Are we getting closer to our goal to #fixfundraising?

Justice Connect have just posted a media release highlighting the need to #fixfundraising, a bid supported by many peak bodies and nonprofits across the nation, including ACPNS.

Read ACPNS’ submission here

Powerful charity coalition responds to Senate’s damning report on fundraising regulations

Media release

15 February 2019

The powerful coalition of peak bodies that has been calling on Governments to fix fundraising for years agrees with the Senate Select Committee’s Report into Charitable Fundraising in the 21st Century in its finding that the time to fix fundraising ‘was more than 20 years ago’.

The coalition acknowledges the work of the Committee and its recognition of the contributions of organisations within the charity sector to the inquiry ‘despite the number of previous inquiries examining the issue that have not borne results of any significance’. The Senate report very clearly finds the current fundraising regulations are an unworkable impost on Australia’s charities. The coalition supports the findings in the Senate fundraising report, but is concerned that they do not clearly identify a way forward.


DYO – Three questions nonprofits should be asking themselves in 2019

Thank you to ACPNS Executive in Residence, Dr Glenn Poole for this article.

Three issues to think about at the start of 2019

Before we rush headlong into a new year, it may be useful to stop and reflect on what we can learn from 2018 and the challenges for 2019 that we are already aware of. We may then be better prepared for the journey ahead.

1. What can we learn about good governance from 2018?

Although many of the poor governance examples exposed in Royal Commissions and other inquiries in 2018 related to private sector entities, there are lessons also for nonprofit leaders. For example some of the conclusions from the APRA inquiry of practises at the Commonwealth Bank were:

  • An over-confidence in the operation of the Board and its committees and a lack of benchmarking to assess effectiveness
  • Weaknesses in how issues, incidents and risks were identified and escalated through the organisation
  • Inadequate reporting of customer complaints to the executive committee and the board, and
  • An operational risk framework that worked better on paper than in real practice.

Thankfully, many nonprofit organisations have a better focus on their operating culture than our business sector friends. But we can all benefit from a deep discussion of the issues identified by the various inquiries. And there is more to think about now the banking inquiry report has been released.

2. Are our Board members financially literate and able to make sound financial decisions?

My experience is that accounting professionals are often seen as the main people around a board or committee table who have responsibility for the financial health of the organisation. Fortunately, this view is changing as we see the outcomes of regulatory action in cases of organisational failure.

All board and committee members need financial literacy skills to ensure that they adequately understand the financial health of their organisation.

As accounting professionals, we can assist our board members in increasing their financial skills. We can also assist them by ensuring that our financial statements and reports not only comply with the standards and regulatory requirements but are also able to be understood by our organisation’s leaders.

3. Are we ready to comply with new accounting and reporting standards?

All accountants will be only too aware of the changes that occur to the accounting standards and pronouncements by the Australian Accounting Standards Board [AASB]. The new year will again bring new reporting requirements for nonprofits and other entities.

In 2019 we have the introduction of changes from:

  • The new standard AASB 16 Leases
  • The new standard AASB 15 Revenue and AASB 1058 Income for nonprofit entities.

These standards are applicable for reporting from 1 January 2019. The new provisions have been available for some time. So finance managers should have strategies in place to ensure compliance in the preparation of this year’s financial statements. If this is not the case, urgent action is required now.

However, there can be last minute changes. The AASB announced in November 2018 a possible change to the application of the new lease standard [AASB 16]. This change may provide for a deferral of the requirement in AASB 16 for nonprofit organisations to value right of use assets under peppercorn leases at fair value. A final determination of the approach is expected shortly. Though it is likely to be a deferral of the requirement rather than a complete abandonment of the requirement.

This reinforces the need for accounting professionals to stay in touch with the changing reporting standards.

Thanks for reading! We hope you’ve gleaned some great pointers for the year ahead! There’s heaps more so visit our site at

Did you know …..

ACPNS offer courses for staff, board and other volunteer professionals who work, or are entering the philanthropy, nonprofit or social enterprise sectors. There are units that deal specifically with governance and accounting and financial issues.

