14 February 2019

Major peak bodies could be doing more to inspire trust in donors

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In the last month alone, the charity and not-for-profit sector has ended up in the media for all the wrong reasons. Financial mismanagement seems more prevalent than ever as major peak bodies’ attempt – but fail – to bring the sector back into positive light.

The latest scandal to hit the sector is the official charging of the ex-NSW RSL manager after a two-year investigation found he stole more than $238,000 in donations. Before that, The House of Hope Recovery Centre was stripped of its charity status following charges against its former General Manager for stealing more than $12,000.

Days before Christmas, a former Guide Dogs manager was found to have stolen more than $200,000 from the charity for home renovations – back in July, that same charity was awarded most trusted organisation by Australia’s Readers Digest.

The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), and its boss Dr Gary Johns, has been quoted in the media for months now, citing that the charity has done wrong but they cannot disclose anything due to privacy concerns – which is well and good until the charity’s wrongdoings gets splashed across front pages anyway.

Other than a column here and there, major peak bodies aren’t really doing much more to convince the public that there are still charities worth trusting. As more foundations end up in news articles for governance and financial mismanagement, people become more and more frustrated and dissociated with the Australian social sector, which in turn deters donors from supporting charities that haven’t done anything wrong.

Although updating governance standards – as done recently by the Australian Institute of Company Directors – could be a start, it isn’t enough to inspire donors to continue supporting the scandal-free organisations that are affected nonetheless.

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