Tēnā koutou kātoa, Talofa lava and warm greetings
Almost three months into the role as General Manager, I’m relishing the opportunity to work with the Charities Services team to support your work and promote a thriving charitable sector.
As I write this, public trust and confidence in our sector is top of mind – in particular, how the new financial reporting standards will provide greater consistency across the sector, bringing us in line with international standards and further strengthening this trust and confidence.
We know this is a big change for the sector – in fact, it’s the most significant regulatory transformation since the Charities Act 2005 was enacted. We also know you are keen to hear about how Charities Services will support the sector in the lead up to 1 April 2015, and beyond.
The team has been busy behind the scenes with planning, information gathering, and resource development to ensure the sector is well prepared for the changes. Members of our Capability and Engagement team have been consulting with various sector groups about what the new standards mean for them, and these discussions are providing some valuable insights. The information gathered through this consultation is being incorporated in training material that will be available in a series of seminars planned for later this year – read more about this in the article below.
The introduction of new financial reporting standards presents a wonderful opportunity for us all – the whole sector benefits when charities provide consistent, transparent information to the donating and taxpaying public. The team and I are focused on playing our role in supporting you through this change.
Making sound decisions about which organisations can be registered as charities is another key part of our role, and a recent review of our registration decisions shows we are getting it right – see more below.
Also in this newsletter you will find information about improvements to our annual return payment process, a reminder about the importance of providing accurate tax receipts to donors, and some interesting data about charities’ areas of operation across the country.
Finally, the team and I have been thinking about the information we provide in this newsletter – we want to make sure we’re sharing interesting, relevant, and timely information with you. We’d like your feedback on this – please email the team with your thoughts.
Out in the community – new financial reporting standards
With the new financial reporting standards set to take effect from 1 April next year, Regional Advisor Capability Sarah Doherty and her colleagues have been giving Department of Internal Affairs' Community Operations staff and people in the sector an insight into the changes.
“We’ve been getting a good hearing at the funding forums and capability development events we’ve been attending,” says Sarah. “People recognise the value of the new standards to their organisations.
“The standards are being introduced to improve the quality of information held on the Register. Improving the quality and consistency of information enhances accountability and transparency both within organisations and right across the sector.
“This is good for charities, funders, donors, volunteers and communities,” she says.
Once the changes take effect, financial statements will need to be prepared according to the new standards which have been set by the External Reporting Board (XRB). There are four tiers, depending on an organisation’s size, and most organisations will need to include non-financial information in their reports.
“This gives charities a wonderful opportunity to tell the whole story about their organisation – which is beneficial to them, as donors and prospective donors can find out more about their work,” Sarah says.
“We are planning seminars throughout the country in September and October of this year to give some training on the new standards, and we hope charity representatives will take the opportunity to come along to these sessions.
“In the meantime it’s important for charities to make sure their organisation's contact details on the Register are up-to-date. This makes it easier for us to get in touch.”
Details about the sessions will be posted on the Charities Services website and more information will be available in up-coming newsletters.
Annual returns – file and pay online
Completing your annual return just got a lot easier – you can now make an online payment when you file your return online.
“This reduces the double-handling that currently occurs and means a tax receipt is issued directly to the charity with no further action required,” says Acting Manager Registrations Grant Christie.
“Annual returns are important because they give the public access to relevant information about a charity’s activities and use of resources.
"This helps charities remain accountable and transparent which leads to greater public trust and confidence in the sector.”
Grant asks people making a payment online to include the charity’s name and registration number in the reference section to ensure the transaction is correctly recorded. Tax receipts will be issued for all annual returns over $10,000.
“While we want charities to use the online environment, we realise for some this may take a bit of time, so there are other options available,” says Grant.
More information about this is available on the Charities Services website.
Tax receipts – a reminder
A recent situation where Timaru charity CSI Trust didn’t provide the right information on its tax receipts was quickly remedied, but it’s something to keep in mind when your organisation provides receipts to people making donations.
Charities Services has information on its website about Tax Status, how this applies to your charity and what details need to be included on tax receipts.
The key information required is:
the name of the donor(s)
the amount and date of the donation
a clear statement that it is a donation
the signature of an authorised person, and
an official stamp with the name of the approved donee organisation.
Independent review of registration decisions
Charities Services’ registration procedures are consistent, coherent and in-line with recognised national and international law, an independent review of decisions made by the Registration Team between 2012 and 2013 has found.
Commissioned by the Department of Internal Affairs, the review by Juliet Chevalier-Watts, Senior Lecturer in Law at Waikato University, took an in-depth look at 27 randomly selected decisions.
The review considered the degree of consistency of registration decisions and the process and correctness of the decisions from a charity law perspective.
Ms Chevalier-Watts noted that “the conclusions reached by the Registration Team overall reflect methodical alignment with recognised national and international charity law and overall the decisions reflect a high degree of consistency”.
The review also found that “the processes utilised by the Registration Team generally appear to be thorough, coherent and reasonable”.
Acting Manager Registrations Grant Christie says, “Charity law is hugely complex and this independent review confirms team members are making quality decisions and our processes are rigorously applied.
“This feedback is both rewarding for the team and reassuring for the sector,” he said.
Charities Services website redeveloped for users
A screen shot of the redeveloped site.
A new redeveloped Charities Services website will be up and running in just a few weeks and it’s been tailored with users’ needs in mind.
Education Adviser Kate Uhe says the new website is less cluttered and easier to navigate, making information more quickly and easily accessible. A thorough review of all the content going onto the new site also sees a lot of duplication and repetition cut out.
“A new data visualisation tool has been developed specifically for the site,” Kate says. “This lets users view the data on the charities register with ease and explore by region, sector, activities and beneficiaries.
“On the front page there’ll be links to hot topics and events as well as this newsletter.
“We started working on the redevelopment last year and it’s fantastic we are nearly at the go-live date. I am sure users will find it more intuitive and straightforward to use. Our aim is to make it easier for people to do things online,” says Kate.
Charities’ areas of operation range far and wide
View a large version of this map (PDF, 65KB)
Charities really do operate right across New Zealand – and many are also directing their services and influence far beyond our shores.
Drawing on information supplied to Charities Services in recent annual returns, we can map where charities are providing services, support and assistance. Of interest is that the number of charities fairly closely matches population density across New Zealand, with greater numbers of charities operating in higher-populated regions.
The Charities Register provides a wealth of interesting information – check it out!
Is your organisation looking to bring in more funds?
If so, the Fundraising Institute of New Zealand (FINZ) is running a one-day course which could help. The 360-Degree Not-for-Profit Training Day, led by New Zealand non-profit leaders and industry experts, aims to give you some valuable insights on fundraising.
The courses are being run in Palmerston North (31 July), Christchurch (11 September) and Auckland’s North Shore (16 October). Find out more and register at: www.finz.org.nz/360