Update newsletter: February / March 2011
"Our thoughts are with everyone in Christchurch, and the charities who are helping them"
Like many people in New Zealand at 12.51pm on Tuesday 22 February, Charities Commission staff felt the shockwave from the massive tremor that shook Christchurch.
At the time, we weren't immediately aware of the devastation it had caused, but soon saw the news reports of the tragic deaths and damage that it had brought to the city and its people.
All of us feel shock and grief at the terrible losses Christchurch has suffered, but we are also very aware of the wonderful work being done by the people and charities who have stepped up to offer comfort and practical support to those who need it most – they really are "making a difference", and deserve our thanks and support.
There are 2,395 charities registered with us who are based in Christchurch, six in Lyttleton, 23 in Akaroa, and 18 in Darfield. As well, there are three charities registered as a group that are based in Christchurch, and numerous nationwidewide charities operating there – many of which have sent additional staff and volunteers to the city since the quake struck.
We hope that everyone in our wider Christchurch "charities family" – including your families and friends – are safe and well, and will be thinking of you often during the weeks ahead, and doing whatever we can to lend our support. Meanwhile, please be aware:
The Commission will deal sympathetically with Christchurch charities delayed in filing Annual Returns or meeting other compliance requirements
Of course – it goes without saying – the Charities Commission understand the other important demands that are being made upon Christchurch charities right now, and will be sympathetic to any requests or problems you might have in fulfilling your ongoing obligations for registration during the coming weeks. If you are likely to be delayed or have problems with filing compliance documents that fell due on or after 22 February, please just call us on 0508 CHARITIES to let us know.
Calls to 0508 CHARITIES
The Commission's Call Centre is based in Christchurch – thankfully, although the building was damaged, staff were uninjured. Since the quake, we have been answering all 0508 CHARITIES calls in our Wellington office. If it takes a little longer than usual for us to pick up your call, please be patient – we have a small team, and are doing our very best.
Charity scams – how to donate safely
We are also aware that some unscrupulous people are seeking to take advantage of the high regard in which most registered charities are held, by sending out scam emails or collectors purporting to come from legitimate charities. We have sent out a warning through news media, and have updated our advice for donors and charities. We have also provided details of legitimate quake relief funds, and are encouraging the public to ask collectors for charities' registration numbers.
Meanwhile – we hope that, given time and the generous support of New Zealanders and international relief efforts, Christchurch and its people will recover. Kia kaha – be strong.
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Important advice for charities wanting to assist with earthquake relief
Check your rules first, before fundraising
Please ensure your charity's rules allow you to fundraise for the disaster before you launch an appeal. For example, if your purposes are to provide sports facilities for young people, you may not be able to fundraise for a disaster.
Even if it is within your charity's rules to run a disaster appeal, you should first think about whether you are best placed to organise and run an appeal, or whether other charities are in a better position to do so.
Thinking of starting a new charity to assist earthquake relief?
The Commission strongly advises careful consideration before starting a new charity to help with the earthquake. Well-established aid agencies already have networks, infrastructure, expertise and systems so they can respond quickly.
They also generally have donee status, so donors receive tax credits. We suggest that if you want to help, it's best to contact an established aid agency to offer your time and expertise.
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Two more appeal judgments received:
The Commission has received judgments from two recent appeals, now available on our website:
- New Zealand Computer Society Incorporated 28 February 2011
- Draco Foundation New Zealand Charitable Trust 15 February 2011
The Computer Society judgment relates to the Commission's deregistration decision, and the Draco judgment to the Commission's decision not to register the entity.
To date, nine appeals have been heard, and eight judgments received, upholding the Commission's decisions. Three more appeals are still to be heard – two are scheduled in March, and a date is yet to be set for the third. All judgments received to date are published on the Commission's website, to assist wider understanding of what the law means by "charitable".
Angela van Dam, the Commission's principal advisor, says that these judgments will add to the body of case law already used by the Commission's analysts when making decisions to register or deregister entities.
"When making our decisions, we are bound by the law set out by the courts. Over the years, courts have evolved a body of legal reasoning and precedents that we apply to every individual application and to each decision about whether to allow an entity to remain on the Register, " she says. "We do not compare applications with already-registered charities – every decision is made on its own individual merits. We do not refer to any other already-registered charity or applicant, or even to any application we had previously declined."
