2019 Regulatory Affairs Outlook

The NSW Government is in the process of introducing a fundraising reform package which could become law early in the New Year. The red tape reduction centrepiece is a five-year licence to operate as a fundraiser and removal of the need to gain approval for individual campaigns and appeals. To date, the opposition Labour Party has supported the amendments already passed by the Parliament, which will hopefully continue to be the case if there is a change of government in the March state election.

As NSW is the state with the largest number of members, its reforms are the most significant change to fundraising regulation. No change is painless and FIA members will have to adjust their systems to take NSW off the list of jurisdictions requiring approvals for the Christmas, end of financial year and other appeals. This is already the case for ACNC-registered ACT charities which means that when the NSW law comes into effect, there will be five (down from seven) jurisdictions requiring individual approvals for national appeals and campaigns. FIA is already pressing Victoria to match NSW to generate momentum for red tape reduction nationwide in 2019.

Unfortunately other developments already in the pipeline are not so positive. In the last weeks of 2018 two major reports by Federal agencies included recommendations that, if implemented, could have adverse impacts on donor acquisition.

The ACCC’s digital platforms preliminary report addresses the market dominance and privacy practices of Google and Facebook. While the competition and media aspects have attracted most attention, fundraisers need to be more concerned about the privacy recommendations.

Most damaging would be amending the Australian Privacy Principles to require “express opt-in consent” before an individual can be contacted and the introduction of a new statutory right of privacy. An opt-in amendment would limit fundraisers’ ability to acquire new donors and a privacy ‘right’ would jeopardise existing donor relationships because it would give any donor with a grievance or complaint the right to take direct legal action for breach of privacy.

The final report is not due until mid-2019 but the first submission deadline is in February and members will be kept informed of progress early in the New Year.

The other major report sees the re-emergence of a continuing issue, repeal of the charity exemption in the Do Not Call Register legislation. This was contained in a report by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to the federal Communications Minister.

FIA was disappointed to see this issue raised in this report with no reference to the work done by the sector to improve donor care and reduce unwanted calls. Equally concerning was the omission of the fact that complaints about charity calls have in fact halved in the most recent 12 month period. FIA is drafting a letter to the Minister for Communications which will highlight the deficiencies of the ACMA report and call for the retention of the public interest charity exemption.

In February, FIA will be looking out for the report of the Senate Select Committee into Charitable Fundraising which has brought welcome attention to the need for fundraising regulatory reform.