Parliament debates slow progress on #FixFundraising reforms

10 Dec 2020

This week, Federal Member for Fenner Dr Andrew Leigh spoke to Parliament about the Government’s lack of reform on state-based fundraising laws, despite committing to a two-year timeframe to deliver changes in 2018.

If you’ve been following the #FixFundraising campaign, you’ll know this is an issue we’re deeply passionate about.

Our current charity fundraising laws are not suitable for the internet age. If a charity wants to raise money online, there are seven sets of complicated regulatory standards they need to comply with in each state. That totals up to 480 pages of State-based fundraising rules and legislation charities and not-for-profits must follow, just because they’ve set up an online donation form.

Complying with these regulations costs charities around $15 million each year (or, as Greg Seeto from Life Saving Victoria said “the equivalent of 25-30 rescue boats or 10,000 lifeguard hours per year” for the time spent by his organisation alone). These rules are outdated and redundant, and a huge burden on passionate people who want to be doing more important things for the community instead of unnecessary paperwork.

Two years ago, the Treasury delivered a five-year review of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission. In it, they identified that fundraising law is the major reporting burden on charities.

A bipartisan Senate Select Committee on Charity Fundraising in the 21st Century on 14 February 2019, called on parliament to harmonise fundraising law within two years.

Since then, the issue has only been exacerbated, as the Black Summer bushfires and global COVID-19 pandemic exposed the challenges charities were experiencing trying to fundraise to support the communities that were turning to them more than ever.

We’ve heard resounding support for fixing fundraising from leaders across the country including the National COVID Commission’s Not-For-Profit working group, the Charities Crisis Cabinet, and the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements. The time to fix fundraising is now.

What was said during the parliamentary debate?

During his address to parliament, Dr Leigh said “we tell our kids, don’t put off until tomorrow, what you could do today. Fix the leaky roof now, don’t wait until it rains.”

Responding to Leigh’s private members’ motion, independent MP for Warringah Zali Steggall OAM said “the reporting requirements imposed on charities by government are far more stringent than those applied to [corporates]”.

“Charities need to deal with so many things to conduct their everyday operations, and this takes away from their service delivery. We should, absolutely, make it possible for their focus to be on that service delivery. I urge the government to use the national cabinet to reform fundraising laws and to harmonise them across the country” said Steggall.

David Smith, Labor MP for Bean, said that action was needed now more than ever in a time when charity donations are predicted to fall by seven per cent in 2020, and a further 12 per cent in 2021.

“If we want to build back better, then we must ensure that the trusted, hardworking charities that hold tight the strands of our Australian social fabric are able to work better, more effectively and without overly cumbersome regulation, including needless duplication of regulatory regimes across state and territory borders,” he said.

Liberal MP Celia Hammond stated the government has committed to enacting 21 of the 30 recommendations of the ACNC review, which focuses on three key themes: reducing red tape, increasing transparency and having an effective regulator. She said “the key goal here is a balancing act: ensuring that the regulatory burden faced by charities is as low as possible whilst simultaneously ensuring that the level of accountability is such that all Australians can continue to have trust in the sector, which they so generously support.”

#FixFundraising latest campaign actions

In September, the Charities Crisis Cabinet submitted a proposal for 15 ‘Australia Fundraising Principles’ to be adopted, designed to complement existing self-regulatory fundraising codes without requiring any additional compliance to meet them.

By putting these principles forward, we are showing all Australian governments that there is a simple, principles-based approach to fundraising regulation that will be more effective and better meet the needs of today’s charities.

How we’ll keep the pressure on

We want charities and community organisations around the country to be able to focus on the vital services they exist to deliver, rather than spend valuable time complying with complicated and expensive regulation. This is a once in a generation opportunity to achieve lasting and significant change that will mean more funds to Australian charities and more services for our communities.

If you believe in the same thing and want to see fundraising laws catch up with today’s digital age, join our #FixFundraising campaign here.