Annual general meetings and good governance
It’s a busy time for charities operating on a financial year with many holding annual general meetings (AGMs) at this time. As well as a chance to celebrate your successes from the previous year, these meetings provide an opportunity for your charity’s members to hear about the charity’s activities and finances, ask questions and be involved in the election of board or committee members.
AGM time is a good opportunity to consider how your charity is meeting the ACNC governance standards. For example, holding an AGM is one of the ways that a charity can demonstrate that it is accountable to its members, required under governance standard two.
The standards also require charities to take reasonable steps to ensure that its board or committee members (responsible persons) are suitable for their roles (governance standard four) and that these people understand and are carrying out their duties (governance standard five).
While the ACNC does not require charities to hold an AGM, charities should check their rules and any legislation that applies to them to find out whether they are required to do so. Keep in mind that if your charity makes certain changes at its AGM (such as to its legal name, responsible persons or governing documents), you must notify the ACNC.
The ACNC has developed resources to help charities to meet their obligations at AGM time and will soon be releasing further resources such as template minutes, agendas and notices.
Deadline for 2014 Annual Information Statement approaching
Some of the information discussed during your AGM such as about your charity’s activities and finances are required as part of your 2014 Annual Information Statement. Your AGM is therefore also an opportune time to start preparations for your 2014 Annual Information Statement. If your charity operates on a standard financial year, your 2014 Annual Information Statement is due on 31 December 2014. Charities with a different reporting period have six months from the end of the reporting period to submit their 2014 Annual Information Statement.
Charities can submit their 2014 Annual Information Statement using the Charity Portal. Your 2014 Annual Information Statement will be pre-populated with information from your 2013 Annual Information Statement to make it much easier and quicker to complete. If you have forgotten your password to the Charity Portal, you can contact us to have a new one issued.
I would like to remind charities that this year you will need to provide some basic financial information as part of your Annual Information Statement. The amount of financial information varies depending on your charity’s size (small, medium or large), but most of the information should be readily available in your balance sheet, and profit and loss statement.
Further, financial year charities are advised not to wait til the 31 December deadline for two reasons:
- experience has shown that there is a surge of submissions around the deadline slowing the processes on the ACNC Charity Portal
- the ACNC (like other Commonwealth government agencies) has a shutdown and will not be operating during the Christmas - New Year period so there will be not be staff available to help charities with the submission process.
More information and guidance on the 2014 Annual Information Statement is available on our website at acnc.gov.au/2014AIS.
Curtin Charities 2013 Report events
The Curtin Charities 2013 Report is being launched in a number of locations to provide the opportunity to hear directly from the researchers the key findings from this first comprehensive data analysis of charities in Australia. I attended the Perth and Melbourne events, both hosted by Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand. The Governance Institute of Australia hosted the launch in Sydney. Dr Tessa Boyd-Caine (ACOSS Deputy CEO) was a guest speaker at the Sydney launch. She has recently completed a Fulbright Professional Scholarship in Non Profit Leadership based in New York, and shared some observations of the NFP sector in the United States, including their commitment to data collection for the purposes of informing donors and grant-makers, and for providing a basis for evidence-based decision-making. She agrees that the Curtin Charities 2013 Report makes an incredibly valuable contribution to the sector.
There will be two more events in Adelaide and Brisbane and you can register your interest to attend. Please note registrations are limited and will be accepted on a first come first served basis.
|Brisbane||Wednesday 29 October||Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand|
|Adelaide||To be advised||To be advised|
New Ask ACNC sessions in Kalgoorlie and Burnie
In addition to the session in Kalgoorlie on 10 November announced last week, I am happy to announce another Ask ACNC session in Burnie on 15 November. As I’ve said before, the response from the charity sector has been astounding with over 3 500 registrations for our sessions. Particularly with the 2014 Annual Information Statement deadline approaching for many charities, I hope charities in Kalgoorlie and Burnie will take advantage of the opportunity to come and talk to us.
While registrations for Burnie are not open yet, people can register for the Kalgoorlie session here.
A group of 400 missing charities had until Monday 14 October to notify the ACNC that they were still operating in order to avoid revocation of their charity status. Following this last attempt at finding them, which formed part of a very exhaustive search, as of 20 October, we have now revoked the charity status of 388 of these charities. Revoking charities that we believe are no longer operating is necessary to maintaining and building the Charity Register - Australia’s first free, searchable, database of registered charities. We will continue this process of cleaning up our Charity Register in the coming months.
Late 2013 Annual Information Statement filers
Over 45 000 charities have completed their 2013 Annual Information Statement – this is an incredible achievement and I would like to thank all the charities that have submitted. This information has helped to build Australia’s first freely accessible charities register and enabled us to publish a reliable snapshot of the work of charities in Australia. As I have mentioned in previous columns, those that do not submit their 2013 Annual Statements, which are now well overdue, may face penalties. I would like to remind charities that are now more than six months late, that they must submit their 2013 Annual Information Statement by 31 October 2014 to avoid having their charity’s entry on the ACNC Charity Register amended to show that their 2013 Annual Information Statement is ‘overdue’. These notices will be put against individual non-compliant charities on the register beginning in early November. This statement is an indication that the charity has not met its regulatory obligations, so that potential donors and grant-makers can make informed choices when searching the register.
If we have evidence that charities are intentionally not submitting, the ACNC will apply penalties. Charities that also fail to submit their 2014 Annual Information Statement may also have their charity status revoked, and lose their entitlement to Commonwealth charity tax concessions. Find out more about ACNC’s regulatory approach, click here.
Susan Pascoe AM
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