In recent reviews, the ACNC has found five charities that received significant donations in response to the 2019-20 bushfires acted appropriately. However, for some charities, managing the rapid growth brought on by the donations was a challenge.
The latest reviews are part of follow-up work to the ACNC’s major report of October 2020, Bushfire Response 2019-20 – Reviews of three Australian Charities.
In early 2020, when community concerns were raised about how bushfire funds were being managed, ACNC Commissioner Dr Gary Johns moved to reassure the public by confirming that the ACNC would be reviewing charities involved in the bushfire appeals.
In the latest reviews, the ACNC found that all five charities experienced a significant increase in donations and revenue. For three charities, donations doubled or tripled their previous revenue, while two charities declared an increase in revenue 20 times that of the previous year.
The reviews found that charities experienced in disaster relief or with existing partnerships were well placed to meet the increased demand to deliver immediate bushfire-response relief and services. These charities were able to scale up. But other charities had to take time to plan a strategic response for the short, medium and long term.
While there was great public demand for immediate relief and services, the charities reported that disaster relief required a response over weeks, months and years to properly address a wide range of community needs.
The latest reviews identified that the charities were transparent with donors, making information publicly available on websites, in newsletters, annual reports and other publications.
ACNC Commissioner Dr Gary Johns said, “We conducted these follow-up reviews with the cooperation of all the charities involved. Although the details of much of our work is protected information, we are talking about the reviews to reassure the public that we are still paying attention, even if the spotlight has moved on.”
“I want to tell the public that the money they so generously donated for bushfire relief in 2020 is being used responsibly and the charities involved are still there providing much-needed relief and services.”