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I was delighted to meet so many charities and sector stakeholders at the Philanthropy Australia National Conference in Sydney last month. I participated in a panel discussion titled ‘The opportunities to grow structured giving’ and outlined the ACNC’s contributions to this objective.

One of the ACNC’s objects is to support and sustain a robust, vibrant and independent charity sector. This is because to pursue charitable purposes, charities need to be innovative, resilient and responsive to emerging needs within the community.

We believe that Philanthropy is in a unique position to facilitate charities to be innovative and courageous in pursuing their charitable purpose, and supports the independence of the charity sector.

Philanthropy Australia’s Blueprint to Grow Structured Giving identifies six factors that drive giving. The ACNC makes significant contributions in relation to two of these:

  • building and maintaining public trust through things such as our enhanced Charities Register (in addition to safe giving campaigns, fraud awareness, specific reviews and our focus on education and self correction before firmer actions such as revocation) and
  • developing awareness about the sector’s vital work.

The Charity Register shows not only financial data but other useful information about 60,000 Australian registered charities. It is searched millions of times a year – more than 5 million times so far this year.

Philanthropists, donors and the public can and do use the Charity Register to see an overview of a charity’s finances, whether it is up to date with its reporting obligations, the names of its leaders, its ABN and so on. These are hallmarks of accountability and transparency — a sound base from which to conduct further inquiries.

Importantly of course, the Charity Register is only as valuable as the information on it is correct. Therefore, especially at this time of year, charities need to consider what goes in their Annual Information Statement and financial statements and ensure that they lodged are on time and are applying the appropriate level of rigour. We are still seeing charities make mistakes with their information or failing to keep information up to date. This is vital if we collectively want to see the true value of a public facing register of charities.

In relation to building awareness, research shows that knowing who the charity is helping, or having a connection to a cause, can increase the likelihood of giving. Consequently, it is important to raise awareness of charities and their charitable causes.

At the conference I shared how at the recent Building Community Town Hall meetings participants had observed that it would be wonderful if there was a register where they could look up all the registered charities in their area or who focussed on a particular issue. I was pleased to tell them that there is. The Charity Register provides meaningful and practical data about charity programs and beneficiaries. And search features allow philanthropists, donors, grantmakers and volunteers to look up charity programs close to their heart, in their local area or a preferred location, anywhere in Australia.

For example, you may want to support a charity that rescues animals or that supports refugees. You can search on a program type or a particular beneficiary cause or group. You can search for charities that provide programs nationwide or in a particular state, town or suburb. Users can then review other information about a charity such as its financials and governing documents.

These are all highly valuable insights for a philanthropist or for any potential donor or supporter of a charity. I am excited to see how this will help charities to improve the lives of Australians for years to come.

Warm Regards,
Deborah Jenkins
Acting ACNC Commissioner