Read more of the Developing Your Organisation series

Three Great Resources Grantseekers and Fundraisers Should be Tapping Into by Eleni Gill

Three Key Questions to Ask Before Starting a Social Enterprise by Dr Craig Furneaux

Three Ways Nonprofit Boards Can Improve Its Team by Dr Ruth Knight


New Community of Practice, Tea & Buns – Making the world a better place one morning tea at a time

In March we are launching a new monthly Community of Practice, Tea & Buns with Dr Ruth Knight and guests.

Tea & Buns aims to create an opportunity for those working in nonprofit and social innovation to learn from each other, discuss the latest research and how we might apply research to our work. The webinar is online, free and gives you access to a vibrant network of like-minded people, including researchers at QUT.

Each month we will tackle topical leadership questions. These topics will be guided by the news, and what YOU want to talk about. There is no set agenda, and while we can’t promise to have all the answers, we do promise to provide a safe place to chat where you can tap into the insight, research and experiences of many people in the sector. You’ll also have the opportunity to find out about sector events, news and the big issues facing nonprofits.

Tea & Buns will be held on the last Thursday of each month from 9:00-10:00am AEST so pop the dates in your calendar today or register below to receive the online link! We use Zoom so all you need is to turn up the sound on your computer and grab a cup of tea. A camera and microphone is helpful but not mandatory.

It’s free to attend and you’re welcome to send through your issues and questions any time during the month to Ruth at

Wherever you are in the world, please take the time to come along – you can come as a once off, or every month. You will become part of a network of great thinkers and doers who are working collaboratively to strengthen the philanthropy, nonprofit and social enterprise sector – and you might just find the answers to some of the questions you’ve been pondering on!

To book in, simply email your preferred dates to and we will send you a confirmation and webinar link closer to the time. And don’t forget to include any issues and questions you’d like to see discussed.

  • March 28
  • April 25
  • May 30
  • June 27
  • July 25
  • Aug 29
  • Sept 26
  • Oct 31
  • Nov 28

Want to halve your course fees? This is the scholarship for YOU!

Cut your course fees in half with this fab scholarship!

The Myles McGregor-Lowndes Scholarship covers 50% of the domestic tuition fees for the Graduate Certificate of Business (Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies) and the Master of Business (Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies)*.

We are currently taking applications – but you’ll need to be quick! To find out how to apply, go to the MML Scholarship page today!

Hear from past MML scholars on how the scholarship helped them.

This scholarship was established by ACPNS Founding Director, Emeritus Professor Myles McGregor-Lowndes in 2017 to mark his transition to retirement, in the hope of continuing his tradition of investing in students with the goal of fostering tomorrow’s community’s leaders. We thank each and every one of our donors for making this scholarship available to the next generation of community leaders.

* Masters students who have already completed the Graduate Certificate in Business (Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies) are not eligible to apply.

You can also check out other bursaries and scholarships available to ACPNS students.

It’s not too late to apply to study in March 2019!

Want to do something really exciting in 2019? In less than 12 months you can get a valuable qualification under your belt which will set you apart in the sector! The Graduate Certificate of Business (Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies) will equip you with the skills to manage a philanthropic, nonprofit or social enterprise organisation and will open doors for you all over the world.

Applications are closing soon, so don’t delay. If you’d like to chat, give us a call today on +61 7 3138 1020 or ENROL NOW.

Need more inspiration?

If you want to make a positive difference in the world, you’ve come to the right place. At ACPNS we foster community leaders. Our 500+ alumni are highly sought-after in the philanthropy and nonprofit sector and are making a difference in many parts of the world.

You can too.

Watch this short video of the difference some of our alums are making across the globe.


Still not convinced?

First rate courses

Highly regarded courses: Our courses are internationally recognised and respected and we are one of the pioneering centres for philanthropy and nonprofit studies in Australia.

Globally recognised qualifications: ACPNS is recognised as an education leader both here and overseas and offers a teaching and research environment focused on building the capability of the third sector in Australia.

Flexibility: Study on campus in Brisbane or online from anywhere. Six week teaching periods allow you to get a valuable qualification under your belt in less than a year.

