- The ACNC External Conduct Standards are a set of standards that govern a registered charity's operations outside Australia.
- They apply to charities that operate outside Australia. Examples of operating outside Australia include a charity working on projects or programs overseas, sending money overseas, or working with third parties that are operating outside of Australia.
- The External Conduct Standards apply in addition to the ACNC Governance Standards. While Basic Religious Charities do not need to comply with the Governance Standards, they must comply with the External Conduct Standards if they operate overseas.
- The ACNC oversees the External Conduct Standards in line with our regulatory approach.
The External Conduct Standards are a set of four standards that govern a registered charity’s operations outside Australia.
The Standards aim to increase charity transparency and governance, as well ensuring that any money or other resources a charity sends or provides overseas reach their intended destinations and are only used for charitable purposes.
The Standards also aim to help protect vulnerable people overseas, which includes both the people who the charity seeks to help, and charity staff and volunteers.
There are four External Conduct Standards that charities must meet when operating overseas. Any charity subject to the External Conduct Standards must take reasonable steps to ensure appropriate standards of behaviour, governance and oversight when undertaking activities overseas.
The External Conduct Standards are:
- Standard 1: Activities and control of resources
- Standard 2: Annual review of overseas activities and record-keeping
- Standard 3: Anti-fraud and anti-corruption
- Standard 4: Protection of vulnerable individuals
Any registered charity that operates outside Australia must comply with the External Conduct Standards.
This requirement encompasses charities of all sizes, including small charities.
Charities classed as Basic Religious Charities must also comply with the External Conduct Standards if they operate overseas.
Many small charities run or fund operations overseas, or work with third parties that carry out operations outside Australia. In these circumstances, these small charities will be subject to the Standards.
Charities need to comply with the Standards regardless of the size or significance of their overseas work. Even if a minor portion of your activities occur overseas, or your charity only sends a small amount of money overseas, your charity will be considered to operate outside Australia and therefore must comply with the Standards.
The ACNC will regulate the External Conduct Standards in line with our regulatory approach.
Each charity that is required to comply with the External Conduct Standards is expect to take the time to understand the Standards and how they affect its operations. These charities are required to take reasonable steps to ensure they meet them.
What is considered a 'reasonable step' might vary depending on the type and size of your charity’s operations. Larger charities with more complex overseas operations will likely need to do more to comply with the Standards than a small charity with relatively straightforward operations overseas.
The ACNC has the expectation that most charities are operating with good governance and oversight, and will already be meeting the External Conduct Standards. We focus on charities that have seriously or deliberately breached the Standards and take action where required.
A charity does not need to submit items like management plans, policies or procedures to the ACNC to prove it is meeting the External Conduct Standards, but if the ACNC requests evidence that your charity is meeting the Standards, you must be able to provide the relevant documents.
The ACNC will ask organisations that are seeking registration with the ACNC (and charities applying for new charitable subtypes) about the steps they take to comply with the External Conduct Standards if they operate overseas.