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Your chance to ask the ACNC about charity regulation, registration, reporting, governance, and lots more.

The Rockhampton ‘Ask ACNC’ session will be held next Tuesday, 23 September and the Toowoomba ‘Ask ACNC’ session will be held next Wednesday, 24 September.

If you're involved with a charity, whether as a governor, as a volunteer worker, as a paid worker, or as an interested community member, it’s a chance to come along and ask any questions you have about the ACNC and charity obligations.

Charities can register at www.acnc.gov.au/AskACNC

There will be a presentation from 10-11am, but people can drop in anytime from 9am-12pm to ask questions.

Where and when?

  • Rockhampton – Tuesday 23 September 2014, 9am-12pm (presentation at 10am)

Walter Reid Cultural Centre Auditorium
Corner Derby and East Streets
Rockhampton QLD

  • Toowoomba – Wednesday 24 September 2014, 9am-12pm (presentation at 10am)

Peter Rorke Auditorium
Highfields Cultural Centre
O'Briens Road
Highfields  QLD 4352

Third Sector (online) magazine in the UK has reported on findings from a recent study of charities' governance in that country.

According to the article, there are 50 key drivers to achieving good governance in charities in the UK — the top three were found to be "working well as a team, ensuring meetings 'contained excellent governance' and making sure that board members had the required skills and experience".

The Delivering Effective Governance report is available from the Directory of Social Change website.

The Minister for the Status of Women, Julie Collins, is inviting Australia’s ‘board ready’ women to apply for scholarships aimed at increasing the number of women on Australian boards. The scholarships are open to all Australian women. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, culturally and linguistically diverse women, women from rural and regional communities, women with disabilities and women working in the not-for-profit sector, are particularly encouraged to apply.

Applications for the second round of Board Diversity Scholarships are now open and will close on 11 October 2012 — visit Company Directors' website for more information and to apply.

Read the joint media release from Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Minister Julie Collins.

Australian Nonprofit Leadership and Fundraising Survey

ACPNS is conducting a landmark research project on Leadership and Fundraising.

The study is examining perceptions of leadership in fundraising -–

  • those in nonprofit leadership positions (board chairs, board members and CEOs) where a dedicated fundraising function currently exists; and
  • fundraising/development team members.

The experiences and opinions of both groups will be analysed and compared to reveal leadership issues, challenges and success factors of fundraising.

If you are a board member of a nonprofit organisation that undertakes fundraising, we want to hear your voice. Go to this link to participate in the survey — Australian Nonprofit Leadership and Fundraising Survey.

The federal government has referred the draft Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) legislation to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, for an inquiry.

The Economics Committee's Inquiry website has materials necessary for interested parties to make submissions, including the draft Bill and Explanatory Materials.

The Inquiry will close on 20 July 2012.

The Treasury's Not-for-profit Reform pages also includes the draft legislation and materials, along with a fact sheet and media releases.

The Australian Institute of Company Directors is helping the federal government achieve its aim of getting more women appointed to positions on Australian boards.

The Board Diversity Scholarship program has 70 scholarships available to women to undertake one of the AICD's training programs for directors.

Read about it in Third Sector magazine

A recent article on Blue Avocado gives some practical advice for approaching the job of recruiting new board members.

Following the standard formula may help you tick the boxes, but might not get the best board members for the job you need to do. This short article brings it down to two key questions.

See Ditch Your Board Composition Matrix

How good are your financial controls? Can you detect and prevent financial abuse before it brings down your organisation?

According to a recent ThirdSector article, a study of 25 charities found that, while most had good internal financial controls, "Almost three-quarters ... [had] gaps in their procedures for dealing with fraud and financial abuse" and "few had anti-money laundering or bribery policies".

The study was carried out in the UK by the Charity Commission for England and Wales and the Chartered Institute for Accountants for England and Wales.

Read about their findings in Accountants find huge gaps in charity procedures for fraud and financial abuse

Nonprofit board and management committee members are usually volunteers – committed to the role but with otherwise busy lives.

