3 things to know about the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC)

3 things to know about the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC)
Written by
Craig Gillam

Australia's non-profit sector is massive and is part of an extensive network of organisations that work to provoke change for the better on a national level. Driving the economic stability and strength of our communities and society as a whole, the non-profit sector performs an invaluable function in sustaining and developing our social fabric.

There are countless non-profit organisations in Australia, with different areas of focus and working methods. Some may be large national entities, while others may be tiny local groups. What they have in common is a dedication to their cause and a commitment to making a difference in their community.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts have greatly affected society across the board, with the charitable sector being no exception. The challenges brought about by this global health crisis meant an upheaval of what the world considered 'normal', prompting organisations to adapt in what seemed like overnight. Lockdowns, restrictions and limitations quickly became prevalent, forcing nonprofits to change their means of making an impact in more ways than one. 

Over the past two years, we've seen charities go above and beyond to find new and innovative ways of connecting with their communities and in conducting essential functions like fundraising that keep them going. From virtual auctions to online events, there's been an impressive display of innovation from organisations in this way. 

Little Phil even commissioned a report into this due to our concerns about the health of the sector. This comprehensive survey formed the basis of our forays into Company Giving and the Non-fungible Token and cryptocurrency space as we sought to empower charities and donors alike through digital transformation. 

In terms of helping the industry navigate the profound changes that have occurred, one of the key players has been The Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC), which has been directly involved in empowering and facilitating these circumstance-induced shifts.

What Is The Australian Non-For-Profit Commission?

The Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) is the nation's independent authority for charity regulation. The Commission collaborates with state and territorial governments and agencies to standardise statutes and regulations throughout Australia. 

Essentially, it serves to unify and moderate charities on a national level, so that they are consistent with guidelines and best empowered to make a difference.

1. What Does the ACNC Do?

The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission works as the official national regulator of Australia's over 60,000 charities. Its primary focus is on administering a framework around the operations of nonprofits in the country, seeking to align them with certain regulations and guidelines. These standards were designed to implement expectations of ethics, transparency, and validity that bolster the sector's quality and public value. 

The Commission works to promote and administrate these rules, as well as to provide guidance to charities in following best practices.

The ACNC is an important resource for Australian charities, as it offers a robust and reliable system of accountability. Its guidelines and practices help to ensure that organisations are meeting certain standards and behaving ethically, which in turn builds public trust in the charity sector as a whole. 

The Commission provides support and resources to charities, so that they may be best equipped to operate and serve their communities. This includes educational content, such as fact sheets and webinars, as well as tailored advice for specific organisations.

It also maintains a free searchable database of charities, which allows the public to view and get more information on registered organisations.

In short, The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission exists to:

  • Maintain, enhance and protect public confidence and trust in the Australian not-for-profit sector.
  • Help charities meet their obligations through guidance.
  • Administer standards for the operation of charitable organisations.
  • Provide charities with the resources they need to effectively serve their communities.
  • Work with the government in establishing proper and consistent guidelines for the sector.
  • Provide the public with free resources that support the sector's transparency and accountability.

2. How It Works

The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission is managed through the provisions of the ACNC Act, which identifies the functions of the commission, as well as the guidelines for the regulation of charities in Australia. It basically works as the rule book the ACNC follows in its operations and was enacted by the government as the official standards to abide by. The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission is run by an appointed commissioner, who is responsible for administering the Act.

They are provided with a team of workers provided by the Commissioner of Taxation and are funded from the Australian Taxation Office's departmental appropriations.

The legislation the Commission abides by includes:

3. Its Role And Powers

As an entity existing to uphold value and ethics within the charitable sector, The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission works to encourage and investigate compliance with the rules it mandates. 

It has the power to investigate reports of organisations operating in dereliction of these obligations and can issue penalties for non-compliance. In more serious cases of repeated non-compliance, it can also revoke an organisation's charity registration, and along with it, their charity tax concessions from the Australian Tax Office.

The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission is an important institution that helps to ensure the quality of Australia's charity sector. By collaborating with state and territorial governments, it provides a unified and standardised system of regulation that benefits both the charities themselves and the public. 

It's an essential part of the country's management of the good done by non-profits on a daily basis and performs pivotal functions in keeping the sector transparent and reputable.

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