trading webpage provides background on the proposed Charitable Fundraising Regulation 2020 that has been developed to support the existing Charitable Fundraising Act 1991 and law reforms resulting from the Bergin Inquiry.

August 2020: Victoria cuts fundraising red tape

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 have summarised these changes in a published news item.

The changes will be effective from a date to be announced. If a date isn’t announced and these changes don’t come into effect before 31 August, they will come in into effect on that date.

July 2020: Western Australia cuts fundraising red tape

Western Australia has addressed the onerous compliance requirements of charities and made welcome changes to its Charitable Collections Act 1946
As a result of these changes:
  • 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 2020: 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.

June 2020: Labour MP calls for Australia's fundraising laws to be fixed

  • Labor MP Andrew Leigh has moved a private member’s motion calling on the government to fix the nation’s ‘outdated patchwork’ of fundraising laws before the Christmas giving season.  

  • He warned that thousands of charity workers could lose their jobs if something wasn't done soon.

  • Leigh's motion calls for the government to work with states and territories to create a nationally consistent model to regulate fundraising. 

   'It is the right time to help charities': ALP renews push for urgent fundraising reform

May 2020: 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.

    NFP working group to fight for stronger sector and vulnerable Australians

April 2020: 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.

What now?

We urge our #fixfundraising supporters to continue to encourage their Members of Parliament to raise awareness of this red-tape cost, and drive change. Download a sample letter below. 

An easy fix

Our statement on fundraising reforms, made with our #fixfundraising partners, shows how we propose to fix the system. To fix this fundraising mess, the federal, state and territory governments should do three things:

  1. pass amendments to the Australian Consumer Law to make it clear that it applies to charities’ other not-for-profit organisations’ fundraising activities
  2. repeal the existing fragmented State and ACT fundraising laws, and
  3. work with Australian Consumer Law regulators, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission and sector bodies to produce a core mandatory code to function under the Australian Consumer Law multi-regulatory framework.

We continue to fight to #fixfundraising. Follow our fight on Twitter @nfp_law.

This is why we keep fighting for reform... 

‘Several hours spent applying for Qld charity status with a regulated process that is hopelessly out of date plus paying $460 for an ad in the Courier Mail - not a great use of scarce funds which could have been much better used for our pilot program to provide postvention counselling & support to families impacted by suicide. As a practising accountant with 30+ years experience, the charity/fundraising compliance process would have to be one of the worst red tape experiences I've encountered. Well done on the work you are doing to have the process streamlined!’

- Paul

Treasurer, Whitsunday Suicide Prevention Network


Read the Joint Statement on Fundraising Reform:

Last Updated: 16 December 2020

The campaign so far

14 December 2020

The #fixfundraising coalition and its supporters call on federal, state, and territory governments to implement a nationally-consistent, contemporary and fit-for-purpose charitable fundraising regime.

Read more... The campaign so far