Tailored to you: Our Masters program can be tailored to your desired focus area, whether that’s fundraising, management, HR or other specialized areas. You may even have the option to complete some of your studies overseas.

Smaller class numbers: The average class number for our Graduate Certificate in Business (Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies) is 42. Smaller classes mean you receive more personalised attention and input from your lecturers.

Build your networks

World-class lecturers: Our lecturers are nonprofit leaders. They are experts in their fields with high level practical experience, a forefront role in philanthropy and nonprofit research and a passion for teaching. They genuinely care about their students’ success. We hear time and time again that what sets us apart is the personal time and attention our students receive from their lecturers.

Like-minded fellow students: You will be studying with people who are just as passionate about the sector as you are and you will become part of a vibrant network of people who have the skills and know-how to bring about positive change.

Lifelong learning: We offer our alumni access to free resources and annual professional development opportunities, allowing them to stay front-and-centre of what’s happening in the sector, long after they’ve left the classroom.

37% – The percentage of ACPNS students who have an active involvement with the Centre, its lecturers and alumni after graduation – much higher than any other area across the university.

Make a difference

Enhance your nonprofit career or transition into a new one: The sector’s demand for qualified professionals continues to grow. By studying with ACPNS, YOU can make a difference by fortifying your credentials as a specialist in the sector.

Use your newfound skills to change the world: Our alumni are making a difference in many parts of the world, changing the lives of thousands of people for the better every day. You can too.

81% – Percentage of ACPNS alumni working in senior/high level positions in the sector

11% – Percentage of ACPNS alumni working in countries other than Australia

9% – Percentage of ACPNS alumni who have founded their own nonprofit or philanthropic organisation

Don’t believe us?

Hear from our students and alumni on how their studies have helped them.

Book in for a consult

We love to chat! To find out more about our courses, simply call us on + 61 7 3138 1020 or email for a free course information pack.

Find out more about ACPNS courses online.


Another push to #FixFundraising at recent senate inquiry

ACPNS was once again involved in another push to #fixfundraising, this time at a recent senate inquiry into charitable fundraising.

We thank journalist, Maggie Coggan at ProBono for this great article!

Senate Hearing Finds Fundraising Laws Are Broken… But Can Be Fixed

Key players in the campaign to fix state fundraising laws believe they have reached a tipping point in a two-decade-long battle, following the final hearing of the senate inquiry into charitable fundraising.

The inquiry, first brought forward by Labor in May 2018, heard evidence from a range of notable sector leaders including barrister Norman O’Bryan AM and Emeritus Professor Myles McGregor-Lowndes from The Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies.

O’Bryan told the hearing: “There is no political, economic or commercial downside to updating fundraising regulation. All upsides include public benefit, savings in time and money for charities to put into their missions.”

The state-based regulations have been widely criticised as they were written pre-internet, and there are a different set of rules for every state, making it difficult for the charitable sector to comply with interstate fundraising laws.

McGregor-Lowndes told Pro Bono News he felt a positive result was on the horizon as the committee was engaged, and had a good understanding of the key issues they had repeatedly raised.

“They’ve thrown themselves into this inquiry and are taking it seriously. I am really quite encouraged and looking forward to the final report they’ll bring after the hearing,” McGregor-Lowndes said.

He said while it had taken many reports over a number of years, with the upcoming federal election, the time was right to address the problem.

“It’s the perfect time for all parties to address this in their election commitments to the general public,” he said.

Labor Senator Catryna Bilyk, chair of the senate committee, said it was absurd the current laws were locked in the pre-internet age.

“The sector is battling a chaotic patchwork of state and territory fundraising laws that barely recognise the existence of mobile phones or the internet,” Bilyk said.

“Charities who raise money online are placed in the invidious position of either spending a week doing the paperwork to register in every state and territory, or just registering locally, and hoping they don’t get caught.”

She said Labor had made the commitment to develop a consistent national approach to fundraising so modern charities could carry out their work better.

“We know it’s time to get this done. With today’s final hearing, the message is crystal clear – the 21st century is here, it’s time for 21st century fundraising laws,” she said.

