Over the last few months, it has been my pleasure to spend time with charities across Australia, learning about their programs, purpose, and the impact they have on their community.

Late last week I attended a function hosted by the Australian Social Investment Trust (ASIT). ASIT is an innovative New South Wales registered charity, that works with government and community alike to break the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage through collective impact initiatives.

Their first project in the community of Bellambi, a suburb of Wollongong, has been in place since 2015. It was wonderful to participate in the community’s most recent Action Plan day, and see the positive influence the charity’s efforts are having in the area. Thank you to ASIT for having me, and I look forward to seeing your continued progress.

Whenever I travel, I always try to meet with local charities to discuss their work and how the ACNC can help – I hope to visit more charities before the end of 2018.

ACNC Annual Report tabled in Parliament

On Friday, the ACNC’s 2017–18 Annual Report was tabled in Parliament. This document details the ACNC’s work over the last financial year, highlighting the successes of the organisation during a period of substantial change and transition.

We are incredibly proud of our accomplishments throughout 2017–18 – including significant red tape reduction advancements, improved ACNC IT systems and more.

Some of the ACNC’s notable achievements in 2017–18 include:

  • A $3 million IT upgrade project that resulted in the launch of a new and improved ACNC website, Charity Portal and Charity Register in October 2018
  • Red tape reduction agreements that benefit 9,000 charities in Victoria and New South Wales
  • 900,000 searches of the Charity Register, representing a 19% increase on the previous year
  • A 65% increase in investigations, resulting in 22 revocations of charity registration
  • More compliance agreements, enforceable undertakings, and directions than in any previous year
  • Reduced call wait times, with calls answered on average within 38 seconds — a significant improvement from 62 seconds in 2016–17
  • 2,832 charities registered, with 98% of registration applications being finalised within 15 days of receiving all the information required to make a decision
  • Over $20.6 billion in revenue and $9.2 billion in assets corrected on the Charity Register after charities were contacted to correct identified errors.

For more information or to download the report, visit our website.

Charity Fraud Awareness Week

Last week, the ACNC participated in the first international Charity Fraud Awareness Week.

Coordinated by the Charity Commission of England and Wales, the project brought together over 40 regulators, charities, peak bodies and professional service providers to discuss the importance of protecting yourself and your charity from the risks of fraudulent activity.

The ACNC has collated a range of resources from around the globe on managing your personal security when donating to charity, and how to protect your charity from fraud risks. Find it on our website at acnc.gov.au.

Charity responsibilities as elections draw closer

The Victorian state election is less than one month away – and as such, some charities may be planning to advocate or campaign on political issues.

The ACNC’s guidance on election activity, titled Charities, elections and advocacy, notes that registered charities can undertake activities that are “aimed at securing or opposing any change to a law, policy or practice in the Commonwealth, a state or territory, or another country.”

This includes:

  • involvement in the development of public policy
  • promotion of, or opposition to, particular laws, policies, practices or decisions of governments, and
  • awareness-raising.

Registered charities cannot have a purpose of promoting or opposing a particular political party or candidate.

I recommend all charities familiarise themselves with the ACNC’s guidance before undertaking any activities to ensure they do not put their charity registration status at risk.

You can access the guidance on the ACNC website at acnc.gov.au/advocacy.

Fundraising advice for charities now available

Last week, the ACNC hosted a free webinar on the topic of fundraising practices for charities. Effective fundraising plays a vital role in the ongoing success and viability of charities across Australia, so it is important for charities to maintain good practice.

This webinar covers key issues including fundraising strategies and policies, regulations, third-party fundraising arrangements – and the importance of good governance when undertaking fundraising activities.

To access the webinar recording and presentation slides, or sign up for future webinar events, visit acnc.gov.au/webinars.

ACNC website transition continues

I’d like to close this week by thanking our charities for their patience over the last two weeks, as we continue our transition to a new IT system. We understand that it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for many charities trying to log into the new Charity Portal and we are experiencing higher than normal call wait times. I apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Due to the IT upgrade, I have issued an extension for all charities that have an Annual Information Statement due date between 31 December 2018 and 28 February 2019. These charities now have until 31 March 2019 to submit their 2018 Annual Information Statement. This will allow charities ample time to complete their annual reporting requirements.

We will also be issuing further advice and instructions for the login process to charities via their email Address for Service over the coming weeks. Unless you need to complete anything urgent in Charity Portal, I would encourage you to wait to log in until you receive these instructions.

Thank you again for your patience throughout this period.

Best wishes,

The Hon Dr Gary Johns