Happy New Year.

Let’s kick off on the right foot and get down to business. For many charities, the 2020 Annual Information Statement (AIS) is due on 31 January. It is a requirement to submit the AIS, but it is also a terrific opportunity to show donors, funding bodies, governments and the public that your charity is well-run, transparent and delivers programs they might want to support.

Those positive qualities are reinforced when reporting is completed before the required deadline. On-time submissions help demonstrate that your charity takes good governance seriously.

For the first time, we are inviting you to include details about your charity’s programs in the Annual Information Statement. This information will then be displayed on your charity’s register record and utilised in the enhanced Charity Register search functions due for release in the second half of this year. Potential volunteers, donors, supporters and the public will be able to more easily find your charity to learn about the programs you deliver.

The Charity Register was searched more than 3 million times last year, and is an independent, authoritative record of your charity’s work and finances. I encourage you to embrace this new opportunity to showcase your charity’s great work − for free.

You can use our previewer tool to see the questions that will be asked about charity programs and to help you figure out how you will answer this section of the AIS to best showcase your charity’s work. The previewer is one of many free resources available in the 2020 Annual Information Statement Hub to help you meet your reporting requirements.

Australian communities and governments are interested in your charity’s financial information as an indicator of transparency and accountability, so it is crucial to report your charity finances accurately. The more detail, the better. Take a look at our newest publication, ‘Annual financial report disclosures – best practice’ for a run-down of the disclosures we think a charity should make in its annual financial report, especially for funds your charity receives from government.

Before submitting, make sure your charity’s governing body reviews and understands what is going to be reported in the AIS. As part of their strategic leadership role, Responsible People (commonly known as board members, committees, councils, governors or trustees) should be across all aspects of governance, including the information reported to the ACNC and, ultimately, to the public via the Charity Register.

An engaged board or committee is vital for a well-governed charity, so the Responsible People should be part of the process to approve and submit the Annual Information Statement.

The Charity Register is a powerful tool for your charity, and will become more so when new details about programs and activities are made available to enhance the search functionality later this year. I urge you to make the effort to demonstrate that your charity it is well-run and makes an important contribution to the communities it serves when you submit your charity’s Annual Information Statement.

Finally, registrations are now open for our first free webinar of the year, ‘Tips for starting the year on the right foot’, to be held on Wednesday, 10 February. It will look at practical and strategic ways your charity can put its best foot forward in 2021 − including how to comply with ACNC requirements and what to focus on in reviewing governance and policy matters.

I wish you well in the year ahead.

Best wishes,
The Hon Dr Gary Johns