“Labor thanks the charities and experts that have participated in this important inquiry. It’s clear the system is broken, it’s clear it needs to be fixed and it’s clear that it can be.”

McGregor-Lowndes said he was hopeful the final report would be handed down during the first sitting of Parliament, and encouraged the sector to pay attention to the report when it was delivered.

“It should read and digest the report and make its feelings known and be very clear in its expectations,” he said.

“The nonprofit sector is a sector which needs attention and should be given the importance that it’s due.”

Interesting NPO law case: Are charitable organisations being held back because of restrictions on ‘political activities’?

Canada Without Poverty v Attorney General Canada, 2018 ONSC 4147 (updated to 2019)

Ontario Superior Court of Justice, E.M Morgan J, 16 July 2018

This was an appeal by a charity, Canada Without Poverty (CWP), seeking a declaration that provisions of the Income Tax Act RSC 1985, c.1 (5th Supp.) (ITA) which restrict political activities of charities seeking to relieve poverty in Canada violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the Charter). In particular, the contention was that section 149.1(6.2) of the ITA violated the right of freedom of expression in section 2(b) of the Charter.

Section 149.1(6.2) of the ITA provides:

For the purposes of the definition charitable organization in subsection 149.1(1), where an organization devotes substantially all of its resources to charitable activities carried on by it and

(a) it devotes part of its resources to political activities,

(b) those political activities are ancillary and incidental to its charitable activities, and

(c) those political activities do not include the direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, any political party or candidate for public office,

the organization shall be considered to be devoting that part of its resources to charitable activities carried on by it.

Section 149.1(6.2) thus restricts the extent of ‘political activities’ of registered charities to activities which are ‘ancillary and incidental’ to the overall charitable activities of a charity. In addition, such activities must be non-partisan. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) upholds these requirements in its taxation treatment of charities. CRA’s position is that political activity by charities, including political advocacy, must be connected to the charity’s purposes and constitute no more than 10% of the overall activities of the charity (CRA Policy Statement CPS-022)

CWP’s challenge to the nature of the relationship between the overall activities of a charity and its political activities led the court to consider the nature of the distinction between charitable and political activities. Did the 10% rule violate CWP’s Charter freedoms? Was CWP’s contention that the restriction meant that it could not engage appropriately in public advocacy – something fundamental to its concerns about relieving poverty – a permissible position for a charity to hold?

There is no definition of ‘political activities’ in section 149.1 of the ITA (the definition section). The court adopted an approach to the definition from political philosophy rather than from the common law. What was the basis of CWP’s political activities? It based its position on the global approach to poverty relief enunciated in the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development 1995, an outcome of a United Nations sponsored meeting, the World Summit for Social Development (14 March 1995). The Declaration called for civil engagement by those living in poverty to assist their own development. This encompassed co-engagement in policy decisions by those living in poverty, and public advocacy for legislative and policy change by organisations supporting those living in poverty.

CWP argued that given the present underlying political philosophy relating to poverty alleviation, there should be no cogent distinction between political and charitable activities, and certainly no ‘10% rule’ enforced by the CRA. The CRA’s 2015 audit of CWP’s political activities found that most of CWP’s activities were ‘political’. This would have resulted in deregistration of CWP as a charity.

The court, following its political philosophy approach, held that the advocacy activities of CWP were ‘squarely within the charitable purpose of relief of poverty’ (at [41]), and that there was ‘no way to pursue [CWP’s] charitable purpose…whilst restricting its politically expressive activity to 10% of its resources’ (at [42]). The court then held that section 149.1(6.2)(a) and (b) violated section 2(b) of the Charter. Moreover, it was held that there was no basis for the infringement under section 1 of the Charter which allows infringements if there is a sufficient reason for the overriding legislation in question.

