The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) is urging the public to do a quick online check of a charity’s credentials before donating this festive season.

Commissioner the Hon Dr Gary Johns says many legitimate Australian charities have been hard hit by the COVID-19 crisis and are counting on the traditional generosity of the season.

“We know the loss of income for some charities is significant, particularly for those that relied heavily on public fundraising events, although official data is yet to be reported,” Dr Johns said.

“It takes a minute to check the ACNC online Charity Register to see if an organisation you would like to donate to is a legitimate charity.

“You simply enter an organisation’s name into the Register to find a snapshot of its activities, its purpose, who it helps, where it operates and some key financial details.

“Unfortunately, fraudsters masquerade as charities, exploiting goodwill — scams are on the rise. It is crucial to do at least a quick online check before giving to be confident your donation is going to an organisation that genuinely does good work.

“If you are donating to a charity via a third-party crowdfunding campaign, be mindful that a nominated charity is bound to use donations according to the rules set out in its governing documents. A third party cannot direct the way funds are used once donated to the charity. Here, the Register can provide a snapshot of the nominated charity’s purpose and main activities,” he said.

The ACNC's top tips for safe giving this festive season include:

  • Before giving, check a charity’s credentials on the ACNC website Charity Register acnc.gov.au/charity
  • Look for established and registered charities that are running verified Christmas/festive season appeals.
  • If you get a call from someone claiming to be from a charity, ask to call them back. Search the Charity Register and call back using the phone number published there.
  • If donating to a charity via a third-party crowdfunding campaign, be aware the charity is bound by its own rules in the way it spends donated funds, not by a third-party’s promises.
  • Don’t click on links in unsolicited emails and social media posts. It is safer to visit a charity’s website, to avoid clicking a link to an imitation website.
  • Don’t give out your credit card and bank account details on social media and be cautious when doing so online.
  • Always ask for identification from door-to-door and street fundraising collectors.

“There are many organisations that deserve your donation this Christmas, with close to 59,000 charities on the Register. It is important to be generous, but it is as important to give with confidence. As the regulator, the ACNC is watching over the sector to maintain confidence.

“There were more than 3 million searches of the Charity Register last financial year. It received more daily hits between January 6 and January 15 than it had ever had before, during the summer bushfire appeals. This shows a growing awareness of how valuable a resource the Register is for
donors who would like to check the legitimacy of a charity before they make a donation,” Dr Johns said.

Key statistics:

  • According to Scamwatch, reported charity scams were up nearly 70% January-July 2020, compared with the same period in 2019, driven by charity frauds linked to the bushfire crisis.
  • Australians are generous. Pre-COVID-19 ACNC data shows they gave approximately $10 billion each year from 2016-2018.
  • 53% of Australians donated to a bushfire appeal in 2020.
  • More than $640 million was raised in bushfire appeals.
  • There were more than 3 million searches of the Charity Register last financial year.
  • During the summer bushfire appeals (6-15 January, 2020), the Register received more daily hits than it had ever had before.