More Reason for Transperancy

​Seeing the item in the NZ Herald about the Halberg Trust  just reinforces that even more transperancy is needing in the charity sector.

There’s no denying that the amount of money raised, versus amounts distrubuted, used, will be different – there will be operational costs. 

But when people see high operational costs versus distributions they will be concerned, ask questions and want answers; real answers not just some lip service.

It’s time, nah, it’s long overdue for organisations to be more open about their income v expenditures, they can’t simply leave it until people ask questions; all this does is raise more quesions, not only of the organisation concerned, but of the sector as a whole.

Grant Thornton Survey

The Grant Thornton Survey is conducted every two years, and from my take on the results non-profits are still facing the same issues as were indicated in the last survey results.

Smaller non-profits are still concerned about where they are at, where their money will come from.

And, again the issue of how organisations relate to their Board is also an ongoing concern (something I am concerned about – to me a Board should be more than a group of people who “”sign off” a Board should be active).

Read the full report here 

What are your concerns, issues … what needs to change? I’d be keen to know what your take is on where your organisation is now, and what you need to get it from where you are now to where you want it to be. Either leave a comment or email me



Are They Unregistered and Fundraising

Have only come across this a couple of times, but it may happen more than I’ve seen.

Actually, from memory there have been times where people have been seen out on the street with buckets or clipboards asking for support for some charitable cause; only for it to be later discovered that it was for a group/organisation that had no charitable status (they stated that they were a registered charity).

If you’re approached by someone saying they’re fundraising or seeking support in other ways for a charitable cause; make sure they are registered, ask for proof, if they’re out in public they are meant to have certain information with them – and one piece of information should be proof of their charitable status i.e. charity number. If they don’t have this – walk away.

Recently I have seen an organisation seeking support and, also talking about the support that have gained; in their “storytelling” they have said that they are a Charitable Trust, but in looking they have no charitable status with Charity Services.

I know that this organisation has no registration, they applied to be registered but withdrew or cancelled their registration for some reason.

Not only can “organisations” acting in this way have the potential to impact negatively on the charity sector as a whole, it can impact on those who “endorse” them.

When an organisation trots out people or businesses saying that they are ambassadors or the like; and have those people front for it, the potential for them to have their “brand” tarnished is real.

So, if a word of or two of caution:

Check the charitable status of any organisation that approaches you for support.

Ask for details about how your support will help, who benefits, what it costs for them to administer their organisation.

If you’re approached to be an ambassador, or show your support for an organisation, do the above, but also check what visibility the organisation has, do some background checks.

What’s been in the media about the organisation, has there been any negative articles published?

Check the Trustees, who are they, what do they do apart from being a name with the organisation, you can easily use LinkedIn, Facebook etc for this.

Ask around, ask people you know if they know anything about the organisation, it’s Trustees etc.

So, keep alert, ask questions before supporting.

Remember it only takes one bad apple to ruin the lot.

What Makes a Charity a Charity

Talk to anyone in the street about charities and they’ll say “there’s too many” “I’m always being asked for money for something” – and that’s just from people who comment about the “visible” charities. Wait until you start talking about the Big Business Charities – the first to come to mind are Churches.

They’re registered as charities, have, in the main massive resources, they have charitable status which means they don’t pay taxes like you or I.

Then there’s the likes of Sanitarium which is exempt from paying tax on its business earnings, simply because it’s owned by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which is a registered charity.

When Big Business, yes, Sanitarium is a business, is exempt from paying taxes on earnings, it can make people question whether this is making a mockery of the whole charity sector.

I could write screeds about this, but having stumbled across Kate Russell’s (no relation) piece on LinkedIn, I see no point in repeating what she has to say.

I agree with what Kate has to say in “Is it time to reform the Charities Register?” and, it would seem those who have comment on her piece are of the same mind.

Have a read of what Kate has to say – do you agree that it is time to reform the Charities Register?

“In recent years, there have been various moves by Government to ensure that charities are more accountable and transparent in their financial management. The new accounting standards that come in shortly will ensure that charities are clear and open about investment returns and outcomes reporting.

“We as a sector should welcome these moves as adding credibility to what we do, but isn’t it time the Government attacked the more complex issues of what constitutes a ‘charity’ here in Godzone?

Read Kate’s full piece here

What do you think – is it time for reform?

Leave a comment below and let me know what you think, I’ll also gladly pass your comments onto Kate.

Who holds the keys to change?

Getting change to occur in any organisation is difficult. Often it seems even more so in the NFP/charity sector. We explore some of the reasons why and seek to answer the question; “Who holds the most effective keys to facilitating change.”

If you’re involved in the charity/non-profit sector, this piece by Craig Fisher of RSM Hayes Audit is worth a read.


