Yours is a great newspaper. Your helpers delivered to my home a note enclosing a $10 cash donation from someone in the Hastings Valley. This gift is towards the MHAG Bed Inn Bus campaign to get a Sleep Bus for the homeless in the Manning Valley. Unfortunately, there was no information which would enable me to send the donor a receipt, which is what we should do to comply with the complex regulations surrounding trying to be a Good Samaritan in this country. What I have to do to try getting into trouble is pay the money to Sleep Bus with my credit card first, and then I can pay the cash into my bank account or spend it.
Sleep Bus then send a tax deduction receipt to the donor, and a message to me inviting me to thank the donor too. In this case I shall have to give my email address when I pay in the money, so in fact his/her receipt will come to me, when it should have gone to the donor.
Unless you have an Authority to Fundraise from Fair Trading, it may be illegal to collect cash to help poor people. If you incorporate your group to conduct your campaign, you have another set of laws and rules to follow. The burden on anyone trying to raise money to help the poor is huge. Yet we pay our tax and the government can spend $5.5 billion dollars to build a venue for a sports club and a premier can say that, in effect, pork barrelling goes on all the time in politics. How much social housing and refuges could be built for that money?
Even Fair Trading won’t tell you definitely what you have to do or what the law means. Regarding Authority to Fundraise they send out a guide which states:
“This publication avoids the use of legal language, with information about the law summarised or expressed in general statements. The information in this document should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional legal advice.”
In other words, before trying to help the poor, make a lawyer rich. There is a group called Justice Connect, which offers help to groups like MHAG under certain conditions, but even they say that their advice is not legal advice. They are so concerned about the complexity of the rules and laws surrounding charitable activity, they have a campaign and petition to ask Parliament to make the law simpler.
Maybe I am naive, but why do we need these laws at all? If I set up a fundraiser on a fraudulent basis (e.g. that someone needs expensive cancer treatment, and they don’t, or the person does not exist), that is a criminal offence. It doesn’t need hundreds of regulations. If I help a genuine charity to raise money and then pocket the cash, or empty the bank account by some dubious means and vanish to the Cayman Islands, it won’t matter how scrupulously the other people in the charity were in complying with the rules. I should be prosecuted for theft, but I’ve scarpered. Will I be extradited back to Oz? And all these rules are only necessary because the assumption is that Australians are not to be trusted. Maybe it’s the convict background.
So, if your readers have it in mind to donate to Bed Inn Bus, please do it on the Sleep Bus website. The link is:
Contact me on 02 6553 1360 or email@example.com
Tinonee, NSW 2430.