A Little More About Us
Integrity, honesty and unbiased assessment are at the core of Giving Guide’s (GG) mission. The charity sector is important to the economy and culture of Australia. We believe independently assessing the accountability, transparency and effectiveness of charities beyond what is currently available is important to its future.
Giving Guide anticipates enhancing the level of governance of Australian charities. An independent advisor would benefit the sector by helping charities consider and work towards exceeding the existing governance standards of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) to benefit donors. Helping to build relationships, confidence and trust to maintain ongoing support of charities and their supporters.
Through research, analysis, evaluation and provision of information; Giving Guide aspires to advance the reputation, accountability, governance and financial responsibility of Australian charities. Educate and enhance public perception of charitable donations and their effect on the sector.
Giving Guide will facilitate the implementation of effective governance and management standards thereby enabling charitable organisations to be more transparent and accountable to the public.
There are several charity analysis tools used around the world. Most are found in the developed western world of the United States, Canada and the UK. Our program will have selected the best assessment options from the existing models that will best reflect the publicly available information reported by charities in Australia.
Giving Guide is an information portal for both donors and charities. Donors want to know their donations are being used properly and charities can attest to this by providing the required information and exceeding the Giving Guide evaluation process.
Donors need the capability to easily assess charities they would like to support, charities need to prove they’re capable, responsible and worthy. Giving Guide provides a place to start, ease and begin the process.
The charity sector is very important to Australia. There are many charities in Australia providing essential services that otherwise may not be performed. This is especially apparent when across the sector the Australian Government contributes approximately half (47%) of the revenue received by charities3.
Currently, you may be able to find charities that benefit a cause area, but there is very little independent information regarding how well they support that cause. The ACNC, Australia’s charity regulator has a set of 5 governance standards. These standards are broad and potentially miss some important information.
In the United States charities publicly report their financial information every year to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). All charities submit the same form (990(c)) annually. Canadian charities have a similar process in submitting an annual T3010 information return, together with financial statements to the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA). This provides the opportunity to assess charities against each other using similar reporting standards. The Australian market is less rigorous and has different standards for the size and location of the charity.
Many charity evaluators have different approaches but a general model is followed. The evaluator collects information about charities from multiple sources (websites; public information; regulatory submissions, voluntary submissions, press, etc.). The evaluator then assesses the information and posts a report, some or all of the information on its websites and provides accreditation or an evaluation4. This is meant to help donor’s make well informed decisions.
Giving Guide is an information portal that can help link donors and philanthropists to charities. Helping to build trust through the provision of information ensuring their donations are going to the desired programs and the charity is operating their programs the best way possible.
Why are we needed?
The Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) has gauged declining trust in the sector since its establishment in 20121. It has also acknowledged its limited legislative power and resources2. While the ACNC has the powers to investigate legislative breaches of conduct including: Erroneous charitable status; Poor record keeping; Provision of inaccurate information; Use of funds for private benefit; Not being transparent or accountable to its members; Involved in fraud or criminal activity; Has non-suitable representatives/members; Failed to act in good faith; and Failed to disclose perceived or actual conflicts of interest.
It does not have the power to disclose or assess information for a wide array of other circumstances including: Where information could protect public trust and confidence in the sector; Information produced during an investigation; Assessing the way a charity goes about fundraising or how much of its gross income goes towards fundraising; The quality of services a charity provides; Informing the public of what charities have been involved in unscrupulous activities; Assessing cost frameworks and overheads in running charities; and Poor accounting practices.
Independent charity evaluators have several advantages over charity commissions4. The first is competition, an evaluator site depends on its reputation and continual improvement of its methods and worth to the sector4. An Australian independent evaluator could impose indirect penalties on unscrupulous charities. The ACNC can only revoke a charities charitable status and in extreme cases suspend board members, where an evaluator can be sensitive to low level offenses that are of interest to potential donors including overtly high salaries, financial inefficiency and poor governance4.
