Speeches

Speech: Charities Annual Meeting

Friday, October 17, 2014 - 15:50
Community and Voluntary Sector

E aku rangatira, tēnā koutou katoa.  Ka nui te honore ki te mihi ki a koutou.

Good afternoon everyone.

I am delighted to have been reappointed as Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, to have the chance to once again address you and I am looking forward to continuing the partnership between Government and your sector over the next three years.

I am an immensely proud supporter of your work and want to thank you all for your valuable contribution. You are making New Zealand a better place.

About a third of all New Zealanders get involved in their communities through volunteering for an organisation; providing millions of volunteer hours a year and making a significant economic contribution.

You and your charities are core in our life of caring and sharing, and drive our cultural expression and community based development.  This investment of time, effort and energy not only helps our country to function, but also contributes to the strength and resilience of our communities, making them better places for us to live.

To remain at the forefront we must maintain public trust and confidence, continue to work together and look for new and innovative ways to ensure we are able to meet the needs of those in the sector and across New Zealand.

Social Enterprise

The Government sees social enterprise as an increasingly important part of our civic fabric, and we recently invested $1.12 million in a framework for organisations wanting to explore social enterprise.

These initiatives complement the work done by charities, and social enterprise and charitable organisations each help build a robust society.

Social enterprises use commercial methods to further the social and environmental aims of community groups. These groups use commercial models to generate more income.

The new social enterprise incubation and development service includes the provision of expert support, resources, and one-on-one advice from bases in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

Combining social goals and business methods is a key way to strengthen the sector and get positive results for the wider community.

The Ākina Foundation’s newly formed social enterprise accelerator pilot, Launchpad, is co-funded by the Department of Internal Affairs and Contact Energy. It’s an exciting first and the pilot will be a good example for others to learn from and further develop.

Eleven teams, chosen from 134 applicants, are involved in using commercial models to generate income. The Launchpad programme, with an additional $146,000 in Government funding, will provide the final teams with business mentoring and intensive development support to get them up and running.

This is a new era in New Zealand’s community and voluntary sector and I am looking forward to discussions continuing between government agencies and social enterprise networks to identify ways this promising sector can continue to grow.

Empowering local communities to create an enabling, supportive environment where enterprises can grow and attract investment is integral to strong successful communities.

Public Trust and Confidence

The vital contribution of charities to society must be maintained.  In order to do this we need to ensure the public’s trust and confidence in your work remains high.

I am pleased to share with you today the results from the recent biennial survey into this trust and confidence.

“They make a positive difference” – say 70 per cent of responders.

“They spend their money wisely and effectively” – say 65 per cent.

This good news is from the independent report Public Trust and Confidence in Charities, undertaken earlier this year on behalf of Charities Services by Horizon Research.

Importantly the level of trust has stayed steady since 2012 and there is a heartening change relating to people’s trust in charities’ practice.

Those surveyed showed a 7 per cent increase in trust around charities managing themselves well, an 8 per cent increase with regard to spending money wisely and effectively, and a 12 per cent increase in ensuring a reasonable proportion of donations get to the end cause.

The survey also produced useful information relating to donation behaviour and how people respond to the fundraising processes used by charities. This includes general support for running a business to support a charitable purpose.

However, we do need to be realistic and in other areas we need to raise our game. We know the majority of people in the charity sector are ethical and honest and that charities are well managed, but we need to raise the public’s view from the current 52 per cent viewing charities as ethical and honest and 57 per cent viewing charities as well managed.

What the survey has done is provide us with some clarification of how particular issues have an impact on public trust and confidence. This enables the Department to build a better understanding of what people think of charities and what they are likely to do in response.

Charities Services is analysing this information so it can be included in its upcoming work programme with the sector. The aim is to continue to work together to improve governance and management and in turn raise those statistics.

The survey data will also be made available to you and to Crown agencies including the Ministry of Building, Innovation and Employment and Inland Revenue by the end of November.

Building the integrity of the sector

One of the ways to build integrity is through efficient management of the complaints and investigations process.

I am pleased that the Department has continued its focus on the most serious and complex wrongdoing within the charitable sector.

We know charities depend on the public’s trust and confidence. Charities Services investigating and, where necessary, acting quickly in response to issues raised in a charity’s practice means this trust and confidence is maintained.

Where possible throughout an investigation process the team works with charities to enable them to be compliant with their obligations under the Act, but in certain circumstances the wrongdoing and risk to the charitable sector is so grave that strong regulatory action must be taken.

In the last financial year 22 entities have deregistered as a direct result of an investigation.

The team also works with partner agencies such as the Police, Inland Revenue and the Serious Fraud Office to ensure the process is thorough. These relationships across government further help maintain integrity across the sector. I expect the Department to continue its focus in this area.

