Introduction from the Commissioner

In early June, the Chair of the Board of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA), the Hon. Helen Coonan, announced that David Locke has been appointed as the Chief Ombudsman and Chief Executive Officer of AFCA.

I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate David on accepting this new role, which will suit his considerable expertise in leadership, relationship building and stakeholder management.

David has been an integral member of the ACNC for almost 7 years, playing a vital role as Chief Adviser to the ACNC Taskforce before his appointment as Assistant Commissioner, Charity Services. He has been an essential part of the fabric of the ACNC.

We thank him for his service and wish him all the best for his new role.

Since the last edition of ACNC Quarterly, I have had the opportunity to meet with a range of people involved in the not-for-profit sector across the country. These conversations have bettered my understanding of the issues charities are facing, which has helped me shape my vision for the ACNC over the coming years.

In March, and again in mid-May, I outlined this vision during keynote addresses at not-for-profit sector conferences in Melbourne.

I firmly believe that the data the ACNC collects about a charity – its operations, beneficiaries and activities – can be used by donors to make informed giving decisions and help to drive every charity dollar further.So far, the data collected by the ACNC has given us an overview of Australia’s charity sector, providing information about the location, size, activities and beneficiaries of almost 55,500 registered charities.

However, over time, we can do more with the data.

I plan to make it easier for donors and volunteers to access and understand our data, effectively lowering the cost of analysis. In addition to making data more readily available, we want to help donors and volunteers find charities in the first place. We’re currently in the middle of a $3 million project (more on this below) to improve our website and the Charity Register, and in the coming year, we hope to have implemented a more user-centric search function that helps donors find similar charities, operating in similar regions.

For those of you who could not attend the events I have spoken at, and who are interested, you can read the speeches on our website. A video of the first speech, recorded by A-PAC, is also available to watch on YouTube.

Over the coming months, I look forward to travelling around the country to meet with charities and stakeholders, and continuing to explore ways to increase the transparency of Australia’s charity sector.

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Red tape reduced for thousands of Victorian charities

The ACNC is dedicated to driving red tape reduction initiatives which help lessen the administrative burden for Australia’s 56,000 charities, and reduce the cost of unnecessary or inefficient regulation.

More information about the ACNC’s red tape reduction efforts, and how your charity may benefit, is available on the ACNC website at acnc.gov.au/redtapereduction.

Thousands of charities registered with the ACNC are set to benefit from a new reporting exemption, after the Victorian Government recently signed an exemption order to reduce duplicate reporting for incorporated associations.

If you are an incorporated association registered with both the ACNC and Consumer Affairs Victoria, and your charity’s financial year ends on or after 30 June 2018, you may no longer need to:

  • lodge an annual statement with Consumer Affairs Victoria, or
  • pay an annual statement lodgement fee to Consumer Affairs Victoria.

Incorporated associations must submit an Annual Information Statement to the ACNC, and must continue to meet the ACNC’s regulatory requirements. The information provided in the Annual Information Statement will then be passed on to Consumer Affairs Victoria.

Some exceptions may apply. For more information about the changes, or to determine if they will impact your charity, visit acnc.gov.au/VIC or the Consumer Affairs Victoria website.

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Transitional reporting arrangements extended

The ACNC has a number of transitional reporting arrangements in place, designed to reduce the reporting burden on charities that are required to report to multiple government agencies.

The Government has extended the transitional reporting arrangements to include the 2017–18 and 2018–19 financial years. This allows the ACNC Commissioner to accept reporting that is prepared for other government agencies, which is good news for thousands of registered charities!

Charities will be able to provide financial reports prepared for state and territory regulators to the ACNC as part of their annual reporting obligation. The ACNC is also able to accept financial questionnaires and statements lodged by non-government schools with the Department of Education and Training, and annual returns lodged by Indigenous Corporations with the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC).

To find out if these arrangements apply to your charity, visit acnc.gov.au/transitionalreporting.

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2017 Annual Information Statements now due for many charities

More than 10,000 charities that report on a calendar year (from 1 January to 31 December) will be required to submit their 2017 Annual Information Statement by 30 June 2018.

