The Meeting Place

Open letter to Australian governments

Dear Prime Minister, Premiers and Chief Ministers

We write to thank you for your support of charities and not-for-profit organisations during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The measures you have put in place have ensured thousands of charities across Australia have remained viable, thousands more charity workers have been able to keep their jobs, and critical services have been able to respond to existing and emerging community needs.

Thank you for taking the time to listen to our proposals and responding in a way that has been supportive of the charities and not-for-profit sector through these unprecedented times. 

We know charities will face a much tougher time over the next year and beyond.  Fundraising revenue alone is set to drop over 20 per cent (based on post Global Financial Crisis patterns of giving).  The increased need will stretch far beyond the end of COVID-19, with a new cohort of vulnerable and at-risk people joining those already challenged amongst us.  Some charities will struggle to survive even with the support that has been provided to date, many more will have to close programs and services, and consider winding up.

There are several measures that need to be addressed across Federal and State jurisdictions to ensure charities can continue to serve their communities and provide much needed services.  The measures we are proposing will promote giving, reduce red tape, enable access to new capital and support increased productivity.  These measures will enable charities - employing 1.3 million people and engaging over 3.5 million volunteers - to be much better positioned to support their communities, especially those most in need in the post COVID-19 recovery.  Key measures include:

  • providing a ramp rather than a cliff as JobKeeper ends
  • encouraging giving by providing 150% tax deductibility for donations to charities
  • making it possible for charities to establish fundraising initiatives more quickly by removing dysfunctional red tape fundraising regulations and creating a one stop registration process
  • subject to strong performance, ensuring greater certainty in government contracts by locking in existing payments and prolonging contracts
  • allowing charities and not-for-profits to roll over unspent funds where the underspend is related to reduced activity during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • making it possible for volunteers to be registered more quickly by reducing red tape and creating a one stop registration process
  • supporting initiatives to unlock new sources of capital for charities including underwriting medium-term loans schemes and impact investment options
  • providing transformational funding in critical areas such as information technology, energy efficiency, collaboration, measurement of impact, and other productivity focused areas
  • supporting more research into the issues impacting on the charities sector.

 

We know and appreciate that you are already considering a number of these measures.

Finally, as a group of charity leaders, we strongly suggest that one clear principle be kept in mind in relation to questions about eligibility and where we draw the line for both government and community support. Those with the highest need should be given priority in accessing services. 

This needs-based approach applies in critical areas such as health, housing, welfare, etc.  As a principle it minimises the impact of bias or discrimination ensuring those who most need support receive it.

For charities, whether someone is an international student on a temporary Visa, a student from regional Australia, an Indigenous person, young carer, or older disabled person, we seek to serve based on need.

One of the pleasing features of Australia’s response has been a sense that we are all in this crisis together. However, this sense is undermined when the lines of eligibility for support programs seem to discriminate against certain groups in our communities.  We know that good programs - government and non-government - frame eligibility based on need and allow for variations within communities.  This approach will ensure fewer people are left behind as we begin the recovery process.

Our sector knows we have a lot of work to do.  We are constantly aware of the need to look to our own practices and seek to maximise our impact, especially as we enter the post COVID-19 period.

Charities large and small are a critical part of Australia’s economic and social infrastructure.  You have recognised this role in some of the measures put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Over the next 12 months and beyond, charities and not-for-profits want to be part of the solution, part of rebuilding our communities and boosting our economy.

As you frame policies in critical areas like employment and productivity, charities are keen and ready to be included in policy discussions and to contribute to the development and design of new initiatives.  As a major Australian employer group, we are interested in supporting workplace flexibility.  Similarly, in other major policy areas including information technology reforms, energy and other infrastructure, charities are eager to be part of discussions about improving productivity.

We are available at any time to discuss any of the issues or measures raised in this letter – please contact the Charities Crisis Cabinet secretary David Crosbie on 0419624420.

We hope you will continue to acknowledge our role and support us in our work to strengthen Australian communities through this important post COVID-19 recovery.

Yours sincerely                                            

Rev Tim Costello AO                                                                    Ms Susan Pascoe
Co- Chair, Charities Crisis Cabinet                                            Co- Chair, Charities Crisis Cabinet              
14th of June 2020                                                                         14th of June 2020

8 comments

Dear Tim, we all agree that charities do a wonderful and very needed job in our society otherwise we, the people, would not support them so wholeheartedly as we do. However, it has been observed that over a long time the nature of charities has changed. Not their purpose but their management structure.When I was a child (admittedly a while ago) there were fewer charities, more unpaid volunteers and those who lead them did so part-time and may be an honourium annually. Now top management has become a fulltime job with salaries commensurate to outside industries ie highly paid. Slowly, middle management positions have been introduced further diluting the income being generated by donors and unpaid volunteers. From our perspective at the bottom of the food chain, we see a "lilies of the field" picture - an awful lot of our labour going into large salaries instead a particular pool of need.In other words, the tail is now wagging the dog. What happened to "volunteering your time" and when did charaties become an industry as it is today? OK organizations need leadership for direction and cohesion but why paid?