Therefore, the CWP was successful in obtaining a declaration that the restriction on its political activities imposed by the ITA was contrary to section 2(b) of the Charter (at [70]-[73]):

The interpretation and enforcement by the CRA of the “substantially all” requirement in section 149.1(6.2) of the ITA by limiting to 10% a charitable organization’s use of its resources for political activities, as set out in the CRA’s Policy Statement, violates s. 2(b) of the Charter and is not saved by s. 1. There shall be a Declaration to that effect and an Order that CRA cease interpreting and enforcing s. 149.1(6.2) in that way. There shall be a further Order that the phrase “charitable activities” used in s. 149.1(6.2) be read to include political activities, without quantum limitation, in furtherance of the organization’s charitable purposes. The Declaration and Orders described above render meaningless ss. 149.1(6.2) (a) and (b) of the ITA. As part of the freedom of expression encompassed by the above Declaration and Orders, there shall therefore be a further Declaration that ss. 149.1(6.2) (a) and (b) are of no force and effect pursuant to section 52(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982. The exclusion from “charitable activities” of partisan political activities contained in section 149.1(6.2) (c) of the ITA remains in force.

View the case

The UN World Summit for Social Development statement (the Copenhagen Declaration) can be viewed here.

The Report of the Consultation Panel on the Political Activities of Charities 2017 (referred to in the judgment as the position supported by the Parliament at [41]-[42]) – see particularly at Recommendation 1 – may be viewed here.

Implications of this case

The fall-out from this decision was considerable. On 15 August 2018, the Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of National Revenue, and the Honourable Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance, issued a joint statement on the Government of Canada’s commitment to clarify the rules governing the political activities of charities. They confirmed the Government would amend the Income Tax Act to implement changes consistent with recommendation no. 3 of the Report of the Consultation Panel on the Political Activities of Charities.

To move forward with its commitment, the Government released draft legislative proposals on 14 September 2018 with a 30-day public consultation period which would remove the existing quantitative limits on charities’ political activities, while still requiring that charities be operated for exclusively charitable purposes.

Taking into account feedback the Government received from stakeholders in response to the consultation on the draft legislative proposals, the Government revised its legislative proposals. The information released by the Government on 25 October 2018 proposed new measures which would allow a charity to carry out unlimited “public policy dialogue and development activities” in support of its stated charitable purposes. On 13 December 201, Bill C-86, Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 2, which includes new rules to permit charities to carry on unlimited public policy dialogue and development activities (PPDDAs) in furtherance of a stated charitable purpose, received Royal Assent in Canada. PPDDAs generally involve seeking to influence the laws, policies or decisions of a government. A charity is still prohibited from partisan activities i.e. directly or indirectly supporting or opposing a political party or candidate for public office.

On 21 January 2019, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) issued the draft guidance document CG-027, Public policy dialogue and development activities by charities for public consultation. This document explains how the CRA expects to administer changes to the Income Tax Act that permit a charity to carry on unlimited PPDDAs in furtherance of a stated charitable purpose. Included are guidelines on what is direct and indirect support or opposition to a political party or candidate for public office.

On 31 January 2019, the federal government also withdrew its appeal against the court decision, which had been filed on 15 August 2018. The appeal was based on an alleged error of law in the decision, in that the government contended that the judge applied a test for religious freedom rather than freedom of expression. The government’s current position is that this contention is no longer worth pursuing. 

Read about a similar case here in Australia

Nonprofit Policy Forum: Assessing the vitality of the sector

Volume 9 Issue 3 – Open Access Journal. Free to view here.

A US journal has recently published a whole issue devoted to developing a tool to assess the health of US nonprofit sector. In the context of the ACNC Commissioner’s initiative to define and measure Object 2 of the ACNC Act (The objects of this Act are “(b) to support and sustain a robust, vibrant, independent and innovative Australian not‑for‑profit sector”)[1], this is a timely piece of academic endeavour. I encourage all those involved to consider and reflect upon its insights.

I have taken a few excerpts from the journal issue which is freely available. I recommend all to read the issue in full. It represents an attempt at a multi-disciplinary and balanced approach to the task of assessing sector vitality.

Myles McGregor-Lowndes

ACPNS Founding Director

Assessing the Vitality of the U.S. Nonprofit Sector: Toward a Nonprofit Health Index

Alan J. Abramson  Allison L. Grayson Jeffrey G. Moore

“While the Dow Jones Industrial Average and other indicators provide timely information about the health of the business sector in the U.S., there is currently no comparable measure of how the country’s nonprofit sector is faring.”

