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November 2015

Read a text only version of Charities Update.


Lesa Kalapu

Kia ora koutou, talofa lava and warm greetings,

I hope that 2015 has been a great year for you and for the charities with which you are involved, and that you have managed to make good progress towards your charitable goals.

It has certainly been a year of many changes – the Charities Services team have been involved in a number of significant projects this year to keep improving the services we provide, and to respond to other changes that affect the sector.

The biggest of those is, of course, the introduction of New Reporting Standards for charities. The new standards provide more opportunities for charities to explain how you are making a difference, and encourage the public to continue to support you. For Charities Services, they have meant an intensive programme of work to introduce and explain how the standards apply, and to update and improve our online forms and guidance material.

They have also been one of the drivers for the “systems thinking” work some of our team have been involved in, which has been helping us to re-design our online services from charities’ and the public’s point of view. Our aim is to make our services as easy as possible to use, and to allow the public to quickly and easily find clear and helpful information that enables them to make informed choices about supporting charities.

It was lovely to meet and talk with some of you at our annual meeting in Auckland last month – we really appreciated seeing so many of you there.  I was struck again by the diversity and passion in the sector, which is great.

At our annual meeting, we shared a “snapshot” of the sector (PDF, 178KB), with statistics about some of the interactions we have with charities, and our regulatory activities, and about the sector itself. For example, did you know that we received nearly 1,500 applications to become a registered charity last year? Or that there are 456,000 people volunteering for registered charities every week?

The new reporting standards – and our own maturity as an organisation – have also been a significant impetus for Charities Services to realign our operating structure. The Charities Register has been operating for a number of years now, and we have well-established registration and compliance support processes. However, we recognised that we needed to increase our ability to assist charities to comply, and to monitor the sector effectively, in line with public expectations. With that in mind, we have made some changes to the way we operate, and are now confident that we’re well-prepared for 2016 and beyond.

We are all looking forward to working with you again in 2016, and hope that you have a safe, happy and relaxing Christmas and New Year holiday break, and can enjoy some time with friends, family, and those closest to you.

Nāku, na

Lesa's signature

Lesa Kalapu
​General Manager, Charities Services

Charities Services annual meeting 2015


Our meeting this year was held in Auckland on 21 October, and was attended by more than 250 charity representatives.

To those of you who were able to come – thank you. Our focus was on presenting information about our work, responding to questions, creating opportunities for one-on-one discussion, and providing information and resources.

Hon Jo Goodhew, Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, opened the meeting, and Roger Holmes Miller and Simon Karipa represented the Charities Registration Board.

Lesa Kalapu, Charities Services’ General Manager, described the main drivers of public trust and confidence in the charitable sector and how these relate to our work at Charities Services. She talked about some important legal decisions, which relate to social housing, sport, the National Council of Women, and Greenpeace, and explained our four-point approach to compliance.

Attendees heard important new information about three key areas from Charities Services staff: charitable purpose, the updated annual return, and compliance, and we also had a wide-ranging question and answer session covering a range of subjects - from time spent applying for grants and the cost of audits, to political advocacy and housing.

The Minister’s speech, the presentations, and the questions and our responses are available all on our website.

Updated annual return on the way

Computer, mouse, keyboard and coffee

Most of you know that registered charities must report annually to Charities Services. Charities are required to complete an annual return, and submit accompanying financial statements, within six months of the end of their financial year. This provides for the on-going accountability and transparency of registered charities, as the information is publicly available on the charities register.

The annual return for registered charities is being updated. The changes are being made for a couple of reasons – to ensure that we have accurate information about your charity on the register, and to broadly align the financial information collected through the annual return with what needs to be reported in the financial statements under the new reporting standards.

The new annual return will take a bit more time to complete. Charities will be asked to check and update their charity’s details (including details of officers and contact information for the charity) and answer a few new questions. Some of the new questions relate to obligations under the new reporting standards. Other questions help us identify charities that may have obligations under tax or anti-money laundering legislation.

We will also ask for additional identifying information about officers, including full name, date of birth and home address information. Currently, we only have an officer’s first and last name. This is not enough information for us to accurately identify individuals when we need to. The date of birth and home address information will not be publicly available.

The new annual return form will be available from April 2016. When charities submit their first performance report under the new reporting standards they will have to use the new annual return form. (The performance report will include non-financial and financial information and replaces the financial statements charities previously submitted.)  There will be a transition period, so that charities that are not yet required to report under the new standards can still complete the current annual return form.

We strongly encourage charities to complete the new annual return form online. This will be easier for charities, as some of the information will already be included on the form. And there will be useful help boxes and further information online to support charities to complete the new return.

We will keep the sector updated about the introduction of the new annual return form through our regular newsletters and information on our website.

Find out more about the new reporting standards, including when your charity will need to report using the new requirements and links to what a performance report for your charity might look like.

New reporting standards – the video

Thumbnail of New reporting standards video showing a graphic of a woman holding papers

Charities Services has produced a brief video explaining the New Reporting Standards in simple terms.