Yes, I agree with you, fish head.  I rarely give to charity boxes in shopping centres, etc I always wonder if my couple of dollars are going to be used to pay the CEO salary instead of the charity.  I definitely don’t give money over the phone when telesales people ring because they’re working for a wage as well.

 

2.2 billion people live on less than $2 a day and over 1 billion live in extreme poverty, trying to survive on just $1.25 per day.

Tim Costello was  paid $319,000 to head World Vision. Now it’s headed by banker Claire Rogers.

The average World Vision executive compensation is $227,978 a year. The median estimated compensation for executives at World Vision including base salary and bonus is $216,102, or $103 per hour. At World Vision, the most compensated executive makes $700,000, annually, and the lowest compensated makes $57,000. 

I have always been involved in charities but over the last few years I have become very disillusioned and prefer to give assistance to people closer to home with the knowledge that the money is being used for the right purposes...if it's not transparent..I do not give.

I always thought it's a shame we have to have charities. Governments should provide money to help people. 

I agree with you fish head. 

Another major problem as I see it, is the lack of distinction between the needy and the greedy. Frequently the genuine needy family also have a lot of pride and hate to go cap in hand to seek a handout. I think many older people are in this category.

I sometimes observe people loading up multiple boxes of free food into their expensive BMWs.  The genuinely needy might arrive on foot with just a plastic shopping bag to carry a few items home.

Great problem with the Op shops too. Lets say a piece of furniture has been donated to them. It gets priced high, so someone needy but proud can't afford it. Unless of course they go cap in hand to the charity office and beg for help. In which case they get a generous voucher to buy the furniture at the high price. It seems the genuinely needy person has to be stripped of all pride and dignity and humiliated by 'superior' do gooders rather than just being allowed to maintain their pride and dignity by buying at an affordable price?

Unfortunately because the so called charities have become an industry rather than a genuine charity, it seems the reason is this. Why get only say $10 for something when the voucher system allows them to be reimbursed $100 from the government (taxpayers)?

 

 

 

We will never forget what happened to the money given to charities during the terrible bushfires.  And we will never give money again unless it goes into a nominated bank account issued by the person raising funds for that particular event.  All those millions raised never got to the people it was intended for, it got stuck in the Salvation Army, Red Cross and Rural Fire Service bank accounts instead.  Never again!

 

I totally agree, toot2000, its a disgrace that all those millions donated to various appeals to help bushfire victims will be kept for"other " purposes by the funds. So where does the money go? Rural fire service says it "has" to be used for their own infrastructure, Red Cross says "it was not intended to rebuild houses" and i dont know what Salvos are going to use it for.

I certainly will NEVER donate to one cent to these so-called charities. I strongly suspect a lot of this cash will flow into management pockets. Lets have a public audit of all these funds if they are genuinely going to those who need help.

Totally agree toot2000 and pedro the swift

I too would not dream of donating to these charities again ... these organistions should have to pay taxes.... at least the Government would be keeping an eye on the donors money as to where itis going.

I agree I have donated to charities and been so darn mad that they have not got to where I wished them to go.  

Also, the charities have rung me up and asked can I make that payment EVERY month or more -- I told them where to go --

I have also had charities ring me and ask if I could donate and tell me that I would go into a bin to be able to win some fancy 4 wheel drive -- I told them that just turned me right off as if they can afford that then put that money into the charity as I am not into giving money with the thought of winning anything.

I donated to the local Koala and wildlife as well and they seemed very fair dinkum --

So many charities have very highly paid managers too and the charity gets a very small %

 

I can only agree with all of the above comments especially regarding the salaries of executives. The prime CBD office locations of some of them raise similar issues too. My wife and I contribute a five figure total to several chosen charities each year but only after careful scrutiny of their online accounts which are often quite shocking with over 50% of contributions going to admin and salaries. When a new CEO is announced as a senior bank exec. I stop contributing. Some so called charities are in fact companies and do not publish accounts. Some charities, one of them involved in cancer, do nothing more than spend their money on promoting a cause while not helping to solve it.

Early this year we donated a four figure amount to the Bushfire support fund, or so we thought. After four months of trying and waiting for a receipt we received a letter thanking us for supporting domestic violence aid, something we would not willingly support. So if you are wondering where some of your money goes, it could be spent on anything.

To add insult to injury I believe we have a federally funded Charities Commissioner or Ombudsman who from memory announced he didn't intend doing much when he was appointed to the post. We hear nothing from him publicly so another charity salary we are all funding.

There are far too many charities, over 15,000 from memory. Who monitors all the new charities set up by families nearly every time a child's life is lost and how is the money spent?

To regain credibility the charity sector needs a really good shake up, perhaps even a Royal Commission so that its excesses are exposed and stopped.

I note that there are 57,000 registered charities in Australia, you would have to wonder at the purpose of some of these and duplication and waste it must create. Dr. Gary John was appointed Commissioner in December 2017, not without significant controversy within the sector. 

8 comments