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Key points:

  • Small charities, like their larger counterparts, will encounter issues that have the potential to affect their operations.
  • These issues may cover activities related to fundraising, advocacy, administration costs, fraud or managing people's information and data.
  • There are a number of guides covering these and other issues available on the ACNC website.

Administration costs are those that a charity incurs while carrying out its work. They might include rent, insurance, petrol, staff costs, goods, supplies and expenses covering phone and internet use.

Reasonable administration costs are unavoidable because charities (particularly small charities) can’t operate for free and can’t rely on just volunteer efforts.

Charities should be open about their spending on administration, and the public should consider administration costs in the context of each charity. Since there is such variety in the charities sector (from large universities to local environmental groups), there is no one-size-fits-all percentage for 'reasonable' administration costs.

The ACNC Governance Standards require charities to operate responsibly. Where spending on administration is excessive and unreasonable, the ACNC can investigate.

Around half of Australia’s registered charities employ paid staff. Paid employees are vital to the work of charities, particularly for charities that need staff with particular skills or qualifications to deliver their services to the community.

Charities may also choose to remunerate board members. A charity's governing document (the constitution or rules) is likely to determine whether payments to board members are acceptable.

Larger charities are more likely to employ staff or remunerate board members than small charities. Any remuneration must be reasonable, appropriate for the duties of the job and should be similar to rates in comparable charities. Charities should also be transparent and accountable to their members. See our guide about remunerating charity board members for more information.

The ACNC can investigate any payments if they are potentially unreasonable, or in breach of ACNC Governance Standards.

It is common for charities to gather information and data as they do their work. This might include information about their staff and volunteers, as well as sensitive donor data or other contact details.

It is essential that charities manage people's information and data in a responsible way. A charity’s operations and reputation are likely to be affected by any failure to establish proper information and data management procedures.

Smaller charities with fewer resources can be especially vulnerable in these areas.

A charity’s Responsible People should be aware of these risks and have processes in place to address them.

Some charities undertake public advocacy to work towards achieving their charitable purposes or aims.

A charity can promote or oppose a change to any matter of law, policy or practice, as long as this work furthers a charitable purpose. For example, a charity with the purpose of advancing the natural environment could advocate for policies that protect the environment.

However, charities also need to ensure that their advocacy does not constitute a ‘disqualifying purpose’. The two purposes which will disqualify a charity are:

  • engaging in, or promoting, activities that are unlawful or contrary to public policy
  • promoting or opposing a political party or candidate for political office.

For information specific to how charities can undertake advocacy during an election, see our guidance about charities, elections and advocacy.

If your charity chooses to fundraise, there are a number of issues to consider, particularly if a third party is involved.

It is important that any fundraising has adequate processes in place to protect people in vulnerable circumstances – those who may not be in a position to make a confident, informed choice about donating to your charity. Our guide about fundraising and people in vulnerable circumstances provides more information.

Smaller charities that engage third-party fundraising agencies to conduct their fundraising must ensure the third-party fundraiser follows proper fundraising behaviours and practices. Our guide about working with fundraising agencies has more information.

While a charity can outsource fundraising activities, it cannot outsource its responsibilities.

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