“We believe the development of better approaches for assessing the state of the U.S. nonprofit sector will be helpful to nonprofit and foundation leaders, policymakers, and others who care about and benefit from the health of this important part of our society. In recent years, the nonprofit sector has been buffeted by government spending cuts, reductions in private giving resulting from the Great Recession and tax reform, increased demand for assistance from individuals affected by natural and man-made disasters or not being helped by economic growth; increased competition from hybrid social enterprise organizations, generational changes in the nonprofit workforce, and other trends. More timely and complete information about how nonprofits are coping in these challenging times should help nonprofit and foundation leaders plan better and make more strategic investments, and help policymakers make smarter decisions about nonprofit issues.”

Moreover, a well-conceived nonprofit index has the potential to help the general public engage on issues affecting nonprofit operations. The nonprofit sector’s lack of visibility and complexity holds the public back from becoming active when public policy or other forces undermine nonprofit well-being. A visible, easy-to-understand health index would put the sector more firmly on the nation’s radar screen, much as nightly reports on the Dow Jones index, monthly announcements of the unemployment rate, and quarterly reports on the growth of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product focus our attention on the business sector.

“In many ways the four papers in this volume are an initial brainstorming effort to “stir the pot” on the issue of a nonprofit health index. Reflecting the fact that this is an early stage undertaking, the papers in this collection address very different issues related to the development of a nonprofit health index. The paper by Sarah Pettijohn and Elizabeth Boris, “Testing Nonprofit State Culture: Its Impact on the Health of the Nonprofit Sector,” explores how an important environmental factor, namely a state’s culture for nonprofit activity, may affect the health of nonprofits. For example, in states with a complementary nonprofit culture, like Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania, nonprofits work extensively in partnership with higher tax and spending state governments to provide services. The paper’s findings affirm that environmental factors, like state nonprofit culture, matter to the health of nonprofits.

In “Nonprofit Social Capital as an Indicator of a Healthy, Nonprofit Sector,” Patrick Bixler emphasizes that a healthy nonprofit sector contributes to society through the social capital that it helps to build. As Bixler points out, “social capital” has a variety of definitions but broadly refers to the web of relationships, or networks, that an individual or organization is part of. According to Bixler, a nonprofit sector high in social capital is better able to build relationships to leverage resources and better able to withstand external financial or political strains. If nonprofit social capital were measured on a regular basis, nonprofit leaders, policymakers, and philanthropists could more easily support efforts to increase nonprofit social capital. In particular, Bixler sees special value in aid for umbrella organizations that weave nonprofits together, thereby increasing the nonprofit sector’s social capital.

Elizabeth Castillo’s contribution, “Qualities before Quantities: A Framework to Guide Dynamic Assessment of the Nonprofit Sector,” recommends a “capabilities approach” to designing a nonprofit health index. Castillo suggests a healthy nonprofit sector has the capacity to create sustainable value and wellbeing for individuals, organizations, and society. Castillo’s index would assess nonprofit capabilities in terms of the stock of multiple forms of capital – social, intellectual, political, reputational, financial, and others. An index that reflects capabilities and multiple forms of capital would help philanthropists and policymakers support the development of capabilities to produce increasing returns.

In “Evaluating a Nonprofit Health Index as a Policy Tool,” Roland Kushner draws on his experience in helping develop a National Arts Index to identify key considerations in establishing a Nonprofit Health Index. The National Arts Index adopts a balanced scorecard framework with measures of financial flows, capacity, arts participation, and competitiveness. Interestingly, Kushner found more attention to the arts index at the local rather than national level, with counties and cities using their index values to compare themselves to other jurisdictions. Drawing on the experience of the National Arts Index, Kushner suggests that a Nonprofit Health Index should be parsimonious, comprehensive of the field being studied, communicated clearly, and be supported by a measurement system that delivers clear answers.

While these four papers will certainly help to inform efforts to develop a nonprofit health index that are starting at Independent Sector and perhaps elsewhere, we are confident that the authors would agree that the papers in this volume just begin to scratch the surface on this important, complex topic. Recognizing the many challenges ahead, we invite others to join us in working to create meaningful, useful measures of the health of the nonprofit sector.”

