Diluted Thinking

in Australian healthcare

AVSN: Fundraising Interstate

The Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network Inc. (AVSN) (formerly Australian Vaccination Network (AVN)) is an incorporated association in New South Wales (NSW). The Registry of Co-operatives and Associations registers and regulates entities like the AVSN and this Registry is part of NSW Fair Trading. Due to the charitable purpose inherent in the AVSN's incorporation, NSW Fair Trading consider the AVN to be a charity.

As a charity, the AVSN automatically meets the requirements to be issued with an authority to fundraise by the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR). This allows the AVSN to conduct fundraising appeals to solicit donations from the general public, in addition to its members. A fundraising appeal also includes the support of an organisation with a charitable object. An authority to fundraise issued by OLGR is only valid within the state of NSW and only covers appeals that are for a charitable purpose.

It is important to note that both NSW Fair Trading and OLGR have no jurisdiction, and therefore no interest, in the activities of the AVSN outside of NSW.

All states and territories of Australia each have their own legislation covering fundraising activities by its own organisations and those from interstate. In the case of the AVSN, it is required to register for fundraising purposes with the relevant state or territory before it can solicit donations from their general public. As of July 2012, the AVSN was not registered with any of them. This means that at this point in time, the AVSN can only legally solicit donations from the general public who are residents of New South Wales.

Soliciting for Donations

In October 2010, the Minister for OLGR revoked the AVSN's authority to fundraise. Please refer to my previous post NSW OLGR Investigation for more information. Since April 2012, the AVSN once again has an authority to fundraise in NSW and its appeals now carry the following disclaimers:
YOU MUST email meryl@avn.org.au after making a bank deposit or internet transfer, telling us what fund or funds you are supporting. If you don't do this, the donation will be taken as a general donation to support the AVN's running costs.

PLEASE NOTE Should the funds raised exceed the amounts required for these cases, the AVN reserves the right to apply any excess donations to supporting AVN's general objectives and running costs.

Prior to OLGR's audit of the AVSN in 2010, to the best of my knowledge the AVSN had never applied the fundraising proceeds of any appeal to the purpose of the appeal (except for appeals to cover its own general running costs, which may, or may not, have included using funds to cover the printing costs of publishing its magazine.)

In the case of the AVSN and its fundraising appeals, the following are some examples of what may constitute soliciting for donations (and assumes the recipient is a non-financial member of the AVSN:

Note: some states do not differentiate between the AVSN and a third-party advertising a fundraising appeal. In those instances, the AVSN would most certainly be required to register if encouraging third-parties to advertise or distribute information about its fundraising appeals.

I can only speculate as to why the AVSN has failed to register with any interstate agencies. I suspect the avoidance of reporting requirements would be the main contributing factor. In addition, I doubt whether some of these agencies would find acceptable the AVSN's fundraising disclaimer to whimsically redirect raised funds for a charitable purpose into covering its own running costs instead.

It is a trivial matter for the AVSN to ensure the intention of a donation at the time it is made instead of relying on the donor to jump through hoops afterwards. It is also a trivial matter to determine the state or territory a donor is located in and I would imagine this is necessary for the AVSN to fulfil its obligations under New South Wales legislation.

I would suggest the AVSN needs to amend its disclaimer for a charitable fundraising appeal to include "Donations from non-financial members may only be made by residents of New South Wales".

Interstate Agencies

The following are some examples of the fundraising requirements for different states.

Tasmania

The AVSN is required to register with Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading to solicit donations for a charitable purpose from the general public in Tasmania.

According to Tasmanian legislation, solicit means to seek a donation by a request communicated in person or:

  1. by mail; or
  2. by facsimile transmission; or
  3. by telephone; or
  4. by e-mail; or
  5. by the internet; or
  6. by a document left on premises; or
  7. by any appeal through the media

If soliciting through writing, electronic media or advertisement:
any written request, however communicated, must include a statement of the purpose for which the donation is sought, the name of the organisation, the address of the principle office of the organisation and a contact telephone number for the organisation.

Victoria

Victoria has a number of exemptions from fundraising registration. As none of these exemptions are applicable to the AVSN it is required to register its fundraising appeals with Consumer Affairs Victoria.

Each intended beneficiary of a fundraising appeal must give their written consent to the intended appeal and this is lodged with the application to fundraise.

Registered fundraisers must complete annual returns in order to continue fundraising. The annual return is to include the following information:

  • confirmation of your registration details
  • your gross proceeds (that is, the amount of funds raised before costs are taken out) during the last 12 months
  • the names of beneficiaries and the amounts they each received
  • an estimate of your gross proceeds for the next 12 months
  • an estimate of the percentage of these gross proceeds that will go to beneficiaries in the next 12 months. This should be reasonably accurate to provide a guide for the donating public.
  • a copy of your most recent financial statements.

Victoria also places conditions on fundraising registration. If the estimated distribution of fundraising proceeds is less than 50%, the fundraising appeal will be subject to a public disclosure condition.

If the estimated distribution of fundraising proceeds is less than 35%, the organisation will be required to 'show cause' as to why it should be registered.

I strongly doubt that the AVSN's disclaimer to redirect fundraising proceeds would be deemed acceptable in Victoria.

Consumer Affairs Victoria provide a list of registered fundraisers on their website.

Western Australia

Any organisation or club collecting money or goods from the public for charitable purposes, needs to be licensed under the Charitable Collections Act in Western Australia.

Applications for a licence to fundraise are lodged with the Charitable Collections Advisory Committee which meet on a monthly basis to consider new applications.

You may download a list of W.A. licensed charities from the Department of Commerce Licensed Charities Register page.