Another advantage preserving independence of charities, is compliance to meeting the benchmarks of an accreditation is voluntary. The incentive to attaining positive ratings or approval is enough to persuade charities to supply the necessary information. An independent evaluator will have the capability to identify and highlight charities that overpay their for-profit fundraisers and demonstrate poor governance4.
Giving Guide is needed as the ACNC is a regulatory body not an independent assessment tool. It will perform many of the same functions as a government charity regulator with less intrusion, and also provide donors and charities with additional services that the ACNC cannot.
Giving guide will be able to address some of the missing information needed to appropriately assess the quality of services a charity provides. Comparisons of records on shared goals have shown charity evaluators are better able to meet these goals than government organisations4.
Australian adults gave $12.5B to charities and not-for-profit organisations in 2015-165. This is over 80% of the population (14.9M). The same report also reveals why people don’t give. Many reported they did not give because of concerns about how the money would be used. Common responses were “I think too much in every dollar is used in administration” and “I don’t believe the money would reach those in need”. In younger donors aged 18-34 two of the top five reasons why they didn’t give were “I don’t know where the money would be used” and “I don’t believe that the money would reach those in need” the second and fifth reasons, respectively5.
Financial and performance information provided to donors about charities is important for due diligence regarding the operating procedures of a charity. In a CHOICE survey on donor behaviour, 81% of respondents did not know how much of their donation reached a charity’s beneficiaries after fundraising costs and overheads were subtracted, but over 90% of respondents wanted to know6. The reporting situation for charities in Australia is highly complex which generates duplication, misinformation and inconsistencies7. Donors have a right to know how much of their donations are reaching the causes they decide to help.
In time, it will be the Australian donors who benefit from Giving Guide. Charities that go through the Giving Guide assessment and surpass the qualification benchmarks will help gauge the level of transparency, governance and financial responsibility it takes to operate a charity in Australia. The process can help charities assess their programs and improve their value to the communities they serve and the Australian public.
Australia is lacking a dedicated online donor resource to assess charities through a stringent validation process. Giving Guide will have the capability to give donors a quick overview of a charity and its credentials. In time this can include the basis why it has gained the Giving Guide accreditation. There will also be a place where the details of a charity and how they managed through the assessment process will be available to help encourage larger scale donations from foundations and philanthropists.
Giving Guide will also have dedicated pages linked to the information gathered about a charity and the opportunity for the charity to discuss the impact they are having in their chosen cause and if required, explain any inconsistencies, difficulties and situations that may have influenced the accreditation process.
We will be working with the charity sector not monitoring or regulating, but increasing trust through transparency in partnership. We are providing information to increase the transparency between donor and charity.
Charities that leverage their accreditation can present themselves to the public as having gained a valuable credential providing a new way to approach donors6.
Charities will have the capability once gaining accreditation to share their information on the Giving Guide website. As an information hub on charities and giving, the public benefits from the provision of this information. Giving Guide helps provide charitable information to the public in a structured, independent and standardised format.
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1ACNC Charity Compliance Report, 2019.
2Strengthening For Purpose: Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission Legislation Review, 2018.
3ACNC Charities Report, 2018.
4Rittelmyer, H. (2014) Independent Charities, Independent Regulators: The Future of Not-for-Profit Regulation. The Centre for Independent Studies. 20pp.
5Scaife, Wendy, Myles McGregor-Lowndes, Jo Barraket and Wayne Burns, eds. 2016. Giving Australia 2016. Brisbane, Queensland: The Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Non-profit Studies, Queensland University of Technology, Centre for Social Impact Swinburne University of Technology and the Centre for Corporate Public Affairs.
7Australian Accounting Standards Board, (2017) Improving Financial Reporting for Australian Charities.
Integrity, honesty and unbiased assessment are at the core of Giving Guide’s mission. The charity sector is important to the economy and culture of Australia, We believe independently assessing the accountability, transparency and effectiveness of the sector beyond what is currently available is important to it's future.
Giving Guide anticipates enhancing the level of governance and transparency in the Australian charity sector. An independent charity advisor would benefit the sector by helping charities consider exceeding the existing governance standards of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) to the benefit of donors.
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