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February 2015

Download a text only version of Charities Update.


Lesa Kalapu

Kia ora koutou, talofa lava and warm greetings.

Welcome back! I hope you had a wonderful break and that you are looking forward to a successful and busy year.

The Charities Services team is looking forward to working with you again this year – you may have seen our invitation to register for workshops for smaller charities on the new reporting standards.  

We had great feedback about the workshops we ran last year in conjunction with the External Reporting Board, and I am sure that this year’s workshops will be equally well-received.

This year, as always, our focus will be on supporting charities to remain qualified to be registered, which in turn enables the public to feel trust and confidence in the sector.

To that end, our “big ticket” pieces of work this year will include helping your charity to smoothly move to using the new reporting standards and start using your reporting to help donors and supporters to better understand how you are making a positive difference. 

And as always, we will work to maintain the integrity of the Charities Register, by prompting charities to maintain accurate information about themselves, and deregistering any charities that don’t meet all the requirements set out in the Charities Act, including filing complete Annual Returns on time.

We will also continue our work monitoring and investigating charities if we receive information or evidence that indicates a breach of the Charities Act.

You may have noticed stories in news media from time to time about investigations that we have carried out, particularly if high profile charities are involved. Investigations are an important part of our work as a regulator, and their main purpose is to identify and deal with wrongdoing. Sometimes, being investigated helps charities to identify and fix weaknesses in their management or governance and therefore does not result in deregistration. If we contact you, either as a result of receiving a complaint, or because we have noticed something that might indicate a problem with your charity, we aim to work constructively with you to resolve any issues.

Nāku, nā

Lesa Kalapu
General Manager, Charities Services

New reporting standards workshops for small charities

New reporting requirements for registered charities become mandatory from 1 April 2015.

We are holding a new round of workshops throughout New Zealand, from the beginning of March until the end of June.  The workshops will help smaller charities to understand how to apply the new reporting requirements. The workshops will be supported by the External Reporting Board (XRB).

These free two-hour workshops are for registered charities with annual operating expenditure of less than $2 million. If your charity falls into this category, you will be able to report using Simple Format Reporting standards.

The workshops will focus on the information your charity will need to collect so you can report using the new standards at the end of your financial year.

Because the requirements for Tier 3 and Tier 4 charities are different, we are holding separate workshops for each tier.  It’s important that you work out which tier you’ll report in, so you can attend the right workshop. (Tip – the registration page on the website explains how to work out which tier your charity fits into).

For more information, or to register for one of the workshops, please go to our website.

A word from Minister Goodhew - make the most of reporting standards workshops

Jo Goodhew

Hard work by Charities Services has ensured there is a wealth of support and guidance available for charities as they begin to adapt to the new reporting standards, and especially so for smaller charities. Over half of all registered charities operate with an income of less than $50,000, and Charities Services wants to ensure these new standards will be an easy transition.

I really encourage small charities with an operating expenditure of less than $2 million to register for the workshops. It was fantastic that around 900 signed up in the first twelve hours, but there is plenty of space for more.

These changes are all about ensuring better transparency for the public. More consistent reporting will help the public understand how charities are using their funds and resources to help those who need support. As well as the changes to financial reporting, I think it is a positive step to require the inclusion of your year’s achievements in annual reporting. There are so many good stories out there and these changes provide another means for you to describe the difference you make to your community.

Update - 1,800 overdue Annual Returns added to the Charities Register!

Screenshot of annual returns table

In November last year, we sent letters to around 2,000 charities that had two or more overdue Annual Returns, to notify them that they would be removed from the Charities Register unless their missing Returns were filed within the month.

An Annual Return consists of a completed Annual Return form and a copy of your charity’s financial statements – you must provide both. (If you provide an incomplete Return, it won’t be counted).

So far, as a result of the letters, we have added more than 1,800 overdue Annual Returns from more than 800 organisations to the Register, and we have deregistered 479 charities that haven’t responded to us or filed. Around 76 organisations have voluntarily deregistered.

We also found that around 200 letters couldn’t be delivered, because the charity hadn’t updated its address with us (we are following those up, but will automatically deregister these charities if we can’t make contact).

Most charities file on time, but those who don’t are easily visible to the public (including news media), because their page on the Register will just show a blank where the Annual Return should be available.

Annual Returns are really important. Missing Annual Returns mean that data about the charitable sector is incomplete, and can also affect public perceptions of those charities that haven’t filed – and of the sector overall. 

