Susan Pascoe, Our Commissioner

On Saturday, the ACNC celebrated its fourth birthday. The time certainly has flown since the ACNC was established on 3 December 2012 and I am extremely proud of what the ACNC has achieved over the first four years.

The Charity Register has proved to be a useful tool for donors and the public, and has now been searched over 1.6 million times.

Over the last four years we have registered over 10,500 new charities and revoked or removed over 15,000 entities from the Charity Register. We have taken robust compliance action where we have uncovered misconduct and serious mismanagement in charities and have produced a wide range of guidance and education materials to help people to ‘swim between the flags’ of sound governance.

Along with our colleagues in the state and territory governments, we have made significant progress toward reducing red tape for charities, with both South Australia and Tasmania passing legislation to harmonise reporting. There is much more to do to deliver on our object of reducing regulatory duplication. I can assure you all that this remains a high priority for us.

Tick of Charity Registration

Over the past four year years registered charities have expressed a desire to display their charity status to the public.

I am pleased to announce that the ACNC has just launched the Tick of Charity Registration or Registered Charity Tick for short.

The Registered Charity Tick is a simple, attractive logo that registered charities can use to show their charity status.

To download a copy of the Registered Charity Tick, registered charities need to log into the Charity Portal and read and accept the terms and conditions. It’s that simple!

Registered charities are not required to use the Registered Charity Tick; however over 1,000 charities have download it in a matter of days.

Many registered charities are using the Registered Charity Tick on their website, and we are encouraging them to link the image file back to their Charity Register listing. This will give donors immediate access to the wealth of information available on the charity’s Register listing.

At the moment we are emailing all registered charities to let them know that the Registered Charity Tick is available. On 14 December 2016, we will officially launch the Registered Charity Tick to raise awareness amongst members of the public.

For more information about the Registered Charity Tick, visit acnc.gov.au/registeredcharitytick.

Australian Charities Report 2015

On the 14 December, we will also launch the Australian Charities Report 2015. The Australian Charities Report is our annual flagship piece of research, and is essentially a charity sector census.

The 2015 edition builds on the findings from 2014 and contains new information about the size, activities and impact of Australia’s charities.

Produced by the Centre for Social Impact in partnership with the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, the report analyses data submitted through the 2015 Annual Information Statement from almost 51,000 charities registered with the ACNC. (Certain charities don’t have to report in particular years such as newly registered charities.)

This report is a valuable resource to help charities, donors, governments, researchers and the community better understand the sector.

I can’t give away the key findings just yet, but as a reader of this column, you’ll be one of the first to receive a copy next week. Stay tuned!

The full report, including the interactive data cube, will be available at australiancharities.acnc.gov.au.

Charity reserves: financial stability and sustainability guidance

One of the objects of the ACNC is to support a sustainable sector. To this end, we are always looking for opportunities to produce guidance to help charities manage their operations efficiently and effectively.

Our latest guidance encourages charities to maintain reserves to ensure financial stability and sustainability. We know for many charities just raising the funds that they need to operate is a big enough challenge, let alone generating a surplus. Others have told us they are reluctant to build up reserves because they believe that funders will not be as inclined to fund them.

Maintaining an appropriate level of reserves is responsible financial management. It is important that charity boards properly consider maintaining and managing reserves. The guidance explains clearly to funders why charities need reserves. We hope that this will assist boards with their financial decisions and will give charities material that they can direct potential funders as well.

The new guidance, Charity reserves: financial stability and sustainability, outlines the key considerations for developing a good reserves policy.

Download your copy of the guidance here.

Recent media coverage

Last week you may have seen me on television discussing charity fundraising, specifically on Channel Ten’s The Project, and Channel Seven’s Weekend Sunrise.

Fundraising and administration costs are topical issues, especially heading into the traditional Christmas giving period.

Now more than ever, charity boards need to ensure that if they enter contractual arrangements with third party fundraisers they are doing appropriate due diligence, the contractual terms are reasonable and proper supervision is undertaken by the charity to ensure that the third party provider is acting appropriately.

The values of your charity need to be reflected in the ethics and conduct of your fundraising, no matter who conducts it on your behalf. If you cannot defend the costs of the fundraising, the methods used, or the actions of those acting on your behalf, then you risk compromising public trust in your charity.

While there is no mandated fundraising cost ratio imposed by the ACNC, there certainly is a community expectation, and this has been reinforced by the recent media coverage.

Charity boards have a role to play in ensuring that they are not putting the charity at risk of reputational damage by entering into agreements with providers that are acting improperly, or illegally, or deliver poor value for money. Remember that even if fundraising is undertaken by third parties it is still your brand. The ACNC will hold the board of the charity responsible for the exercise of appropriate governance.

I encourage all registered charities that undertake fundraising activities to review our new guidance at acnc.gov.au/fundraisingagencies.

For other fundraising related questions and concerns, charities and members of the public can visit acnc.gov.au/FundraisingFAQs.

Reporting harmonisation for South Australian charities

As I mentioned above, South Australia has passed legislation to harmonise reporting.

From 1 December, Registered charities that hold a Collections for Charitable Purposes Licence will no longer need to report annually to Consumer and Business Services (CBS), provided they meet certain conditions and continue to report annually to the ACNC.

From 1 January 2017, this reporting agreement will extend to registered charities that are Prescribed Associations in South Australia.

A two year transitional reporting arrangement is in place to give affected South Australian charities time to adjust to ACNC reporting requirements. To find out more read transitional reporting arrangements.

Have your say: National Standard Chart of Accounts

You’re invited to complete a quick survey on the use and value of the National Standard Chart of Accounts (NSCOA) – an agreed list of financial account categories and a data dictionary for use by NFPs.

If you are a professional advisor, please complete this survey.

If you are a non-government grant maker/funder, please complete this survey.

The survey only takes a few minutes to complete. Whether you have or haven’t implemented or used the NSCOA, your input will guide the continual improvement of the NSCOA, as well as increase its benefits for the sector.

The intention of the surveys is to better understand the level of awareness, use and value of the NSCOA, as well as any challenges or benefits of adopting the NSCOA that users have identified.

You can find more information on the NSCOA – as well access to the NSCOA in both PDF and Excel formats – here.

Leadership in Government Awards 2016

And finally the work of the ACNC was recently recognised at the 2016 Leadership in Government Awards presented by Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ), in Canberra on 24 November 2016.

I was honoured to accept the Outstanding Contribution in Public Administration Award. It was truly humbling to accept this award and a reflection of the hard work and dedication of the staff at the ACNC.

You can read more about the leadership award here.

2017 Annual Information Statement – Consultation summary

I want to extend a big thank you to those who participated in our public consultation for the 2017 Annual Information Statement.

The ACNC is committed to consultation through both our professional and sector user groups, and the sector and public more broadly.

Through the 2017 Annual Information Statement consultation we received feedback from a large number of stakeholders, and the results of the consultation are now available on our website.

Good wishes
Susan Pascoe AM

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