FIA Urges Senate Committee to Support Red Tape Reduction

FIA has made a submission to the Senate Select Committee on Fundraising in the 21st Century calling for Commonwealth and state governments to work together to reduce fundraising red tape that costs the sector millions each year.

While there has been some progress recently in reducing duplicative reporting, by far the greatest source of red tape for charities relates to permits to fundraise which must be sourced state by state, campaign by campaign. In the past five years, there has been little progress towards eliminating duplication or reducing these administrative costs.

A February 2016 Report by Deloitte Access Economics concluded: “Overwhelmingly, fundraising is the source of the greatest amount of regulatory burden for charitable organisations. Fundraising legislation differs significantly between jurisdictions which very quickly escalates the administrative costs a charity incurs.”

In the past two years alone, fundraisers have experienced more than a dozen calls to participate in federal and state reviews and inquiries, including:

  • An investigation by the ACCC into Commission-based fundraising by Australian Charities
  • A Review of the Australian Consumer Law resulting in new ‘Guidance’ for the fundraising sector on the application of the ACL to fundraising
  • A Fair Work Ombudsman investigation of charities’ supply chains (ongoing)
  • A review of the Telemarketing Industry Standard (including fundraising calls) by the ACMA
  • A Minister of Communications enquiry regarding treatment of vulnerable donors, and subsequent ACNC Guidance for Charities Dealing with Vulnerable People
  • A Queensland Fair Trading investigation of supplier contracts in face-to-face fundraising
  • An ACMA Review of the Do Not Call Register
  • ACNC-issued Privacy Guidance for the sector
  • An ATO/Treasury enquiry into Tax Deductible Gift Recipient Reform Opportunities
  • CAANZ Guidance on the application of the Australian Consumer Law to the activities of not-for-profits, charities and fundraisers
  • Consumer Affairs Victoria review of annual statements within the fundraising industry
  • A NSW Public Inquiry under the Charitable Fundraising Act (1991) in respect to the Returned and Services League
  • The current Select Committee on Charity Fundraising in the 21st Century

The promise of harmonisation has not been delivered; in fact, the opposite is happening as different jurisdictions respond to perceived regulatory gaps in different ways and at different times. The current framework of fundraising regulation has created an environment in which a multitude of federal and state regulators have converged on the sector. This is because no single regulator has overall responsibility for fundraising. FIA recommends that overall responsibility for fundraising issues at Commonwealth level to be centralised under one senior minister.

Under any future regulatory regime for the charitable and not for profit fundraising sector, FIA believes there will continue to be an important role for its Code to establish and promote an ethical framework that balances broader community interests, including those of charity beneficiaries who often lack a voice in policy debates.  FIA recommends a greater role for self-regulation to maintain trust and confidence in charities by promoting best practice and ethical conduct in fundraising activity.

Summary of FIA recommendations to the Committee:

  1. All Australian governments should commit to harmonise fundraising regulation within an agreed time limit of two years.
  2. Restore fundraising reform and charity/NFP issues to the Council of Australian Governments agenda.
  3. A greater role for the ACNC Charity Portal to facilitate alignment and harmonisation of fundraising regulation.
  4. Overall responsibility for fundraising issues at Commonwealth level be centralised under one senior minister.
  5. Recognise the key role of FIA’s and other sectoral codes and complaint handling mechanisms as an integral part of the regulatory framework.