Make your char­ity dol­lar count

Pilbara News - - Lifestyle - Gwyn­neth Hay­wood

When we hear about a tragedy — from a bush­fire or floods to deaths in a ter­ror­ist at­tack — it’s nor­mal to want to help those af­fected and giv­ing or col­lect­ing money may seem the most prac­ti­cal way to do so. But cau­tion­ary tales from donors and col­lec­tors high­light the im­por­tance of our char­ity li­cens­ing laws.

Know­ing there’s a go-to li­censed char­ity collection for a spe­cific nat­u­ral dis­as­ter or vi­o­lent crime-in­ci­dent can pro­tect us from scams. Re­cently scam­mers posed as of­fi­cials col­lect­ing for the City of Mel­bourne’s Bourke Street Fund but the Vic­to­rian Gov­ern­ment’s pro­mo­tion of its li­censed collection via a se­cure on­line pay­ment sys­tem at vic.gov.au/bourkestreet pre­vented mon­e­tary loss.

When a char­i­ta­ble collection is li­censed it has to lodge fi­nan­cial state­ments to show money is be­ing spent as it should be and that only rea­son­able op­er­at­ing costs are de­ducted. Mak­ing char­i­ties ac­count­able in this way also helps to pro­tect them from crit­i­cism about funds not be­ing used ap­pro­pri­ately.

Well-mean­ing West Aus­tralians try­ing to raise money for oth­ers have ended up out-of-pocket be­cause they didn’t get a char­i­ta­ble collection’s li­cence or ask an es­tab­lished char­ity for a “li­cence-loan”. Ex­am­ples in­clude:

A WA mum de­cided to raise money for chil­dren in war-torn Syria through on­line T-shirt sales. Pay­pal asked her for proof of a char­ity li­cence re­quired in Aus­tralia. As she did not have a char­ity li­cence, Pay­pal re­versed the pay­ments re­ceived, in a bid to pro­tect donors from po­ten­tial fraud.

A wo­man set up a Go Fund Me page to raise money for the fu­neral of a mur­dered Perth teenager and this collection was pro­moted by the me­dia. Hun­dreds of peo­ple do­nated in ex­cess of $15,000. Donors then ques­tioned how the money was spent and were crit­i­cal of de­ci­sions and some even sought do­na­tion re­funds. Go Fund Me re­trieved those do­na­tions from the collection or­gan­iser’s credit card but be­cause all money raised had al­ready been passed on to the mur­der vic­tim’s fam­ily the or­gan­iser was left in debt.

Tips for donors

Use se­cure pay­ment sys­tems via of­fi­cial web­sites of recog­nised, li­censed char­i­ties. Do not re­spond to ran­dom emails, web­site links, so­cial me­dia cam­paigns or phone calls.

Check WA’s li­censed char­i­ties reg­is­ter at com­merce.wa.gov.au/ char­i­ties be­fore do­nat­ing.

Re­port un­li­censed char­ity col­lec­tions to Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion or com­plain to a crowd fund­ing web­site if you think a cam­paign is a scam.

When do­nat­ing to a char­i­ta­ble collection or buy­ing a ticket for a lo­cal fundrais­ing event ask about the char­ity li­cence it is be­ing run un­der. If the or­gan­iser hasn’t got a li­cence tell them to con­tact Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion for help by phon­ing 08 6552 9364 or email­ing char­i­ties@com­merce.wa.gov.au.

Ask face-to-face col­lec­tors for proof of iden­tity and per­mis­sion to col­lect, such as a street collection per­mit or au­tho­ri­sa­tion let­ter from a li­censed char­ity.

Tips for col­lec­tors

To run a one-off, short-term fundraiser, ap­proach an ex­ist­ing li­censed char­ity, such as a Ro­tary Club, to ask to col­lect un­der their au­thor­ity.

For crowd­fund­ing cam­paigns we rec­om­mend Ev­ery­day Hero which con­nects the fundrais­ing cam­paign to es­tab­lished char­i­ties.

Char­i­ta­ble or­gan­i­sa­tions wish­ing to au­tho­rise fundrais­ing ac­tiv­i­ties un­der their char­ity li­cence should down­load the guid­ance pack at com­merce.wa.gov.au/char­i­ties. Gwyn­neth Hay­wood is the se­nior re­gional of­fi­cer for Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion.

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