Funding community voice in the Charities Act Review

August 16, 2019

By Sue McCabe, Chief Executive, Philanthropy New Zealand

The positive impact of funding activity that supports the voice of the community and voluntary sector has been highlighted in a Philanthropy New Zealand-hosted webinar on the Charities Act Review.

Dave Henderson from Trust Democracy and Sue Barker from Sue Barker Charities Law updated people on the review’s progress. They highlighted key not for profit sector feedback and reflected on the difference support for community input has made.

Both Dave and Sue are members of the Department of Internal Affairs’ Core Reference Group for the review.

DIA is leading the Government’s review of the act, and a number of philanthropic organisations funded Sue and Dave to support a community sector voice in the review.

The funding enabled Sue and Dave to survey not for profits, speak at about 30 community meetings around the country, produce an issues paper and provide advice to numerous charities on different aspects of the review.

The Government is now considering the 363 submissions lodged.

Dave and Sue said the philanthropic funding resulted in much stronger community input. More than half the submissions lodged used material Dave and Sue had produced in their issues paper.

They received numerous pieces of feedback that their communications had helped not for profits make a submission on the review.  662 people responded to their survey to support the community perspective into the review.

Sue and Dave’s work has been credited for DIA significantly expanding its consultation, including the number of community meetings, and extending the timeframe for submissions.

Key points Sue and Dave heard the sector express during the consultation period were:

  • the ability for charities to advocate for their charitable purposes;
  • the preference for an Independent Tribunal to hear appeals;
  • the need to focus on the underlying principles of the Act;
  • having a single entity independent of Government, instead of Charities Services and the Charities Registration Board;
  • a plea for consistency between incorporated societies and charities legislation, given concern that the Government was treating related issues in silos through tax, social enterprise, incorporated societies, trusts and other projects;
  • the need for the review scope to be widened, and to be carried out by a body independent of the DIA.

They said it was now looking less likely that there will be a rush to have a new Charities Act passed before the 2020 election. They think it’s more likely there will be a second round of consultation – possibly through an ‘exposure draft’ bill. Dave and Sue said this was a significant improvement on the original timeframe and should result in a better bill going to Parliament, although they cautioned there is still much work to be done.

Reflecting on the Charities Act Review experience to date, Dave and Sue were supportive of philanthropic funding that enables community organisations to input into Government policy. They said having a sufficiently funded body that could advocate a whole-of-charity-sector perspective to government would also help.

Thanks Sue and Dave for giving your time for the webinar. We also appreciate the help you gave Philanthropy New Zealand to write its submission and develop material that others could use.

View the webinar here.

Funders supporting Dave and Sue’s work included: The Todd Foundation, BayTrust, Community Trust South, Bryant Trust, Eastern and Central Community Trust, Eastern Bay Energy Trust, Foundation North, Otago Community Trust, Trust Waikato, Whanganui Community Foundation, the Gift Trust, and the Bishops Action Foundation.

View the PowerPoint slides here.