So, when you have a spare three and a half minutes or so, you might like to take a look! (Helpful tip:  you can stop and start the video to suit!)

On the webpage where you’ll find the video, there are links to further important information about the new reporting standards, such as: which standards apply to your charity – it mostly depends on the size of your charity and is key to getting started with the standards – and when your charity will need to report under the new standards. (The earliest date that registered charities must report by would be 30 September 2016, but it’s so important to get ready earlier).

We are progressively adding to the resources to support charities with the new requirements. If you haven’t yet seen our Get Started videos and workbooks, they’re a really great place to begin. There are also links to the standards themselves, very helpful guidance notes, and templates for the performance reports for Tier 3 and Tier 4 charities. There is also now a Word template for Tier 4 charities, so you don’t have to use Excel. If you do want to use the Excel template, we will soon be putting a video tutorial on our website to help with this, as there are a few things to watch out for, especially unlocking the template!

We can provide hard copies of some of these resources, please email us to enquire at nrs.charities@dia.govt.nz. You can use the same address to ask questions about the new reporting standards.

Systems thinking – making it easier for charities

Hand holding a pen drawing a red circle with a blue puzzle piece inside

Just when you think you’ve designed the perfect process or system, something beyond your control changes – meaning you either need to start again, or make incremental changes. Often, as changes keep happening, this means that your (initially) straightforward process ends up with added complexity, double-ups, or extra work for the people that use it.

That’s why the Department of Internal Affairs has started using “systems thinking”, and some of our Charities team have been taking part in a new systems-thinking initiative to help us build our capability and flexibility. Our aim is to be better able to absorb the impact of changes, and keep making improvements that make life easier for our customers.

It’s all about making our work “work” better for anyone who uses the Department’s services – whether that’s applying for a passport, registering as a charity, accessing and using government information, authenticating a document, or applying for a grant.

Lorraine Tawhai and Pam Govan from the Charities team say that systems thinking has been a really helpful discipline for understanding how charities and the public prefer to use our services, and for “unlearning” some of the ways that “we’ve always done things”. 

You might like to take a look at how other agencies have been using systems thinking to make things easier for their customers:
Advice Is Changing: Systems Thinking at work in Nottingham (YouTube video, 6.01m).

“New look” for charities’ Register pages

Screenshot of Charity Summary section of the Charities website

Have you taken a look at your charity’s page on the Charities Register lately?

We’ve made some changes to the way charities’ information is displayed on the website, to make it easier for you – and the public – to navigate and find.

The “Summary” page for each charity now shows all the charity’s details, and other information is grouped under five headings on the left-hand side of the page. Here’s a quick overview of what each page contains:


  • The charity’s legal name, and any previous names
  • Registration status (date registered, unique registration number, balance date)
  • Address for service (of formal documents)
  • Contact details – the charity's address, postal and email address, website
  • Area of operation

Purpose and structure – summaries of the charity’s:

  • Activities
  • Sectors
  • Beneficiaries

Annual Returns

  • A summary view of the dates Annual Returns have been submitted and are due, the year ended, total income and expenditure, and links to Annual Return forms and financial statements

Officer details

  • The name, position and effective date of former and current officers

Notices of change

  • Copies of any changes filed by the charity, and any exemptions granted to it

Supporting documents

  • Copies of the charity’s documents (for examples its rules, and Notices of Change, Officer certification forms)

Important info for charities - draft Incorporated Societies Bill has been released for comment – have your say

Ripped brown paper and the word 'feedback' behind the tear

On 10 November the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Hon Paul Goldsmith, released an Exposure Draft of a new Incorporated Societies Bill, together with a request for submissions.

The closing date for submissions is Thursday 30 June 2016. All submissions should be sent to societies@mbie.govt.nz. Any queries should be sent to the same email address.

Further information and all relevant documents can be found on the Ministry of Business Innovation and Enterprise website.

What does this mean for registered charities?

Around 7,000 registered charities are also incorporated societies, so may need to make changes to their rules, depending on the legislation, and when it is enacted.

It is important for registered charities to understand the intended timeline arising from this legislative change. The timeline involves:

  • A revised Bill based on submissions received will be introduced into Parliament in 2017 and hopefully enacted in 2018.
  • After the new Bill is passed, it is intended that current incorporated societies will have up to four years to amend their rules to ensure they comply with the requirements of the new Act. Registered charities may have to change their constitutions.
  • It will be at least four years from the date of enactment before the new Act is fully brought into effect. This may well be in 2022.

The timeline shows the changes will take time and therefore charities will not have to review their constitutions until the final form of the Incorporated Societies Act becomes clearer. We will provide further information to registered charities about the changes in our Update newsletter.

Christmas/New Year office hours

New Zealand stamp showing people playing cricket

Our office and Contact Centre will close for the holiday break at 12.30pm on Thursday 24 December, and re-open again (with a reduced number of staff) on Tuesday 5 January.

The Charities Register will – of course – remain open 24/7 to the public for viewing. Charities will be able to log in and access your online accounts at any time to file an annual return or update your information.