All charities are required to submit an Annual Information Statement, it is an ongoing obligation of maintaining charity status with the ACNC.

Failing to submit your Annual Information Statement may result in receiving a red mark on your ACNC Charity Register listing, financial penalties, or ultimately, having your charity status revoked. The loss of charity status strips entitlement to Commonwealth charity tax concessions.

The ACNC has a variety of resources to assist you in completing your Annual Information Statement – including a checklist, and the step-by-step 2017 AIS Guide.

Visit acnc.gov.au/2017AIS for more.

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Introducing the IT upgrade project

The ACNC is currently undertaking a $3 million project to improve and upgrade our IT systems, delivering better speeds and functionality across the ACNC’s IT infrastructure, particularly the ACNC Charity Portal.

So that your charity can be prepared for the upcoming changes, please ensure that your Address for Service – the official address we use to contact you – is up to date. It’s also a good idea to provide an email address for any of your charity’s responsible persons (board members).

The email address you provide for a board member isn’t published on the Charity Register, however we can use it to contact your charity in the future if your Address for Service no longer reaches you.

It’s important to ensure we have up to date email addresses, as we will be contacting all charities over the coming months to provide new credentials for accessing the ACNC Charity Portal.

Everything you need to know about an address for service, including how to update it, can be found at acnc.gov.au/afs.

The ACNC’s IT projects will encompass a range of improvements, including:

  • The speed and functionality of the Charity Portal, which will make submitting Annual Information Statements quicker, and easier
  • Updating our website design and layout, so it is more user-friendly for those looking for information to manage their charity, or those looking for information about charities and the sector
  • Improving the accessibility, searchability, and responsiveness of the Charity Register for donors and the public
  • Implementing a new customer relationship management system that provides automation, workflow and quality assurance to support and streamline our internal operations

Attention:You need to know! Interested in receiving further updates?
The fortnightly Commissioner’s Column contains updates on ACNC projects, new resources, news and more. Sign up to receive the column in your inbox at acnc.gov.au/signup.

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Newly registered charities this quarter

In March, April and May 2018, the ACNC registered almost 700 new charities – welcome! These new charities will be responsible for providing a range of support to their chosen beneficiaries – including education, healthcare, disability services, environmental protection, crisis support and more

Thank you to our newly registered charities, and all charities, for displaying your commitment to transparency and accountability through your registration with the ACNC.

We look forward to hearing more about the improvements you’re making to your community.

More information about the newest registered charities is available on the ACNC website at acnc.gov.au/recentlyregistered.

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Is your charity considering a merger? What you need to know

Increased resources, shared goals and wider reach are some of the reasons charities decide to merge. However, charity mergers can be complicated. It is important that all parties consider the details of a merger and understand the steps involved before embarking on the process.

You may need to get professional advice when deciding whether or not to merge your charity with another, especially if you have employees, valuable property or contracts.

For more information on what to consider before a charity merger, visit: 
acnc.gov.au/merge.

Tips for charities considering a merger

  • A charity cannot merge with an organisation that is not registered with the ACNC, or is a for-profit business
  • Check the governing documents of both charities closely, sometimes they contain instructions on what do in the event of a merger or the charity winding up
  • If a charity is an incorporated association, check the incorporating regulator’s rules and processes
  • Understand your legal obligations to your employees, as well as requirements relating to other contracts, such as leases
  • If you are setting up a new charity as a result of the merger, do this before you apply to revoke the existing charities’ registration with the ACNC

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Get to know - Women’s Health and Wellbeing Barwon South West Inc.

We spoke with Emily Lee-Ack, CEO of Women’s Health and Wellbeing Barwon South West Inc., to discuss the work of the charity.

What does your charity do?

We are a health promotion charity, focusing on women’s health and wellbeing. Our key areas of priority are the prevention of violence against women, improving sexual and reproductive health and gender equality for improved health outcomes. We work with local government, health services, workplaces and sporting clubs to make their activities healthier and safer for women in the Barwon South West Region of Victoria.

What is the most rewarding part of running your charity?

We strive to be part of cultural change in our region – when we see organisations taking action to reduce violence against women or to provide more protective environments for women and girls, that is a great outcome for us.

