The ACNC has recently publicised its new “Registered Charity Tick” logo to some fanfare. Many charitable organisations keen to show the world that they are reputable, responsible organisations have been publicising the fact that they have the ACNC Tick, claiming that this shows their trustworthiness.
At the CMA Standards Council we are encouraged by this - it shows that there is a real hunger for well governed organisations to be able to prove to the world their trustworthiness. For example, Opportunity International Australia is quoted as having said “It gives donors confidence about the integrity of the charity they support and the responsible stewardship of their donations”, and goes on to talk about the “trust contract” between donors and the organisations they give to.
But does the ACNC Tick really do this? How is it different from CMA Standards Council Accreditation?
In fact, all that the ACNC Tick shows is that the organisation in question is registered with the ACNC. Over 50,000 organisations can claim this! It is certainly the case that if the organisation follows the 5 ACNC governance standards prescribed by law, it will meet the basic standards of good governance. However:
~ Any organisation can register with the ACNC by filling out a form – the ACNC will verify that the entity is entitled to charity registration and check that the proposed responsible persons do not raise any warning flags. Unless there is any information to the contrary, they will presume that the information provided with the form is true, and that the organisation will comply with the 5 ACNC governance standards.
~ The ACNC has a risk-based approach to compliance, relying on public complaints, referrals from other government agencies, or other matters that come to the attention of the ACNC. It does not pro-actively or regularly review all registered organisations or seek any evidence to check if they are meeting good governance standards – it simply does not have the time or resources to do so for over 50,000 registered organisations.
~ The 5 ACNC governance standards are an excellent starting point for good governance – but even the ACNC itself admits that they are no more than core, minimum standards.
~ The ACNC governance standards don’t apply at all to basic religious charities
In contrast, CMA Standards Council Accreditation:
~ Involves an independent body checking the organisation’s position, requiring evidence to be submitted, and verifying it – similar to the difference between an organisation preparing its own accounts, and having them independently audited.
~ Occurs when the organisation first applies for accreditation and annually afterwards – there are pro-active checks every year, not just once.
~ Tests against over 50 separate governance standards, carefully developed for Christian organisations via Christian principles – we believe Christian organisations should raise the bar in an effort to show the world they are “beyond reproach”.
~ Applies equally to every Christian organisation, including basic religious charities.
The CMA Standards Council wholeheartedly supports the ACNC. The ACNC has made, and is continuing to make, a very positive difference to charities in Australia. It is important however not to be confused by or overplay the significance of the ACNC Charity Tick. CMA Standards Council Accreditation will mean significantly more.