The Charities Act says that all charities must file an Annual Return every year, within six months of your balance date.

They also provide assurance to your donors, supporters, and the taxpayers who indirectly support your charity, that you are doing what you were set up to do, and making a difference to the end cause.

Helpful tips for filing on time

An easy way to check when your Return is due (or that previous Returns have been received) is to look up your page on the Charities Register.

Remember that an Annual Return consists of a completed Annual Return form and a copy of your financial statements.
Charities Services generally send you a reminder, a couple of weeks before your Return is due.

There is no “grace” period for overdue Annual Returns! If you don’t file on time, and don’t respond to an overdue Notice, your charity will be deregistered.

Make sure your contact details are kept up to date (so our reminder reaches you)! Log in to your charity’s online account to make updates.

It’s simpler (and cheaper, if a fee is payable) to file online.

An on-air chat about the new reporting standards – worth a listen

Cup of coffee and pen on paper

Fancy a cuppa and a chat about the new reporting standards?

Charities Services’ Regional  Capability Advisor, Sarah Doherty, recently sat down with Wellington Access Radio’s Collaborative Voices’ programme host Ros Rice to have a chat about the new reporting standards, and what they mean for charities. 

Sarah has been on the road at the reporting standards workshops that have been run during the past year, so has a good understanding of what the new standards entail for charities, some of the questions being commonly asked, and how the new standards will help charities to better tell their story.

You might like to have a listen to Sarah and Ros’s conversation – it’s around ten minutes long.

We’re very charitable in New Zealand!

Maginfying glass over green people icons

Did you know…?

New Zealand has registered a relatively high number of charities per capita of its population – currently, there is (roughly) one registered charity for every 162 New Zealanders.

This compares with the number of registered charities in other jurisdictions (using the most recent Register and population stats available, and rounded up or down):

  • Scotland – one charity for every 223 people (23,734 charities/5.3m population)
  • United States –  one charity for every 243 people (1.3m charities/316.1m population)
  • England – one charity for every 322 people (164,097 charities/53.01m population)
  • Ireland – one charity for every 383 - 657 people (estimated 7,000 - 12,000 charities/4.6m population)
  • Australia – one charity for every 389 people (59,427 charities/23.13m population)
  • Canada – one charity for every 413 people (85,000 charities/35.16m population)

Why does Charities Services investigate charities – and what should you do if you are contacted about an investigation?

Words on a chalkboard

Monitoring and enforcing charities’ compliance with the Charities Act is an important part of our work regulating charities and providing support to the sector. Knowing that Charities Services will investigate complaints and potential wrongdoing contributes to public trust and confidence in charities, and supports the good reputation of the sector.

We undertake investigations into charities if we have information or evidence about possible breaches of the Act that involve serious wrongdoing. Information is often provided to us by members of the public, news media, and members of charities.

If we receive some information that indicates there might be a problem, we assess it, and may decide to investigate. If we do, we have powers to require charities to provide information and respond to our questions.

If your charity is being investigated, we will contact you, and outline the issue that we are looking into and the information we are assessing. We are likely to ask you to answer our questions and provide information to us, but we will also give you opportunities throughout the process to respond to our questions and explain your actions and activities.

If your charity has been sticking to your rules, following good governance and management practices, and directing all your funds and activities towards your charitable cause, there is absolutely nothing to worry about! We have a “sliding scale” of remedies for charities where we find problems though – ranging from providing guidance and support to improve management and/or governance, through to deregistration and banning officers where serious wrongdoing is proved. 

Investigations are (necessarily) thorough – this can take time, particularly where complex issues are involved, or there is a large amount of information to be investigated and assessed.

However, we try to resolve investigations within a reasonable amount of time, with the cooperation of the charity concerned

Some charities choose to deregister before the process is complete. However, deregistered charities can no longer access the benefits of registration – including tax exemption – and must divest all the charity’s assets and income within 12 months to another charity, or they will be liable for tax.

We can publish information about our findings, and we can refer information we find (that isn’t in breach of the Charities Act but may breach other legislation) to other government agencies. 

However, we don’t publish information about ongoing investigations or discuss them in news media, to avoid unduly influencing the investigation process or unfairly damaging the reputation of the charity. We also don’t release the names of people who provide information or evidence to us – that’s because we don’t want to discourage anyone from disclosing relevant information to us.

