The head of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission says significant achievements in a year of change and uncertainty are set out in the ACNC annual report, tabled in Parliament today.
Commissioner Dr Gary Johns said the pandemic continues to test charities. “The pandemic is forcing much of the work of Australian charities online and reducing their ability to raise funds, engage volunteers and meet increased demands for services,” Dr Johns said.
“Despite these challenges, the sector showed great resilience and continued to deliver essential services through thousands of programs delivered by churches, schools, hospitals, and local charities across Australia. We are pleased to support the community’s trust and confidence in this vital sector.”
Several achievements were highlighted in the annual report. The Charity Register had more than 4.2 million searches —a sharp rise from 3.2 million the previous financial year, and a million the year before. Dr Johns said the surge in use of the Register shows its value for the public, charities, donors, philanthropists, governments and funding agencies.
“The Register is a valuable source of information about charities for people working in the sector and for Australians who support it. The 4.2 million Register searches reflect the growing awareness of it as an important source of information and a tool to verify registered charities.
“In 2020-21 we implemented a new way for charities to provide information about their programs, and soon the Register’s search features will be enhanced to allow donors and supporters to easily find organisations doing the type of work they are interested in supporting, and to allow charities to showcase their incredible work,” he said.
Receiving and investigating concerns about charities is a key component of the ACNC’s work to maintain confidence in the sector. In 2020-21, it received 2,001 concerns about charities, a slight fall on the previous year’s total of 2,102. The most common concerns were about perceived mismanagement of funds or an individual obtaining private benefit from a charity. The ACNC refined the tools it uses to assess charities’ compliance and to educate them about their obligations, introducing two new programs: a compliance review and a self-audit. These programs enabled it to directly engage with nearly 50% more charities than in 2019-20.
There were 76 investigations finalised; close to the 79 finalised the previous year. These investigations resulted in a range of outcomes; 13 charities had their registrations revoked for serious and ongoing non-compliance, down from 18 the previous year. Through a new compliance review program, eight charities’ responses to the 2020 bushfires were evaluated, and were found to have acted diligently. To ensure the integrity of the information on the Register, the ACNC reviewed 274 annual financial reports from the 2019 reporting period.
There was significant progress in the object to cut red tape for charities. In some situations, the ACNC allows a group of charities to submit a single Annual Information Statement. In 2020–21, it launched an online version of the Group Annual Information Statement form, reducing the reporting burden for almost 1,400 charities, and improving the quality of data. Duplicated reporting requirements for charities that are fundraisers or incorporated associations in Western Australia were removed, and for charities that fundraise in Victoria, duplicated reporting requirements were removed, and a streamlined application process put in place.
The ACNC processed 5,886 charity registration applications and registered 2,659 charities. It refused 151 charity registration applications, mainly because not enough information was provided. The Commission’s website had over 13 million pageviews underscoring its importance as a communication channel for charities and the public.
- ACNC Charity Register had more than 4.2 million searches
- 2,001 concerns about charities received
- 76 investigations finalised
- 13 charities’ registrations revoked for serious non-compliance
- 2,659 charities registered