Thousands of charities miss annual report deadline

21 July 2015 | A register to make charities more accountable to donors will reveal which have failed to report their financials.

Show me the money

More than 5000 state-registered charities are in trouble for failing to report to the federal government's new Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC).

Registered charities are meant to report to the ACNC every financial year, allowing the public access to detailed information about the charity: what it's about, where it's located, and its registration history.

"The Charity Register is designed to promote public trust and confidence in charities, by increasing the transparency of the information available about charities," said a Commission spokesperson.

The tardy charities will receive a 'red mark' on the register if they don't lodge their report by the end of July. The mark indicates that a charity is six months or more late in making the information available, highlighting to the public, donors, and grant makers that the charity has not committed to the government's effort to better regulate the sector. There are currently 38,000 charities who have submitted their reports to the ACNC on time.

But the red mark only means so much, since registering on the ACNC is voluntary. Which means that if you have any doubts about a charity asking for your money, you should also check with your state or territory fundraising regulator.

The ACNC was set up in 2012, and charities were meant to register from January 2014, which would also make them eligible for tax concessions and benefits.

How do you know where your money goes?

An earlier CHOICE survey found 81% of respondents didn't know how much of their donation reached a charity's beneficiaries after fundraising costs and overheads were subtracted, but over 90% of respondents said they wanted to know.

The ACNC has a fact sheet to help you make sure your donation ends up where you intended. You may also find these following tips helpful.

How to check that a charity is legitimate

  • Ask for identification from street fundraising and door-to-door collectors.
  • Check if an organisation is registered on the ACNC Charity Register if you haven't heard of them before.
  • Unless you're sure it's a trusted source, do not provide your credit card or online account details.
  • Do not open suspicious or unsolicited emails – delete promptly.
  • If you're concerned, contact the charity directly and alert them of your concerns.
  • For information on the latest scams, visit the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's SCAMwatch website.

For more information on charities, read our CHOICE charity donations guide.