The aim of all our investigations is to make sure that charities really are doing the charitable work they were set up to do, so the public can feel safe when donating money, volunteering, or providing indirect support through the tax exemptions available to registered charities.

Where can I look for advice about…. branding our charity?

Puzzle piece with the word 'brand' on it

This is the first of a series of (occasional) brief articles we will publish in the Charities newsletter, suggesting places where you can find helpful advice and guidance for your charity on a range of topics.


Your brand is the sum of everything that you, your volunteers and employees, donors, beneficiaries and the public think about your charity. Marketing is what you (can) do; your brand is who you are – or who people think you are! Your brand is what makes you different to any other organisation.

Many successful organisations actively seek to shape and promote their brand, and to influence what people think, feel and do when they hear their name, or see their product, or consider using their services.

Here are some places to find helpful information about successfully branding your charity to support the work you do – they were written for the UK, but are also relevant to New Zealand charities:

Branding Inside Out: a Best Practice Guide

Free 84 page booklet, with useful advice, case studies and examples. You will need to sign up and give some information about yourself/your charity for this free resource, but don’t worry; it won’t be used to spam you. (You might also find it useful to have a stroll around this website – it has heaps of useful stuff for charities).

RNLI brand guidelines at a glance (PDF, 997KB)*

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) brands itself as “the charity that saves lives at sea”. Its (abbreviated) brand guidelines are its toolkit for “making our communications unmistakably RNLI”. It has guidelines for the use of its logo, and helpful guidance on how it speaks and engages with its supporters to build their awareness, nurture relationships, and create loyalty. It is a great template for developing your charity’s own practical set of brand guidelines.

Five ways to strengthen your charity’s brand

Easy-to-read Guardian article with handy tips for building your charity’s brand, and using it to help you achieve your charitable objectives.

Good in the Hood – 2015 funding application round now open

Registered charities are eligible to apply for funding to support neighbourhood projects in a programme operated by Z Energy. This month (until 28 February), groups can apply online to be part of Good in the Hood. From these applications, every Z station will select four neighbourhood groups to receive a share of $4,000. In May 2015, customers will receive a token which they can use to vote on how they think the $4,000 should be split.

Another $1000 will be used by each Z station throughout the year to support other neighbourhood projects and initiatives. If you’d like to know more, or your charity would like to apply, visit www.z.co.nz/GoodintheHood. Applications are open between 1 – 28 February.

Special gift for all new citizens ̶ Choice (Whiriwhiria) - The New Zealand citizenship story

Choice citizenship book cover

Many charities work with new immigrants and refugees who come to New Zealand – some of whom go on to apply for and receive New Zealand citizenship. All “new” New Zealand citizens will now receive a special gift from their adoptive country when they take up citizenship.

Choice is a commemorative book which acknowledges the commitment that new citizens make to New Zealand. The book features the stories of people who have chosen to become New Zealand citizens and includes information on New Zealand citizenship.

It will be presented to new citizens when they attend the citizenship ceremonies, which are organised by councils around the country.

If you would like to see the commemorative book, you can read or download a PDF version.

Which came first? Eggs…or donations?

Two eggs with pen-drawn faces in an egg carton

Next time you are planning a fundraising campaign, you might like to bear in mind the findings of a recent study looking at what makes people feel charitable. This story (abbreviated below) ran in Stuff recently:

Eating eggs actually makes you kinder, study says

In an unusual study, researchers decided to find out how much more charitable we become after eating eggs.

They already understood that serotonin, as well as maintaining mood balance and our sense of happiness, is associated with social behaviour – acts of generosity and kindness, for instance.

The researchers also knew that an amino acid called tryptophan (TRP) – found in whole eggs, poultry, beans, oats, fish, cheese, tofu, seeds and nuts – converts into serotonin in the body.

Now the researchers, from Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition in The Netherlands, have found that eating foods full of tryptophan can increase our willingness to give to charity by as much as double.

The researchers say their study is the first demonstration that charitable donating can be enhanced by serotonin-related food supplements.

The team took 32 healthy students and gave half the group a placebo and the other half the equivalent TRP of three eggs.
The students were given $15 each for their participation in the study and were asked whether they would like to leave any of their reward to charity.

Those who took the TRP donated, on average, double the amount donated by the placebo participants.

The study was admittedly small and the authors acknowledged that more research was needed to see if the results could be replicated.