Commissioner's Blog: Make sure charity donations count
With Acting Consumer Protection Commissioner David Hillyard
The start of the bushfire season in Western Australia has been a horrendous one, with the loss of lives and extensive damage cause by wild blazes in the Esperance region as well as serious fires in the outer areas of metropolitan Perth.
Watching the scenes of devastation on TV or online, hearing about it on the radio or reading stories in the newspaper will no doubt have left many of us wanting to put our hands in our pockets to help those affected. However, it is vitally important that our charitable donations reach the intended cause and that money used for the administration side of fundraising is kept to a minimum, rather than significantly depleting the total funds raised.
Consumer Protection strongly recommends that you donate directly to The Lord Mayor's Distress Relief Fund (LMDRF) as it is a licensed charity in WA and the recognised State emergency fund that provides relief for personal hardship and distress arising from natural disasters occurring within WA.
LMDRF is operated by an independent Board. The costs of administering the fund are absorbed by the City of Perth and so all money raised goes directly to those who need it most. The process for distributing funds will also be managed in conjunction with the Shire of Esperance. For more information, go to the website www.appealswa.org.au or Facebook page www.facebook.com/Distress.Relief.Fund.
Donations to the Esperance Fires Appeal can be made:
• via EFT: BSB: 306-035, Account: 201445-8
• over the counter at any BankWest branch or agency to the dedicated appeal account
BSB: 306-035, Account: 201445-8
• in person at the Customer Service counter at Council House, 27 St Georges Terrace, Perth
• on the phone via credit card on 9461 3886 during normal business hours
• by mail to LMDRF, Esperance Fires Appeal, City of Perth, GPO Box C120, Perth WA 6839.
Even though direct donations are best, we know that members of the community will want to help by holding events such as casual dress days at workplaces, sausage sizzles, morning teas and the like, and then pass the funds on the LMDRF. Before holding a charity event on behalf of any licensed charity, you should get the permission of the charity. This also applies to online fundraising, such as a crowd-funding platform and Facebook events.
The reason fundraising for a charitable purpose in WA must be carried out by a licensed charity or under the specific authority of a licensed charity, is to safeguard donations and prevent the misappropriation of funds. Under the licensing system, proper records are kept of monies received and any deductions for the costs of running events have to be reasonable.
We realise that acquiring a licence from Consumer Protection may not work for someone setting up a one-off, short-term campaign. In instances like this, the organiser just needs to obtain the approval of an existing charity licence-holder, for example a service charity such as Rotary, to operate under their umbrella.
To help the community operate within the law, Consumer Protection has produced a free ‘Charitable Collections - Guidance pack for fundraisers’, which is available for download at www.commerce.wa.gov.au/charities. Alternatively call us on 1300 30 40 74 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information. We do not take a fee for supplying a licence or connecting you with a licensed organisation that will allow you to operate under their charity licence.
Unfortunately there will always be heartless scammers who see a situation like this as an opportunity to make money. If in doubt about someone who approaches you in person, over the phone or online, you should not give them money and instead donate directly to the LMDRF. Remember street and door-to-door collectors need permits and should have ID.
Charities licensed in WA are listed on the Consumer Protection website at www.commerce.wa.gov.au/charities.
Charities can also be registered with the national watchdog – the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission at www.acnc.gov.au/findacharity
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