The Commission must be sure that every applicant and registered charity has main purposes that are exclusively and wholly charitable. A charity's rules must all be directed towards a charitable purpose recognised by the law, and all its activities must be directed at achieving its charitable purposes (and nothing else).
This enables the public to feel assurance that registered charities have been scrutinised to be sure they comply with the law, and that they are genuinely and wholly charitable.
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Registration and Compliance general manager Chris Winstanley to retire
The Commission's general manager Registration and Compliance, Chris Winstanley, is to retire in March.
Chris has had a long and distinguished public service career, which included senior roles with the Qualifications Authority and several New Zealand secondary schools before she joined us.
She started at the Commission in 2006, when we were planning our processes to register charities after the Register opened on 1 February 2007. At the time, we estimated up to 25,000 charities might apply.
Since then, Chris and her teams have processed more than 35,000 applications and more than 50,000 Annual Returns and Notices of Change, responded to complaints and enquiries from the public, and monitored and investigated charities. They have also assisted counsel in several High Court appeals and educated charities about their compliance obligations by personal contact, by speaking at forums around the country and through information sheets.
Chris's tenure with the Commission has certainly been demanding at times, but, we hope, rewarding as well. We wish her the very best for the future, and her planned travels.
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Acting appointment made
Acting general manager Registration, Sally Stonier, appointed
Responding to Chris's decision, the Commission has appointed an acting general manager Registration until the end of the year.
We welcome Sally Stonier, who will take up this role in mid-March. Sally will bring a wealth of leadership, strategy and charities registration experience to the position, having most recently been the Registration Development Manager for the UK Charity Commission. She has also worked in the charitable sector in both the UK and the USA.
Charities will most likely have an opportunity to meet Sally at the Commission's forums, being arranged for April-June this year.
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Opening up the Register – greater transparency
At present, if you search the Charities Register using the criteria on our Search page, you can generate a list of charities that – for example – operate in a particular area, work in a particular sector, and/or help a specified group of beneficiaries.
Many people using the Register have found this information useful. However, the Commission is taking it a step further, and is developing a new "advanced" search function that will allow users to download sets of data about charities.
For example, it could be possible to search for "all charities that act as an umbrella/resource body, operate in the Wellington area, received donations of more than $40,000, and whose main beneficiaries are children and young people", or any other combination of search criteria.
It will enable the data from the Charities Register to be "opened up" more widely, and allow government agencies, charities, the public, researchers, academics, professional advisers and others to find useful and relevant information about charities, and put it to good use.
"Open Data" will help to make the sector more transparent – to charities themselves, and to everyone else. It is likely to be a valuable tool for enhancing trust and confidence in the sector, and to increasing knowledge and understanding of what charities do and achieve. Open data will open up charity data to third party web developers and add value to current and new web applications and services that will benefit both the public and charities.
We'll keep you posted about progress on "Open Data", which will be developed and introduced in two stages during the next six months – firstly to other government users (so we can test it in a "real life" environment and develop some case studies), and then publicised more widely to charities and others.
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Did you know…? Key facts about registered charities
As at 21 February 2011, from Annual Returns filed by registered charities from the most recent 12 month period (that is,. for years ended between 1 August 2009 and 31 July 2010), we know that:
- more than 40% of registered charities are "grassroots" groups working with less than $25,000 income a year
- almost 85% of all donations / koha are received by 5% of registered charities
- almost 82% of all assets are held by 5% of registered charities
- registered charities spend $12 billion a year on their charitable purposes, and provide paid employment to the equivalent of 11,000 full-time staff
- volunteers give more than 33,000 hours to charities every week
- the charitable sector holds more than $35 billion in assets
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Have you ever received spam emails?
Spam is any message that's sent to multiple recipients who haven't specifically requested the message. Often, it is from overseas scammers, seeking to harvest "live" email addresses, bank account or other commercial or personal details, and/or fraudulently obtain money.
In 2007, Government passed the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act, which is administered and enforced by the Department of Internal Affairs.