We all know the truism that “change is constant”.  And it is.  However in many organisations, being able to instigate change, or effectively respond to change, is often very difficult.  Generally the barrier to change is not the nature of the changes needed, but rather the emotional or human barriers to accepting the need and then moving to doing something about it.

Interestingly this situation is usually more pronounced in NFP organisations than it is in For-Profit organisations.   This is understandable when you consider some of the key differences between the two types of organisations.  This includes that most For-Profit organisations are generally more command and control in operational style, and more binary in their decision making, i.e. the driver for most decisions are: Will this make us more money – yes or no?

NFPs by contrast are commonly much softer in governance and management style because they often involve elements of volunteering and social motivation, as well as being driven more by service delivery rather than a single minded financial profit driver like the majority of For-Profit businesses.

Sadly however this can translate into NFPs being much more inefficient in how they do what they do, and much more resistant to change.  By not being forced to innovate as much as many For-Profit entities they can become flabby and inefficient.  Conversely, some NFPs are too lean, such that innovation is unable to flourish through lack of skills, time and resources.

Ironically though given the above, in times of financial crises or stress it is usually NFPs that will survive, or survive longer than many For-Profits.  Even though they don’t have the same single minded focus on their financial bottom line and financial sustainability, when times get tough their key stakeholders will generally support them “just enough” so they can struggle on.  Whereas by contrast, the situation for companies is much more binary; they either make enough money to stay in business or they go out of business.

Related to the above is the concept that; starvation often forces innovation.  And those that don’t innovate generally decline.

Continue Reading here

A Disengaged Public

Having recently read “Charities Struggle with Disengaged Public” – it stood out that maybe we’re not understanding our donors … take for example “Do charity campaigns inspire people to act and are men better at ‘giving’? Well apparently not, according to two new research reports from the UK.”

Sure, this is the UK, but what’s the situation here?

I know from experience that engaging with men is different to engaging with women, more often than not organisations use the same words no matter if it’s a male or female audience they’re trying to engage with.

If we know who donors are, male or female, we can adapt our language to ensure that each is receiving our communication in the “language” they understand and will react to.

Have you segmented your database and do you communicate with each segment in a way that they will understand and, that will cause them to take action?

What’s Working, Do You Monitor?

Often non-profits are so focused on what they’re doing that they don’t always know what’s happening in the sector as a whole.

But, it can be beneficial to an organisation to know what others are doing, how they’re doing it and what results they are getting.

Market intelligence can be a silver bullet for an organisation, it could be all that’s needed to help re-focus where, when and how they do something.

Someone in the organisation should be charged with the responsibility of “sector research” and report any findings to the board or senior management; so as they have a handle on what is happening.

Research could include; subscribing to newsletters, updates from other organisations, setting up alerts to see what others are doing when it comes to web activity.

You could find with this research that others are using language different to that you’re currently using and gaining better results; it could be that you’ll find that it’s the timing of communications that have a better response.

Without market intelligence you could simply be running blind and could well be missing opportunities and of course much needed funds.

Are you monitoring what others in the sector are doing?
Have you changed the way you do things as a result of what you’ve learned?

When is a “charity” a charity?

At what point can you call yourself a charity, is it at the point you open your doors, or is it when you get registration approval?

Unless you’re a fully registered company, you’re can’t use “Ltd”,  shouldn’t the same apply to a charitable organization?

It would seem you can call yourself a charity, have reference to your ‘entity’ as being a charity without actually being one.

Is it fair, is it right, is it misleading? 

OK, before everyone jumps in and says “but you’re called Charity Matters”, yes I am, but where I’m different is I don’t, and never have said I am a charity, I work with charities and NGOs.

What is of concern is an organization calling themselves a charity when they’re not. Sure, they may have charitable intent, but the perception they are giving is that they are one.

Organizations who do this, whilst calling for financial support are in my opinion could be seen as misleading those who give financial support – unless it is clearly spelled out that any financial support given does not allow the donor to claim tax credits or rebates.

Further, is there potential for anyone to call themselves a charity and in doing so further cast clouds of doubt over the sector as a whole?

I’d appreciate comment on this, as if there’s a general feeling that the use of “charity” in either name or descriptor when an organization isn’t one causes concern, it would be good to start the ball rolling to prevent this and further protect and clean up the sector.

NZ Charity Sector – A Snapshot

The following is from the Charities Commission 


Snapshot of the charitable sector – three year view

The Charities Register holds an absolute treasure trove of information about charities, provided by charities.  Using the Advanced Search function, you can find out almost anything you might want to know about the charitable sector, and the role it plays in New Zealand society.

