Reflections on the 2022 New Zealand Charities Reporting Awards
Published: 16 June 2022
Written by Dr Nives Botica Redmayne, Associate Professor, Massey University.
This year I had a privilege of being a member of a judging panel for the New Zealand Charity Reporting Awards organised by Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ). This was the 5th year the awards have been run, with awards for Tier 1 and 2 (combined for the first time), Tier 3, Tier 4, and one for sustainability. This was also the first year that a Te Ao Māori Award was conferred. These awards recognise and celebrate best practice in reporting among registered charities using the External Reporting Board (XRB) accounting standards and best practice in communicating with their stakeholders and society at large.
I approached my role as judge wearing several hats - a standard setter as a member of the XRB New Zealand Accounting Standards Board (NZASB), but also as a preparer for a few charities in the past (having been on governance committees and boards of some smaller registered charities in my region). Finally I am a user and reader of reports (being a member or a supporter of a number of various size registered charities in New Zealand).
My role when judging the reports was to assess the effectiveness of communication. I considered the quality of how charities communicated their role and mission, the regulatory environment that they operate in, their governance structure and management arrangements, their links with other entities and groups, as well as the quality of information about their volunteers. Other aspects of communication under consideration were the communication of their strategies, financial and non-financial results and the overall cohesiveness of the reports. In other words, informative, clear and concise reports that help readers understand the charity and what its achievements were in the last reporting period and why - especially in the context of the pandemic.
When it came to reporting on sustainability, the assessments were made on the reported economic, environmental, and societal sustainability practices and related reporting that a charity employs. However overall, responding to the needs of the society, effectiveness of achieving sustainability objectives, efficiency in utilising the charity’s resources and reporting on the differences that the charities are making in the communities and the environment in which they operate were weighted as particularly important by the judging panel. Presenting a coherent, well written and coordinated sustainability story was what won the votes.
This year’s winner in the sustainability reporting category, Zealandia, presented their story by using the Integrated Reporting Framework which, in my opinion, lends itself really well to reporting on sustainability.
The Te Ao Māori or the Māori Worldview award was a new award this year and the judging panel had a subject matter expert to assist in judging the reports in this category, Roimata Ah Sam. The criteria considered for this award were based on whether the reports reflect the Treaty of Waitangi principles of partnership, protection, and participation within the entity’s strategy, whether the charity takes a long-term view to promote the wellbeing and prosperity of all New Zealanders and whether the charity integrates the unique intergenerational view of Te Ao Māori into its core functions. We also assessed whether the charity embeds Māori tikanga into its organisational culture through engagement with mana whenua and recognises the true value of taonga such as land and water. Important to the judges was also whether the charity promotes and supports the use of Te Reo Māori and contributes to Māori development and the realisation of Māori aspirations. Overall, the art of storytelling to connect the charity with its stakeholders was what the judges were after in this category.
My own impressions from this year’s charities reports that I read and judged are that the quality of New Zealand registered charities’ reporting is continuing to improve and that many charities provide valuable information to their stakeholders not only on their achievements and financial results, but also very important information about how they operated in the COVID environment and information about sustainability practices to continue their operations and missions in the post-COVID world. As a supporter of several New Zealand charities and a donor to their causes I find that particular aspect of charities’ reporting really valuable. The information about the response to the pandemic generated challenges with a clear strategy as to how the charities are to continue operating sustainably in the future being what I wanted to read about and understand.
Reading our charities’ stories, I was heartened by the adaptability and innovation that many of the shortlisted charities employed in the last two years, as well as their renewed strategies as to how to continue their work in often difficult and trying conditions. This is also keeping in mind that nearly all of the registered charities whose reports we judged are heavily reliant on the work of their volunteers who also faced challenges and had to change the way they live and work in their own day-to-day lives due to the pandemic.
That, based on the overall suggestions by the judging panel, brings me to the point of suggesting some further improvements for our charities’ reporting in the coming periods. For example: charities would be well advised to talk early in their reports about who they are and what they do so that the readers can better understand the information in the reports in that context. In addition, good information around strategy and purpose as well as the evidence of possible future changes to the charity’s strategy considering risks and opportunities perspectives would also be welcomed additions to their reports. To that end reporting against budgets and using comparatives in the financial reports is informative and should be encouraged. Where charities received government financial support by the way of wage subsidies and grants through the pandemic, it is good for stakeholders to understand what the long-term financial sustainability of a charity is once this support is no longer available and, in that light, what is the long-term strategy of the charity. Finally, where a charity’s primary purpose is to advance sustainability-related issues, the charities should provide clear information about how sustainability is embodied in all the activities that they conduct.
My parting thoughts on the 2022 New Zealand Charity Reporting Awards are also an invitation. While entries were up on the previous year, they have declined since the awards commenced. I would like to encourage and invite more charities to participate in these awards next year. I do realise that high quality reporting, particularly Tier 4 where charities often rely on work of volunteers and non-experts in their reporting, could be at times hard to achieve. However, I do hope that the current XRB proposed amendments to the Tier 3 and 4 reporting requirements will enable simpler but still high quality reporting by registered charities who report using these standards. If you have not done so already, please read about the proposed changes in the documents on the XRB website ( Tier 3 & 4 Not-for-Profit & Public Sector Reporting Consultation » XRB(external link)) and comment. This consultation is open for comments and suggestions until 30 September 2022.
Once again, congratulations to all the winners of this year’s awards and thank you to all the nominees for submitting their reports. I am looking forward to reading the participating charities’ reports in next year’s awards and getting to learn about their amazing work and celebrate their stories.
Nga mihi and kia kaha,
Dr Nives Botica Redmayne, Associate Professor, Massey University.