Ensuring high attendance at all board meetings can be difficult. But, as this ThirdSector article points out, it is important, and poor attendance by the usual suspects is something that must be addressed.

BoardConnect will be holding their Creative Leadership symposium in Brisbane on 31 May and 1 June 2012.

The lineup of speakers includes some very influential leaders from arts organisations. Topics will include issues that every nonprofit board struggles with – e.g. image management; entrepreneurship and risk; the perfect chair; generating income; and managing change!

To read about the program and register, contact BoardConnect or go to the Creative Leadership Symposium

Research by Perpetual into attitudes and processes of charity boards has some interesting findings about board members' attitudes to fundraising and other matters.

However the results also "highlight several opportunities for charitable NFPs to strengthen board effectiveness through improved board member selection and review processes".

One important point to come out of the research was the generally ad hoc way in which boards of charitable organisations go about the process of recruiting new members: relying largely on their contacts, rather than using a structured approach to search for and select new directors based on the board's need for particular skills or personal qualities.

Perpetual also says that nonprofit boards can learn much about governance from the for-profit world – taking and adapting lessons from the private sector.

Read the article on Pro Bono newsletter

A short article in Third Sector's online newsletter reminds us of the importance of addressing division among board or management committee members.

Debate is good. Ultimate unanimity is good. Festering disagreement? – not good.

See the article, Checklist: Collective responsibility

The High Court has ruled in favour of the Commissioner of Taxation in the Barwanna case, finding that the fund had not been 'applied for the purposes for which it was established' and was therefore not entitled to exemption.

The High Court said that the 'taxpayer seeks to gain a valuable benefit through establishment of exempt status'. Therefore the Act's requirement that, to be exempt from taxation, trust income had to be 'applied' for the charitable purpose for which it was established, did not mean only ‘substantially applied’ or applied ‘on the whole’. While not all breaches of trust will deny exempt status, in this case there were several examples of misapplication of the fund. Therefore the fund was not being applied for the public charitable purpose for which it was established and was not entitled to exemption for the period claimed.

Read the casenote in Commissioner of Taxation v Bargwanna

In a recent article on The Conversation, the Developing Your Board project's Gavin Nicholson reminds board members 'Why the simple act of asking is every director’s responsibility'.

In a research project being conducted by researchers at QUT Business School, there have been interesting findings relating to how directors interact during board meetings, in particular who does the questioning and how much time is spent in asking questions and getting answers.

The Centro court case reminds us that all directors – even nonprofit volunteer board and management committee members – have a duty to find out what they need to know before making decisions.

Read The Conversation, 'Why the simple act of asking is every director’s responsibility' by Gavin Nicholson.

Committee of management and board members of Victorian incorporated associations should ensure they receive sound and comprehensive reports about the financial health of the organisations they govern. Of course this is good practice for all board and committee members, but those in Victoria will be subject to new law in coming months.

Victoria's Associations Incorporation Act was amended in 2010, but amendments will take effect on 1 July 2012.

Among the changes are higher levels of obligation on board or management committee members, secretaries/public officers and certain executives/managers.

The new duties are in line with those of company directors under the Australian Companies Act:

  • a duty to exercise powers and discharge duties with care and diligence;
  • a duty to act in good faith in the best interests of the association and for a proper purpose;
  • a duty to prevent the organisation from trading while insolvent.

There will also be penalties (up to $20,000) for committee or board members who breach the duties. Defences have been included in the amendments, similar to those in the Corporations Act:

  • a 'business judgement' defence for informed decisions made in good faith in the interests of the association; and
  • a 'reliance on information' defence where a decision has been made with reliance on information provided by a competent person.

These new duties mean that board and committee members should examine the quality of financial reports they receive from managers to ensure they are able to assess the financial health of their associations and are prepared to fulfill their obligations when the amendments take effect on 1 July 2012.

Information about the amendments is available on the PilchConnect website at http://www.pilch.org.au/AIA_Bill2010/.

Advice about cashflow forecast information is available on Pro Bono News at http://probonoaustralia.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=dee61672471d96ed5f3557705&id=642f909e65&e=8c3728e319