Once again, charities in Australia have been criticised for administrative overheads – this time by the renowned neurosurgeon Professor Charlie Teo, who recently resigned from a brain cancer charity alleging high overheads. It was reported that the CEO of the charity said its costs were “in-line with similar charities and are carefully budgeted at 15 per cent to ­deliver maximum impact”.

At the ACNC, we appreciate that donors want to know about administration costs. There is a perception that charities who spend a higher proportion of funds on overheads are less worthy than those with low overheads. The main problem with using administration costs to inform decisions about which charities to support is that the information is an unreliable indicator of the impact of the charity. That is, the difference it makes in the community.

David Ainsworth, an English charity commentator, made the observation that the British institution with the highest “overhead” in charitable terms is probably the armed forces. He also notes that “if you put cash into the army, most of it doesn’t get to the front line - it gets spent on training, equipment and transport. And management overhead. All that cash wasted on generals and colonels and majors.”

ACNC has published the Charities and administration costs factsheet, which discusses these issues more broadly.

We conclude that there are a number of factors that will affect which charity is worthy of your support. Don’t rely on one alone, particularly if it may not be a true measure of the value of a charity’s work.

Changes to the ACNC Advisory Board

Last week, the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, the Hon. Michael Sukkar MP, announced three new part-time general members of the ACNC Advisory Board.

Ms Heather Allan, Mr David Pigott and Ms Heather Watson have been appointed for the next three years. Each appointee has extensive history within the not-for-profit sector, and will provide valuable insight and advice to benefit Australia’s charities.

Current ACNC Advisory Board member Mr Martin Laverty has been elevated to the position of Deputy Chair, while Mr Tony Stuart’s term as Chair of the Advisory Board has been extended for a further three years.

I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank the outgoing members Ms Gina Anderson, Professor Myles McGregor-Lowndes and Ms Fiona McLeay for their outstanding service to the ACNC Advisory Board over their terms. They have been great contributors to the ACNC, and we are grateful for their professionalism and expertise.

On the topic of the ACNC Advisory Board, congratulations to ACNC Advisory Board member Dr Susan Alberti AC, who was named Melburnian of the Year last weekend for her tireless work to find a cure for diabetes.

Join us for the launch of the Australian Charities Report 2016

I am pleased to invite our Canberra-based readers to the official launch of the Australian Charities Report 2016.

The report, the fourth of its kind, offers insights into Australia’s diverse charity sector, providing a detailed analysis of the financial information provided by registered charities.

The report will be launched by the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, the Hon. Michael Sukkar MP, at Parliament House on Wednesday 6 December. We will also be joined by ACNC Advisory Board Chair and CEO of UNICEF Australia Tony Stuart, and the CEO of RSPCA Australia Heather Neil.

Places are limited, so if you are interested in attending this free event please RSVP at 2016charitiesreport.eventbrite.com.au, or contact events@acnc.gov.au for more information.

Listening to your advisors

Last week I hosted the ACNC’s Professional User Group forum. This group consists of invited professional advisers and ‘in house’ legal and financial officers in the charity sector. The Professional User Group meets three times a year, which provides a great opportunity for the ACNC to receive feedback on matters of procedure, policy, strategy, performance, publications and sector engagement.

This Friday, I will be hosting a similar meeting with our Sector User Group, which comprises of representatives from peak bodies and charities. The Sector User Group is another invaluable source of information and insight into the charity sector and we are grateful for the input from both our sector and professional representatives.

Of course, we are always happy to receive comments through our Advice Services team concerning any aspect of our operations.

CMA Standards Council promoting good governance

Almost a third of the Charity Register comprises charities where the main purpose is Advancement of Religion. It was my pleasure to present at the recent launch of the CMA Standards Council, the accountability standards arm of Christian Ministry Advancement (CMA). The Standards Council was designed to build faith and trust in Christian organisations such as churches, schools and charities. The CMA Standards Council is dedicated to defining and monitoring acceptable and accountable behaviour within Christian organisations, ensuring their commitment to good governance.

In keeping with the theme of faith-based governance, I will also be attending the Faith-Based Governance and Dispute Resolution Conference in Melbourne on Tuesday 5 December. I will be speaking on the ‘Meet the Regulators’ panel, which will allow attendees to hear directly from regulators including the ACNC, Consumer Affairs Victoria and the Australian Taxation Office about the regulatory issues facing faith-based organisations.

My colleagues Nathan and Katia will also represent the ACNC at our information desk. If you’re attending, they’ll be willing and able to answer all of your ACNC questions.

More information about the Faith-Based Governance and Dispute Resolution Conference is available on their website.

Trust me, I’m a charity

New research published by the ACNC this week has shown that public trust in charities remains strong.

This is the third Public Trust and Confidence report published by the ACNC, following previous editions in 2013 and 2015. In previous years, the overall measure of trust and confidence was very high, with scores of 89% and 90% respectively.

In 2017, this figure is still high, coming in at 86%. However, our research found that the slight decline is similar to the experience of other jurisdictions where a dedicated charity regulator was established over the past decade.

Additionally, the research found that 91% of Australians currently support charities by volunteering or donating.

The latest Public Trust and Confidence report is available at acnc.gov.au/trustandconfidence.

Recent compliance action

We recently revoked the charity status of Australian Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence(ABN: 30246316893) and Childs Vision Pty Ltd (ABN: 12122572696).

Both organisations were endorsed by the Australian Taxation Office to access the following Commonwealth charity tax concessions:

  • Goods and Services Tax (GST) concession
  • Income tax exemption, and
  • Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) rebate.

The Australian Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence also had Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status.

These charities will now lose access to Commonwealth charity tax concessions.

We are prevented from disclosing further details due to secrecy provisions in the ACNC Act. However, we publish instances where we use our formal powers, including revocation, on the Charity Register and at acnc.gov.au/compliancedecisions.

Download your Registered Charity Tick

More than 10,000 charities have downloaded their copy of the Registered Charity Tick, and many charities have commenced displaying their Tick across websites, flyers, banners – and even a charity van!

If your charity hasn’t yet downloaded the Registered Charity Tick, simply visit the ACNC Charity Portal at charity.acnc.gov.au to download the Tick and agree to the terms and conditions.

We love to see what charities are doing to promote their Registered Charity Tick – if you’re getting creative or have it proudly displayed, please feel free to send us photos on our social media channels or via email at charitytick@acnc.gov.au.

More information about the ACNC Registered Charity Tick is available on the ACNC website at acnc.gov.au/registeredcharitytick.

Warm regards,

Murray Baird
ACNC Acting Commissioner