Commissioner's Blog: Choose charities carefully
With Acting Consumer Protection Commissioner Gary Newcombe
The Syrian refugee crisis has prompted an outpouring of public support for those in need of aid. Consumer Protection would like to remind Western Australians, who try to make a difference through charitable donations, to choose an established humanitarian charity.
Charities in Western Australia need to be licensed and you can check whether a charity has the required licence, and the organisation’s registered contact details, by searching on the Consumer Protection website: www.commerce.wa.gov.au/charities
Charities may also be registered with the national regulator – the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC). They must be registered with the ACNC if they offer tax deductions for any donations made to them. You can view their register at: www.acnc.gov.au/findacharity
There are reporting requirements for charities operating with a licence or registration; this is to safeguard money and ensure funds are not misused. Proper records must be kept of monies received, how much money has been spent on charitable activities and any deductions for costs of running the charity have to be reasonable.
Generosity is an admirable trait and Australians are renowned for it but to make every dollar count in the Syrian refugee crisis, we recommend donating to reputable, well-known humanitarian charities that have a track-record of helping on the ground in war-torn countries.
For example, charities that are members of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) have been assisting refugees from Syria since the conflict began and their established relationships and skills mean funds will be directed to those who need it most. There is also an ACFID Code of Conduct that ensures their fundraising efforts are transparent and accountable. See the ACFID website www.acfid.asn.au for a list of appeals and detailed information regarding how aid agencies are responding.
You might think that sending goods in kind to remote overseas locations is the best way to help but it can be overly expensive, complicated and potentially have unintended consequences, such as the items ending up in the wrong hands. In fact, a cash donation to an established humanitarian charity is a more effective way to help. Direct donation is the safest way to make sure money is received by your chosen charity and goes to the intended cause. The relevant major organisations usually have secure payment systems on their websites.
If a charity collector knocks at your door or approaches you on the street, the person collecting requires a permit and you should always ask for identification. When in doubt, contact the charity that the collector claims to represent, using known contact details that you have sourced independently. Do not use a phone number provided by the person collecting money as they could be a scammer.
Be especially careful when it comes to out-of-the-blue approaches made over the phone, via email or social media seeking charitable donations. Double-check that it is a legitimate collection before handing over your credit card number or carrying out a bank transfer. Remember you can always decline over the phone, or ignore the email or social media request, and instead head to an established humanitarian charity’s website to donate directly.
If you intend to set up a fundraising campaign in WA, no matter how big or small, you must either get a licence from Consumer Protection or obtain the approval of an existing licence-holder, such as a Rotary Club, to operate under their umbrella. Even if you decide to hold a charity event, like a sausage sizzle or morning tea, on behalf of an already licensed charity, you should get the permission of that charity first.
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