Read more

[1] Note that the object is that of the ACT not the ACNC.

Complimentary director financial literacy training workshops for practising board directors

Brush up on your financial skills and learn how to quickly navigate through the numbers to reveal the strategic financial story of your organisation.

Over four hours our experts in governance and director education will guide participants in applying a practical framework to analyse financial statements and formulate questions to raise at board meetings. Accounting concepts and principles central to financial governance will be unpacked through an initial application of the framework to a case study. By applying the framework directly to financial statements participants will learn how to highlight areas of key strategic interest and add value to board decisions beyond approving the financial report. During the workshop participants will also have the opportunity to apply the framework to analyse their own’ organisation’s financial statements and develop strategies to quickly and effectively work through the finances when preparing for board meetings.

Workshops will be held on-site at QUT Gardens Point (Brisbane) and concurrently as webinars.

Light refreshments will be provided for participants attending workshops on-site at QUT.

Workshops are scheduled for on the following dates:

• Tuesday 12 February 2019 from 4:00pm to 8:00pm
• Wednesday 13 March 2019 from 8:00am to Noon

Register your interest in attending workshop here.

If are interested in attending a workshop but can’t make either of the times scheduled, please register your interest and nominate alternative dates and times.

Workshops for whole boards may also be arranged by contacting Jackie Bettington (details below).

Researchers at the QUT School of Accountancy have also developed a short online Director Financial Literacy Test for directors to verify their capability to monitor an organisation’s finances.  We also invite current and former board directors to test their director financial literacy capability and share their views on director financial literacy. By participating in this research you will receive your test results, a copy of the Director Financial Literacy Checklist and Competency Framework, and study research reports and resources.

Should you know of a colleague who believe may interested in participating in this project and training, feel free to forward this email invitation to them.

Jackie Bettington | PhD student |

New law case: Capping political donations – ok or not?

Unions NSW v New South Wales [2019] HCA 1 

High Court of Australia, Kiefel CJ, Bell, Gageler, Keane, Nettle, Gordon, Edelman JJ, 29 January 2019

This case answered the following question in the affirmative:

Is s 29(10) of the Electoral Funding Act 2018 (NSW) (the EF Act) invalid because it impermissibly burdens the implied freedom of communication on governmental and political matters, contrary to the Commonwealth Constitution?

The High Court was also asked to rule on the constitutionality of section 35 of the EF Act, but it was held not necessary to do so in light of the invalidity of Section 29(10).

Section 29(10) of the EF Act provided that the cap on electoral expenditure applying to third-party campaigners registered before the commencement of the capped State expenditure period was to be $500,000. This was a reduction from the previous cap of $1,050,000 under earlier legislation.

The plaintiffs were a collection of trade union bodies. The first plaintiff, Unions NSW, is a peak body consisting of certain unions or branches of unions with members in New South Wales and is the ‘State peak council’ for employees for the purposes of the Industrial Relations Act 1996 (NSW) (IR Act). Each of the second, third, fifth and sixth plaintiffs were organisations of employees formed for the purposes of the IR Act. The fourth plaintiff was a federally registered association of employees under the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 (Cth), with a State branch registered under Ch 5, Pt 3, Div 1 of the IR Act. All but the sixth plaintiff were registered as a third-party campaigner under the EF Act for the New South Wales State election scheduled for March 2019. With respect to that election, the capped State expenditure period commenced on 1 October 2018.

The plaintiffs were concerned regarding the effect of section 29(10) of the EF Act as in previous elections they had spent more than the cap now permitted. In the March 2015 election campaign, which was regulated by the previous Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981 (NSW) (EFED Act), three of the plaintiffs spent more on electoral communication expenditure than would now be permissible under the EF Act. The first plaintiff had spent $719,802.81 in electoral communication expenditure. The second plaintiff, the New South Wales Nurses and Midwives’ Association, had spent $907,831.22. The third plaintiff, the Electrical Trades Union of Australia, New South Wales Branch, had spent $793,713.14.

