Charities Services Annual General Meeting

Wednesday, October 21, 2015 - 10:30
Community and Voluntary Sector

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

Lesa, thank you for your kind invitation. I'm delighted to join you all for the annual meeting of Charities Services.

I would like to acknowledge members of the Independent Charities Registration Board here today; Roger Holmes Miller, Simon Karipa, and Caren Rangi. You have a challenging and important role, having to decide whether the law allows you to register – or sometimes deregister – charities. Thank you.

I am very pleased to see so many of you here today, because the work you do is important, and valued. 

I suspect that sometimes, when you are focussing on your day to day work, it’s not always apparent that there is a very big “family” of other people, all working in the charitable sector to make New Zealand an even better place to live.

So, please, look around, and know that you are not alone!  

I hope you will make good use of your time here today to share your experiences and simply enjoy being with other like-minded people who think that it’s important to help others.

I'm now well into my second term as Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, and truly enjoy my role.

The foundation of the sector is trust and confidence, and every one of us here today is responsible for fostering trust and confidence.

Registration as a charity is not a simple ‘rubber-stamping’ exercise; it's a carefully-considered process that enables the public to feel trusting and confident when they make a donation or volunteer.

I have been working closely with Charities Services, and we frequently discuss the issues that the sector sometimes faces. 

For example, although the public might view an organisation as having worthy aims or carrying out “good works”, it still may not qualify to be a registered charity, according to New Zealand law.

I am sometimes asked if the law should be reviewed, and I have been following public discussion about issues relating to charities very closely.

The law is being asked to cover a very wide range of organisations, with very diverse aims and objectives.

It also seems that by recognising broad categories of charitable aims (such as relieving poverty) and requiring charities to provide benefits that are available to the wider public and not just a select few, Parliament has also provided a degree of flexibility.

That’s not to say that charities law will, on its own, always meet every organisation’s needs. 

Many non-charitable organisations do ‘good work’, and we want to make sure they can access the support they need to continue their work. 

The Government's role is not just about making rules; we also want to make it as easy as possible for charities to stay within the law.

Earlier this year, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English told an audience of senior public servants that the Government is serious about getting better results for New Zealanders by having public services organised around the customer.

Charities Services is playing its part. They work closely with the Police, Inland Revenue and the Serious Fraud Office, to name a few.

In early 2016 they will be working with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to promote awareness of the proposals for a new Incorporated Societies Act.

Last year I outlined the new financial reporting requirements which took effect on 1 April 2015.

Previously, there were no minimum requirements for charities’ financial statements, and there were huge variations in the quality of the information that was provided.

Charities Services has done excellent work over the last year.

Alongside the External Reporting Board, they have helped large and small charities to prepare for the new financial reporting standards.

They have developed a superb set of resources, available free on the Charities Services website. They have held more than a hundred workshops throughout New Zealand, attended by around 9,000 people.

The response from charities has been encouraging. I think this is because the new standards are straightforward to use and make it easier for you to tell your story in a positive way to donors and supporters.

Most charities – those with annual operating expenditures of less than $2 million – only need to comply with less complex standards at Tiers 3 and 4.

We were glad to hear 74% of people in the charities space are at least a little ready to use the new standards.

The new Charities Services website makes it easier for you to find information and get things done online. It includes the new standards, along with a wealth of information and other useful resources. And of course, the free New Zealand Navigator site helps you to build your organisational strength and resilience. 

All of you work hard to maintain charitable services for people and causes in need.

Your work depends on donations, and those donations depend on the public’s trust in your charities and confidence in the wider sector.

Sadly, some people wrongly think they can avoid complying with the rules.

As each case of wrongdoing surfaces, it damages both the organisation concerned and all charities, putting at risk the ongoing support of long-established donors and potential new supporters.

So all of us here need to do what we can to identify anyone who could damage the public’s trust and confidence. So, how can charities help keep public trust high?

First – no surprise, by filing your Annual Return on time and according to the new standards.

The Charities Services website identifies each charity that is late or has failed to file its annual return. The Department rightly takes this situation seriously. It's now easier than ever for the public to scrutinise charities in greater detail.

We know from our research that they want to know not just that you are making a positive difference, but how you are using your resources to help the cause.

Second – is something you will be doing already – being straight up and clearly  answering questions from people who want to know more about you:  how much you are spending on  fundraising, administration and staffing, and most important – how much of their donation you spend on the end cause.

The information you provide for the Charities Register answers some of these questions.

You might be surprised to hear that roughly 18,000 people looked at the Charities Services website last month, and there were nearly 60,000 views of charities’ summary pages on the Charities Register.

The Government has positioned Charities Services where it can harness the strengths of the Department of Internal Affairs to help you meet your obligations, achieve good results and maintain positive and enduring reputations.

I am proud to be associated with New Zealand’s charitable sector. 

I believe it is a strong and important part of our communities, with more than 27,000 registered charities across the country. 

There is enormous personal satisfaction in making a positive difference for others.

Volunteers are at the heart of every charity putting passion, energy, time and talents into making New Zealand a better place for all of us.

Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today, and I wish you all the very best for the year ahead.

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