Promoting innovation is one of our core functions. To support and sustain a robust, vibrant, independent and innovative sector is a legislated ACNC objective. Moreover, we lead by example, developing new, better ways to improve our service offer for charities. As the year draws to a close, I would like to outline some initiatives that demonstrate the work we are doing to highlight sector innovation, as well as some of our own innovative projects.

Our Charity Register is a key resource, allowing anyone to check that an entity is a registered charity and find information such as its financial reports and governing documents. In the last twelve months it has been searched around five million times, a testament to its value to donors, funding bodies, philanthropists, volunteers, governments and others. We anticipate a big surge in the number of Register searches in the coming year, as new, enhanced search features, which have just gone live, allow anyone to look for a charity program in their town or suburb, offering services they may be particularly interested in supporting such as animal welfare, education or community development.

It is crucial that we maintain the integrity of the Register by checking the information it contains and this is the goal of our data integrity initiative. We check for possible errors in a range of areas— is a charity’s ABN valid, are leaders’ names up to date, is it operating according to its stated charitable purposes, is it still eligible for Deductible Gift Recipient status? Next year we will publish the results of this project, including the most common errors, striving to ensure the highest quality information is available on the Register.

This builds on an initiative to educate the sector about accurate reporting, with comprehensive detail in our best practice disclosure guidance. In a recent update we showed the way to disclose government revenue and grants, to note amounts, the tier of government from which funding is obtained as well as the department or local government program.

Those who lead charities, such as board and committee members, must ensure their organisations meet obligations to us as well as to other bodies. Our website provides guidance, resources and tools to support them. A definitive resource we will launch early next year will further develop and extend this work. A free, flexible online training program will be offered on topics of key importance, covering charity registration, joining a charity board, Governance Standards, External Conduct Standards, fraud prevention, managing finances, reporting obligations and the role of the ACNC. Charity leaders can complete all twelve short courses or those most relevant.
The final innovation piece I will highlight is a new section of our website which tells the stories of charities finding new, better ways of doing things, showing innovation in action. Charities such as Orange Sky and Free 3D Hands offer insights that are of wider value. I urge you to take a look at our new Innovation page, and keep an eye out for new stories as we add them.

2021 has presented many challenges for the sector. By adapting and innovating, charities have more than met those challenges and continued to provide services. All of us here at the ACNC thank you for your extraordinary contribution to the Australian community. May you have a Merry Christmas, a joyful and safe festive season and Happy New Year.

Best wishes,
The Hon Dr Gary Johns