The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) tabled its 2019–20 annual report today.
ACNC Commissioner the Hon Dr Gary Johns said the annual report highlights the Commission’s achievements in a year of unprecedented challenges for the community and the charity sector.
“We worked with governments across the country to respond to disasters and support charities during crises, including the ‘Black Summer’ bushfires and COVID-19,” he said.
To allow charities to focus on relief and recovery efforts for the bushfires, the ACNC paused most compliance activity for charities in bushfire-affected areas, unless there was a significant ongoing risk. It provided Annual Information Statement extensions for around 7,000 charities in those areas, and prioritised charity registration applications related to bushfire response.
“In challenging times, our role is to support charities which includes helping them to meet their obligations, but we also must ensure the public are protected,” Dr Johns said.
The ACNC developed a list of registered charities running bushfire appeals, which also have Deductible Gift Recipient endorsement - allowing gifts to them to be tax deductible. The list was published on the National Bushfire Recovery Agency website to help Australians find charities to support.
The bushfires also led to a spike in searches of the Charity Register. The Register received more daily hits between January 6 and January 15 than it had ever had before, with more than 140,000 visits in that period.
“A critical part of our work is to provide information about charities to the public,” Dr Johns said. “We have seen the ACNC Charity Register visits grow significantly year on year, with more than 3.2 million searches last financial year.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Australia, the ACNC helped charities with their governance and operations, by publishing news, information, and guidance on its website. The ACNC also adjusted its approach to regulation: It deferred the Annual Information Statement due date for more than 18,000 charities and suspended some investigations.
The ACNC continued to work with other government agencies in 2019–20 to streamline the reporting required of charities across jurisdictions. Highlights included a new law passed to relieve Queensland charities of duplicated annual financial reporting, and bilateral negotiations with several states to reduce red tape for fundraisers in their jurisdictions.
The Australian National Audit Office published its performance report on charity regulation, endorsing the ACNC’s approach.
“The importance of the charity sector should not be underestimated. It is crucial to supporting the Australian community and it employs 10% of Australians,” Dr Johns said. “We directed a substantial proportion of our efforts this year to helping charities navigate through these tough times and to reducing the burden on them as much as we can.”
“Charities’ survival is vital to the community and the economy,” he added. “The charity sector is very innovative and we have witnessed great resilience and resourcefulness.”
“I spend a great deal of my time visiting charities across the country and I am continually inspired by their ingenuity and dedication. Charities arise for the most part to solve a problem – they are great problem-solvers but deserve our support. Now more than ever.”
Key Statistics 2019-20:
- There was a significant rise in activity on the ACNC website. There were more than 12 million page views - six times the number of views as in the previous year.
- There were 3.2 million Register searches - more than three times the number as in the previous year.
- A total of 32,602 phone calls and 13,362 written enquiries were received during the year. In January 2020, the ACNC received over 5,000 phone calls from charities seeking advice because of the bushfire crisis.
- 2,568 new charities were registered.
- There were 2,102 concerns about charities, down from 2,323 the previous year, most received from the public or members of a charity. The most common concerns were about perceived mismanagement of funds or individuals obtaining a private benefit from a charity.
- There were 79 investigations finalised, resulting in 18 charities having their registrations revoked. That compares with 12 revocations in the previous year, from 100 investigations.
The ACNC’s 2019-20 annual report is available at https://acnc.gov.au/tools/reports/acnc-annual-report-2019-20