The charity sector appears to have won a ‘small victory’ when consumer affairs ministers agreed to clarify that the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) applies to fundraising. The ministers met in Melbourne on 31 August 2017 and issued a statement that: ‘Regulators will issue guidance clarifying the current application of the ACL to the activities of charities, not-for-profit entities and fundraisers’. The release also stated that the ministers would ‘assess the effectiveness of the proposed guidance on not-for-profit fundraising, further regulatory actions, and whether any amendment to the ACL is necessary during 2018–19'.
The statement came after a concerted push ahead of the minister’s meeting by the not-for-profit sector as part of the national #fixfundraising campaign. Governance Institute, a member of a coalition led by Community Council for Australia (CCA) and Justice Connect has urged governments to reform fundraising regulations, described as a ‘total dog’s breakfast’.
More than 600,000 not-for-profits operate in Australia. Charities alone (which represent only 10 per cent of the broader not-for-profit sector) employ more than one million people and contribute over $120 billion to the economy. They are supported by more than 6.1 million volunteers, generating a wage equivalent of $15 billion each year. Charities and other not-for-profits deliver important community services including: health, welfare, education, the arts and culture, environmental protection and in a myriad of other areas that together form an essential part of Australia’s social and economic infrastructure. While demand for these services is growing, government funding is decreasing. The motivation of not-for-profits to support as many people as possible often means they spend considerable time and effort raising funds from the public. However, not-for-profits are forced to waste significant amounts of time and money to meet outdated and fragmented fundraising laws that differ considerably across Australia.
Across Australia’s seven different fundraising regimes, there is variation in the requirements at each stage: from when and if a fundraising licence is needed; to how long a licence is valid; right through to what must be reported and when. For smaller groups, it can be particularly difficult to navigate these complex laws. For larger ones (including many household names), resources are redirected from service delivery to compliance, with spending on fundraising ‘admin’ a significant deterrent to public giving.
Governance Institute is pleased the ACL review process has led to governments recognising that it does apply to many of the activities of not-for-profit organisations including fundraising and that governments have now agreed to apply detailed guidance. Governance Institute looks forward to seeing the guidance and will continue to work with other coalition members to advocate that governments deliver a national framework through legislative change through the ACL. For more detail on Governance Institute’s proposals see the Joint Statement on Fundraising Reform.