New financial reporting requirements

Greater transparency and providing more detailed information about how charities operate is the rationale behind the new financial reporting standards, taking effect 1 April 2015.

They are designed to assist you tell your story using both financial and non-financial information. In turn this will paint a clearer picture of what you do, giving the public a better insight into your operations and the positive difference your charity makes.

Charities Services is continuing to work with the External Reporting Board (XRB) and the Association of Non-Government Associations Aotearoa (ANGOA) to help you get ready for the changes.

And a dedicated team is working through key areas such as group reporting and changing the annual return form to better suit the standards and your needs. Seminars are continuing to run and there is updated information on the Charities Services website.

While there is still plenty of time to get ready, I trust you and your organisation are starting to think about what you need to do to make the most of these new standards.

Once they are in place, Charities Services will be responsible for monitoring compliance. A plan to ensure this happens smoothly and to raise capability in the sector is currently being developed.

I am excited about the opportunity the new standards give us to better explain to the public about the good work being done in the charitable sector.

Charity Law and the Greenpeace Decision

We know being on the charities register is important to charities. The public takes registration as a signal that a charity is bonafide and worth supporting.

In addition registered charities are eligible for exemption from income tax, and will generally be eligible for donee status, so their donors can claim tax credits.  

In this regard, I know many of you are interested in the August Supreme Court decision on Greenpeace. 

The Court found that the Charities Act 2005 didn’t exclude political purposes from being charitable. The focus remains on whether or not the purpose, even if it is political, provides a public benefit.

The decision is an example of how the definition of charitable purpose continues to evolve and move with the times, as it has done since the enactment of the Statute of Charitable Uses more than 400 years ago.

Charity law continues to be specialist, complex and dynamic.

The Department has provided updated guidance about political advocacy and charitable on the Charities Services website. Providing the resources and support you need to get on with your valuable work in the community efficiently and effectively is a key part of the Department’s role.

Capability Building

Two improved online resources released this year are the NZ Navigator self-assessment tool and the Community Net Aotearoa website.

NZ Navigator

Capability building is the driving force behind NZNavigator. This online self-assessment tool is available free to all.  It’s the result of a real community and government collaborative partnership and is a good example of Kia Tūtahi in action.

The Kia Tūtahi Relationship Accord sets expectations about how Government agencies and communities will work together.  This important commitment between Government and communities to engage effectively will help us to achieve social, economic and environmental outcomes.

As many of you know, NZ Navigator is self-administered and provides an opportunity for open and honest reflection to assess performance. Users can rate areas such as governance, leadership, and financial management amongst others, and so far some 500 not for profit organisations have taken the opportunity to self-assess.

The tool provides a report to assist development in particular areas by specifying resources that can assist the organisation build its capability. The report provides links to CommunityNet Aotearoa, where there are shared resources designed to strengthen community organisations.

Feedback from the sector is positive and because it’s going well new features are to be added.

Later this year, users will be able to use NZNavigator to survey their Board, managers, staff and volunteers about their organisation’s performance.  This world-first tool is also attracting interest from overseas groups.

Congratulations to all those involved in the partnership – the Platform Trust, ANGOA, the Bishops Action Foundation, Social Development Partners, and the Department of Internal Affairs.

CommunityNet

The revamped CommunityNet website, released in April, was tailor-made to meet customers’ needs. The site supports groups by drawing together the huge variety of resources available that you can use and adapt to support your own practice efficiently and effectively.

Feedback is positive with users able to create a customised toolkit of the resources they want to use regularly or see as having value.

Both CommunityNet and NZ Navigator contribute to Government’s Result Area 10; this is one of Government’s priorities for better public services: enabling New Zealanders to complete their most common transactions with government easily in a digital environment.

The Department is the lead agency for Result 10 and is currently working with eight government agencies to develop a programme of planned, measured work. This plan will help agencies design simplified, integrated, secure digital services that not only make it easier and possibly cheaper for New Zealanders to use, but also take advantage of emerging technologies.      

Charities are a vital part of New Zealand’s identity and the fabric of our communities. By continuing to grow and adapt the sector will remain in good heart and do well.

Meetings like this one give you all an opportunity to discuss with your peers the challenges you face and to share and learn from mutual experiences, and I know the presentations and information shared will be thought-provoking and inspirational.

Your two key-note speakers Sue van Schreven from Orphan’s Aid International and author and skin cancer specialist Doctor Sharad Paul.

I wish I was able to stay to hear the rest of the discussion, but unfortunately I have other commitments.

Best wishes for the rest of your time together.

Thank you. 

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.