We recently made a search of all charities, as at 31 October 2010. 2011 and 2012, to find out how the sector’s income, expenditure, staffing and volunteering might have changed over the past three years.  This is what the Charities Register provided to us:


Sector income / expenditure Figures drawn from the 20,029Annual Returns filed by registered charities with a gross income of more than $0 in the year to 31 October 2010 Figures drawn from the 21,151Annual Returns filed by registered charities with a gross income of more than $0 in the year to 31 October 2011 Figures drawn from the14,181 Annual Returns filed by registered charities with a gross income of more than $0 in the year to 31 October 2012
  Total $ Total $ Total $
Government grants/contracts

4.8 billion

5.6 billion

2.8 billion

1 billion

1.2 billion

0.8 billion

Income from service provision 5 billion
5.5 billion
3.1 billion

Total gross income

Note: this figure includes other income, such as investment income and dividends

14 billion
15.6 billion
8.7 billion
Total expenditure 13 billion
14.3 billion
8 billion

Top 10 charities by donations/koha


NOTE: some of these entities are registered as a “group” – they include more than one entity, but are registered as a single charitable organisation and file a combined Annual Return.  See theCharities Register for entities’ Annual Returns.

National Assistance Fund

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Trust Board

Harbourside Church Property Trust

Samoan Methodist Churches Of Samoa (Levin Parish) In New Zealand

The Salvation Army New Zealand Group

Roman Catholic Diocese of Auckland Group

New Zealand Red Cross Incorporated

Seventh Day Adventist Church in New Zealand 2

The Evangelical Alliance Relief Fund

The Carisbrook Stadium Charitable Trust

New Zealand Red Cross Incorporated

Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Trust Board

The Salvation Army New Zealand Group

National Assistance Fund

The Carisbrook Stadium Charitable Trust

Roman Catholic Diocese of Auckland Group

Seventh Day Adventist Church in New Zealand 2

Hugh Green Foundation

C.L.C Auckland Trust Board

Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Trust Board

Hugh Green Foundation

Roman Catholic Diocese of

Auckland Group
The University of

Seventh Day Adventist Church in New Zealand 2

The Diocese Of Auckland

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia -Diocese of Wellington

The University Of Auckland Foundation

City Impact Church

Sector staff and volunteers Figures drawn from the 20,029Annual Returns filed by registered charities with a gross income of more than $0 in the year to 31 October 2010 Figures drawn from the 21,151Annual Returns filed by registered charities with a gross income of more than $0 in the year to 31 October 2011 Figures drawn from the14,181 Annual Returns filed by registered charities with a gross income of more than $0 in the year to 31 October 2012

Full time paid employees




Part time paid employees




(average number per week)




Average volunteer hours / week




Average paid hours / week




Public trust and confidence in charities – survey results

The following is from the Charities Commission

Earlier this year, the (former) Charities Commission asked an external research agency, UMR, to measure public trust and confidence in charities.  Similar surveys were run in 2008 and 2010.  You can read the full results (and earlier survey results) on our website, but here is a summary of what UMR found, and how they ran the survey:

·         Online “opt-in” survey

·         2,000 respondents

·         Run late March ̶early April 2012

·         Data weighted by age, gender and region

·         Margin of error 2.2%


Trust and confidence in charities
The survey found that 44% of respondents had a high level of trust and confidence in charities, down by 11% since 2010, and 14% since 2008.

Publicity about charities’ fundraising and easier access to information about charities is likely to have influenced public perceptions about charities.  Views may also have been influenced by the economic climate, and a shift in support to organisations working to assist recovery in Christchurch. 

Personal experiences with charities a key driver of trust
Respondent’s personal experiences of charities were overwhelmingly positive. 

Ninety-two per cent of respondents who had received services from a charity in the previous twelve months said they would trust the charity again in the future, 90% said they had been treated fairly by the charity, and 88% said they would support it in the future.

Donation levels
The number of people reporting they donated more than $250 in the 12 months leading up to the survey increased to 34%, up from 32% in 2010, and 26% in 2008.

Respondents said that what most influenced them to donate to a charity was that:  “They work towards an end cause that is important to me.”

NOTE: Data from the Charities Register shows that over the past three calendar years, donations and koha given to the 25,500 registered charities have risen and fallen again, from $868m in 2009, to $1.03b in 2010, then to $885m in 2011.

Involvement with charities
Respondents said they were most commonly involved with “culture and recreation organisations such as arts, culture and sports clubs”, with 40% of saying they were involved with this type of organisation, up from 32% in 2010, and 35% in 2008.

The general type of organisation to which respondents were most likely to donate has shifted during the last 12 months to those providing services and support to Christchurch (47%).  Support for every other type of organisation has declined in favour of these charities. 

Street collections most favoured way of donating
The most common way of donating is still through street collections (51%), although this method also showed a decrease of 6% since the previous survey.

Awareness of the Charities Register as a source of info about charities
The survey showed a significant increase in public awareness of the former Charities Commission (up from 57% in 2008, to 80% in 2012), and that awareness of the Charities Registration Number had increased from 28% in 2008 to 41% in 2012.