Kiefel CJ, Bell and Keane JJ (with who the other justices agreed, though in separate judgements) held that there could be ‘no doubt’ about the answer to the question posed (at [15]). In Lange v Australian Broadcasting Corporation [1997] HCA 25 it was declared that ‘each member of the Australian community has an interest in disseminating and receiving information, opinions and arguments concerning government and political matters’. That freedom is implied by the provision the Commonwealth Constitution makes for representative government and the choice to be made by the people. The validity of a statutory provision which restricts or burdens that freedom depended upon the answers to questions posed in Lange.

It was held that the capping of both political donations and electoral expenditure by third party campaigners restricted the ability of a person or body to communicate to others. Moreover, the reduction in the spending cap was not ‘reasonably necessary’ to achieve the purpose identified by the NSW government, which was to prevent drowning out other voices in the political process by the distorting influence of money. The purpose of the legislation was legitimate, but the method to achieve that purpose was not.

Therefore, it was held that the $500,000 spending cap on third-party contributions to the election process was not valid. There was no ‘privileged position’ for political parties in election campaigns such that a cap of $500,000 on third party campaigning was necessary (at [40]):

The requirement of ss 7 and 24 of the Constitution that the representatives be “directly chosen by the people” in no way implies that a candidate in the political process occupies some privileged position in the competition to sway the people’s vote simply by reason of the fact that he or she seeks to be elected. Indeed, to the contrary, ss 7 and 24 of the Constitution guarantee the political sovereignty of the people of the Commonwealth by ensuring that their choice of elected representatives is a real choice, that is, a choice that is free and well-informed. Because the implied freedom ensures that the people of the Commonwealth enjoy equal participation in the exercise of political sovereignty, it is not surprising that there is nothing in the authorities which supports the submission that the Constitution impliedly privileges candidates and parties over the electors as sources of political speech.

This means that the March 2019 NSW election will proceed without caps on expenditure which are differential as between political candidates and third-party campaigners. Moreover, there will be no restriction on the combination of third-party voices to spend as much as is considered necessary. This will no doubt have importance not just for unions, but for other third party campaigners, such as charities.

View the case

FREE WEBINAR: Strategic Planning for Nonprofits – What you need to know! 4 Feb

Mon 4 Feb, 2019
10:00-11:00am (AEST)
Can’t attend in real time?
You should still register; all registrants will receive a recording of the webinar.


The New Year is a perfect time to reassess your organisation’s strategic plan; what’s your mission, what do you want to achieve, and how are you going to prioritise the areas deemed most important to the health and success of your nonprofit organisation, philanthropic foundation or social enterprise?  

These are all crucial discussions for your leadership team. But defining a strategic plan is more than that. It’s also a unique opportunity for cultural transformation. By including everyone; your board, staff and other stakeholders in the planning process, you will be fostering a more collaborative and inclusive culture – and you could also be uncovering some creative and insightful ideas you may not have thought of before.

Join two of the world’s leading thinkers on the topic – Denise McNerney, President of iBossWell in the US/ President-elect for the global Association for Strategic Planning and Lewis Atkinson, systems thinker and architect of strategic and social change at Haines Centre Australia – for this fascinating webinar.

What you’ll learn
Designed for leaders and board members of nonprofit, philanthropic and social enterprise organisations, you will learn:

  • why strategic planning is essential to your organisation’s success;
  • key steps to devise an effective strategic plan;
  • what culture helps you make decisions; and
  • tools to engage all your stakeholders in the planning process.

Key findings from the ASP best practice survey

To get you thinking, we’ve included three key findings from the Association for Strategic Planning’s best practice survey:

  1. Routine Periodic Process: When the planning process becomes routine and part of the culture of an organization, it can lead to significant organizational alignment and focus on agreed-upon priorities.
  2. Successful implementation Practices: While strategic planning is vital, it does not on its own cause success. To ultimately realize tangible results, alignment behind the strategic plan is necessary, along with an effective plan implementation, or “strategic management” process.

Impact on Overall Organizational Success: non-profit organizational success, to a measurable degree, comes from having a process in place for determining strategy and the management discipline to follow through and execute. When these two practices are linked together, the likelihood of achieving success increases.