In addition to looking at concerns about individual charities, the ACNC also looks at trends to identify broader areas of concern to focus on. To do this, we:

  • analyse data and research about charities
  • analyse the complaints we receive
  • analyse findings from past reviews and investigations, and
  • work with other Australian and international regulators to identify common themes and areas of potential risk.

The review of the ACNC legislation, and the Government’s response to it, identified that we needed access to criminal intelligence information to help prevent registered charities being used for criminal purposes. This may include securely sharing information about charities and their Responsible People with other Commonwealth agencies in accordance with relevant legislation and our policies. Sharing this information is authorised by the ACNC Act (section 150-40) and complies with the Privacy Act 1988. See our full privacy policy.

When risks are identified, the ACNC may:

  • provide information and guidance for charities on managing these risks
  • carry out targeted compliance activity
  • work collaboratively with other regulators
  • issue alerts on emerging issues

Compliance concern: governance

Our analysis consistently finds that poor governance (management of a charity) is the main factor causing ACNC compliance activity. Concerns about governance affect charities of all sizes and locations, with many reported concerns involving charities that are relatively new (less than 5 years old).

The ACNC’s Governance Standards are a set of core, minimum standards that deal with how charities are run. Charities registered with the ACNC must meet the Governance Standards.

If a charity is no longer not-for-profit, or it is not pursuing its charitable purpose the ACNC would be concerned about its governance (specifically Governance Standard 1).

If charitable assets or funds are used inappropriately (such as to purchase private assets) the ACNC would investigate failures of responsible persons to meet their duties (Governance Standard 5) or if a charity is not being accountable to its members (Governance Standard 2).

The ACNC has tools and resources to support charities to meet the Governance Standards, including guidance on good governance, and protecting against fraud.

Issues and alerts

As part of our work in identifying broader concerns, where appropriate, we seek to alert charities and the broader community ongoing and emerging issues relating to charity regulation.

Overseas aid charities and terrorist financing

The not-for-profit sector has been identified as vulnerable to the risk of misuse for the purpose of terrorism financing. Charities sending money overseas may be at risk of their charitable funds being diverted or misused to fund terrorist activity, even if their intentions are to help in line with their charitable purposes.

It is important that charities have processes in place to ensure that their funds are safe from misuse and are being used for their charitable purpose. Overseas charities already have existing obligations under law, including the ACNC Governance Standards, to do so.

To further help address this risk, charities that operate overseas or send money, goods or services overseas are required to comply with the recently introduced ACNC External Conduct Standards.

There are four External Conduct Standards, which require charities to take reasonable steps to ensure appropriate standards of behaviour, governance and oversight when undertaking activities overseas.