When planning to send commercial "bulk" emails (even one-off messages), it's wise to make sure that you
- gain prior consent before sending any email (this can be "implied" or express consent)
- record when, where and how that consent was given, in order to produce evidence should any issues arise
- clearly identify who your email is from and supply your contact details, which must be valid for at least 30 days from the date of the email
- provide a free, clear and easy to use way for people to unsubscribe from your messages, which also must remain valid for at least 30 days
- action all requests to unsubscribe within 5 working days from the date of their receiving the email.
If you have any questions or want to report spam, you can contact email@example.com or contact the :
Anti-Spam Compliance Unit Department of Internal Affairs PO Box 805 Wellington 6140 Phone: (04) 495 7200
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Helpful tips for writing rules
The Commission is sometimes contacted by new charities wanting assistance with writing rules to use with their application for registration.
We have published several information sheets to help with writing rules:
- Your rules and the Charities Act
- Helpful tips for writing rules
And examples of wording for purpose clauses:
- The relief of poverty
- The advancement of religion
- The advancement of education
- Purposes beneficial to the community
However, you might also refer for guidance to the rules of similar organisations that the Commission has already registered (their rules are published on the Charities Register).
Be careful though, not to simply "copy and paste" clauses from other charities' rules into your own rules if they aren't a true reflection of what you will be doing. Your rules should clearly show what your charitable purposes are, and be the framework for your activities.
Having rules that aren't consistent with your activities could put your charity at risk of complaints from the public, and possible deregistration if your charity is monitored by the Commission.
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April – June charity forums confirmed – details to come
Following the successful forum series the Commission ran last year for charities, we are now organising a further series of 17 forums, to be held in main centres across the country.
We will work closely with local groups to organise and publicise the forums in each area, and involve a range of other government and non-government organisations that work in and alongside the charitable sector.
Charities who attended the earlier forums had asked for them to become a regular event, with feedback indicating that one of the most valuable things they got from them was the chance to network with other charities, representatives from government agencies, and advisers to the sector.
Please click this link for a list of the proposed dates and we'll keep you posted as venues and speakers are confirmed. Personal invitations will be sent out shortly. Note that we will confirm some dates and venues for Christchurch area charities as soon as practicable.
If you require any further information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Compliance section added to website
A new section has been added to the Commission's website – it includes pages explaining how the Commission's Compliance team work to monitor and investigate charities, and an online Complaints form and FAQs.
Over time, we will add more resources and tools for charities to use, to help ensure that you continue to meet the Commission's compliance requirements.
We may also publish summaries of the outcomes of our investigations work over time, and our recommendations to charities we have monitored, to assist members of the public to more easily recognise the attributes of effective charities.
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You can use a range of search options to search the Charities Register, whether you are looking for a particular charity, or for a list of charities that share certain criteria in common.
So, for example, you can look for a charity by using a keyword in its name, or look for a list of charities using search criteria that include an area of operation, beneficiaries, sector and activities. Or, you can search by an officer's name.
Now, we have added some "animated" screenshots showing you some of the ways to search. Take a look and try them out for yourself!
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Charities Register a hot click
In the year from 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2010, there were:
- 473,925 visits to the online Charities Register with just under 4 million page views
- 158,624 of those visitors viewed 496,587 charity summary pages on the Register
- The total number of hits for all pages during the year was 14,338,288 hits.
What does this mean for you and your charity? Traffic to the Charities Register has been steadily increasing since the Register was opened in early 2007, indicating a growing level of public interest in charities, and their financial and other information.
The Commission recommends that you check your charity's summary page on the Register regularly, to be sure that your contact and other details are up to date, that you have filed your Annual Returns on (or before) they are due, and you have advised us (using a Notice of Change form) if you have changed your charity's:
- address for service
- balance date
- officers (including new appointments)
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Your opinions count! – 5 minute Update survey
Update has around 7,000 regular subscribers, and we would like to hear your opinions!
We'd like to invite your feedback on its content, frequency and usefulness. Please consider completing our readership survey by Monday 11 April – it takes just five minutes and will help us to ensure we are meeting your information needs.
We are very receptive to your thoughts and suggestions, and will let you know the survey's results once they have been compiled.
Please have your say at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/7L6MHJJ - it only takes a few minutes!
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