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Agreement reached on reform of charitable fundraising laws

Charities have long told their governments that they are wasting time complying with inconsistent and outdated fundraising rules across the states and territories. On one estimate, compliance requirements cost Australian charities more than $1 million per month.

In their most recent meeting, the Commonwealth, state and territory Treasurers agreed to a set of nationally consistent fundraising principles to streamline and harmonise state and territory requirements on charitable fundraiser conduct.

The principles, developed by a Working Group comprising of all states and territories, was informed by stakeholder consultation last year. The principles will give charities and donors a clear understanding of appropriate conduct, while allowing for greater flexibility as to how charities achieve compliance. Regulatory guidance to support the principles will also be developed in collaboration with the charitable fundraising sector.

Each participating jurisdiction will release an implementation plan by July 2023 explaining how it will give effect to the principles through regulatory changes or legislation.

Australia’s present state and territory fundraising laws were developed at a time when most fundraising was conducted in person. Today, with most fundraising done online, the cost and complexity of complying with multiple state and territory fundraising requirements is a major issue for the charity sector.

Nationally consistent fundraising regulation has been recommended by several reviews over the past decade, including the 2020 Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements formed in response to the extreme bushfire season of 2019‑20. It’s time to fix Australia’s outdated fundraising laws.

National Fundraising Principles

When conducting fundraising activities, charitable organisations must ensure that their employees, volunteers, contractors and anyone else who they engage or arrange to raise funds on their behalf:

  1. Always explain the purpose of their charity and the purpose to which the funds raised will be applied in ways that are appropriate for the audience.
  2. Always be clearly, and individually, identifiable by the public (including to display identification that contains the individual’s name, whether they are a volunteer, employee or acting in some other capacity for a charitable organisation or commercial fundraising organisation, and that organisation’s name and contact details).
  3. Always make and keep written records of fundraising activities that can be easily read and understood.
  4. Always acknowledge and comply with a:
    1. refusal to make a donation
    2. request not to receive future solicitations (including marketing and promotional materials)
    3. request to be contacted at a more convenient time or by a different means
    4. request to limit the number, type or frequency of solicitations.
  5. Never conduct door‑to‑door or telephone fundraising activity at the following times:
    • before 9 am or after 5 pm on a weekend
    • before 9 am or after 6 pm (door‑to‑door) or 8 pm (telephone) on a weekday
    • on a public holiday, unless the public holiday is closely connected with a fundraiser’s charitable purpose.
  6. Never mislead, deceive or knowingly use false or inaccurate information when fundraising.
  7. Never place undue or unreasonable pressure on a person when fundraising, or act unconscionably in any way to obtain a donation.
  8. Never exploit the trust, lack of knowledge, lack of capacity, apparent need for care and support, or vulnerable circumstances of any donor.
  9. Always make it clear whether a donation is a one‑off or an ongoing donation, and clearly explain how to end an ongoing donation.
  10. For commercial fundraisers engaged to fundraise for a charitable organisation, never accept a donation without having explained that they are part of an organisation that makes a profit from fundraising as well as how they are paid.

At all times, charitable organisations must:

  1. Conduct all reasonable due diligence when engaging third parties to assist, support or deliver fundraising activities on its behalf.
  2. Make and keep written records of the total funds raised and the purposes for which funds are applied.
  3. Take all reasonable measures to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of fundraisers employed or directly engaged by them, as well as members of the public, when fundraising.
  4. Establish and maintain a complaints process that allows for proper investigation and redress of fundraising complaints that may be made by the public and encourage anyone with concerns about a fundraising activity conducted by or on behalf of the charity to contact them.
  5. Ensure information covered by the Privacy Act 1998 (the Act) is collected, used and managed in accordance with the Australian Privacy Principles where required under the Act.
  6. Always ensure remuneration to commercial fundraisers engaged to fundraise for a charitable organisation is not excessive when compared to money or goods received for the charitable purpose of the fundraising.

Taken from The Hon Dr Andrew Leigh MP Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury, and The Hon Danny Pearson, Victorian Minister for Consumer Affairs, joint Media Release on 16 February 2023.

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