What is the biggest challenge faced by your charity?

Our biggest challenge is ensuring that we have enough resources to do the work that we need to do. We cover a large region and our staff work incredibly hard, but there is always so much more to do.

In previous years, your charity submitted their AIS a little bit late – but this year you were early in your reporting. What changes did you make?

We have realigned our reporting to be undertaken all at once to the earliest deadline available, rather than treating each reporting deadline as a separate action. We have also implemented a project management system and compliance calendar.

What tips do you have for charity governance?

Transparency for the community and stakeholders is really important. We work hard on our communications and try to ensure that people understand our work. We also know that there are always ways to improve our service and encourage regular discussions between staff and the Board to further this understanding.

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Applications for Australian Aid: Friendship Grants now open

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) have now opened applications for Australian Aid: Friendship Grants.

Eligible organisations, including charities, can now apply for grants of $30,000 to $60,000 to expand or enhance their existing aid activities in the Indo-Pacific region, including through new projects.

Applications close Monday 27 August.

To find out more or register your interest, visit dfat.gov.au/FriendshipGrants.

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Education update

Useful resources

The ACNC has a project underway to develop a set of resources specifically to help small charities.

Around 67% of Australia’s charities are classed as small (with annual revenue of less than $250,000). These resources will provide informative overviews of a variety of topics relevant to these charities.

Charities will be able to use individual help sheets to work through specific issues or topics, or they will be able to access the resources as a package, using them as material for handover processes, board, staff or volunteer inductions.

We will keep you updated on this project as it progresses in the coming months.

Other recently-released resources

  • The Australian Electoral Commission has published new guidance to help explain the obligations under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 which may impact third party campaigners. The guidance is now available to download from the AEC website.
  • Moores Legal and Our Community have compiled a toolkit aimed at helping charities create child safe organisations.
  • A new guide for charities on complaints handling has been developed, and is available on the NFPLaw website.

Webinars

We have been busy over the past two or three months, hosting five webinars on a variety of topics:

  • Managing charity finances (with a focus on helping smaller charities)
  • Charity tax concessions
  • Managing staff and volunteers (with a focus on helping smaller charities)
  • Staying on track – tips for charity management and meeting obligations
  • Help with the Annual Information Statement
  • Giving to legitimate charities – what a charity is and how to find information about registered
    charities.

Recordings of all five presentations, as well as the PowerPoint presentations, are available on the ACNC website.

Coming webinars will focus on:

12 July - Managing conflicts of interest

24 July - Managing disputes

21 August - Holding the Annual General Meeting – obligations, tips and advice
25 September - Welcome to the board – Advice for new charity board members

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Helping you this quarter

Advice Services’ most frequently asked questions

When is my charity’s Annual Information Statement due?

Your Annual Information Statement is due six months after the end of your charity’s reporting period. The two most common reporting deadlines are:

  • 31 December, for charities reporting to a regular financial year (1 July to 30 June)
  • 30 June, for charities reporting to a calendar year (1 January to 31 December)

For more details about Annual Information Statement deadlines, including a table to work out your charity’s due date, visit acnc.gov.au/duedate.

Where can I get more help with my charity’s Annual Information Statement?

Visit acnc.gov.au/2017AIS to access our Annual Information Statement resources. The resources include a checklist, videos and a step-by-step guide that explains how to answer each question. If you are still unsure of how to answer a certain question, you can always contact our helpful Advice Services team for assistance over the phone (13 22 62) or via email.

What is the Registered Charity Tick, and how can I access it for my charity?

The ACNC Registered Charity Tick aims to gives reassurance to the public that the charity is transparent and accountable, by highlighting its registration with the ACNC.

Everything you need to know about the Registered Charity Tick, including the terms and conditions, are available at 
acnc.gov.au/registeredcharitytick.

To accept the terms and conditions of the Registered Charity Tick and download the artwork, visit the ACNC Charity Portal at charity.acnc.gov.au.

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Connect with ACNC

Interact with us and other charities on social media:

Facebook: acnc.gov.au
Twitter: @acnc_gov_au
LinkedIn: Aussie Charities & NFPs
YouTube: acncvideos

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