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ACNC Commissioner says Aussie charity sector safe from trust concerns

The ACNC Commissioner talks about the future of Australian charities and not-for-profits, amid scandals in the European charity sectors

With trust decreasing in the European charity sector amid scandals, Australia’s charity watchdog has assured the Australian sector will “continue to grow”.

The Commissioner of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) told Third Sector that there is “no doubt” that the Australian community has a positive opinion of not-for-profits.

Commissioner Gary Johns said: “All that happens is that from time to time, there might be some bad news that someone in a charity or an association has played up that might muddy the waters somewhat. But other than that, it’s a very healthy sector.”

Over the last few months, the European charity sector has been dealt several blows. Following on from the unravelling of the Oxfam sex scandals, it was revealed the UN knew about the sex-for-food scandals in the European foreign aid sector for decades.

Coming off of these scandals, the UK Charity Commission revealed a mass increase of complaints made about the foreign aid sector. To combat further sexual assault cases in the sector, a global summit will be held for donors and agencies in October.

Despite the trust decrease in the European sector, Johns assures Australian charities that the depletion of trust has not affected the Australian not-for-profit sector as it sees public donations grow in “big numbers”.

“We’ve been talking to some of our charities that operate offshore in Australia just to have a conversation and reassurance that Australian charities don’t face what some of the UK charities have and at this stage there is no evidence that our people are not managing these risks well,” Johns said, commending Australian charities boards.

Johns added that the Australian charity sector is more than equipped to manage the risks associated with the reduction of trust and will remain healthy because of it.

“It’s not that bad things have never happened, it’s just that responsible people do understand the risks and they manage it and they do the best they can to alleviate.

“That is the important role boards and responsible persons in charities undertake.”

The ACNC is investing in promoting trust and transparency with a new website expected to start production in September. The website will include a registration and regulation feature for charities, but also include a platform for the public.

“It’s the donor’s interest that counts,” Johns said. “If we can get our website to a point where charities can display their wares, program by program, and where they’re running their programs, it will be a wonderful menu for donors.”

On top of being useful for the public to search for charities, the website will allow charities to understand the complex sector and see who else is in the marketplace.

To increase trust within an organisation, the Commissioner recommended having a conversation with donors to assure funds are used for charitable purposes.

“It’s good to tell your donors what you’re setting out to achieve, what the purpose is, what your special place in society is, the ways in which you do it and how you are devoting all your resources to achieving it.

“It’s pretty simple but you have to keep at it. Don’t drift and don’t become obsessed with yourself as an organisation. You must always think about the purpose.”

To hear more from Gary Johns about how to build trust and transparency in the not-for-profit sector, register for Third Sector Live.

1 comment | click to view comment

Comment Manually


    Tony Stuart

    July 19, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    excellent article,well said Gary.

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