Rural Aid, Aussie Helpers respond to working with ACNC regulator

Rural Aid's Tracy and Charles Alder. Photo: BELINDA SOOLE

Rural Aid's Tracy and Charles Alder. Photo: BELINDA SOOLE

Two drought charities have responded to questions after it was revealed the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) was working with them after concerns were raised about their operations.

On Monday the ACNC said they had contacted Rural Aid and Aussie Helpers to seek assurances that the influx of goods and funds being donated gets to those in need, following concerns raised in the media.

Aussie Helpers approached the ACNC in early October, as they were being asked questions on social media, co-founder Brian Egan said.

Aussie Helpers founder Brian Egan. Photo: CARLA FREEDMAN

Aussie Helpers founder Brian Egan. Photo: CARLA FREEDMAN

“We sought confirmation from the ACNC that our reporting processes were compliant and they confirmed as such,” he said.

“They told us we are meeting our ongoing reporting obligations. When the ACNC contacted us wishing to examine our operation in response to media concerns, we were surprised but happy to oblige and we have assisted them with their inquiries.”

Mr Egan said as with larger charities, like Aussie Helpers, a proportion of donated funds goes towards administration.

“We have four full time staff members, office management costs, phones and internet etcetera,” he said.

“We also have logistic costs which include fuel, transport, ensuring our volunteers have accommodation, food, clothing etcetera.

“We work hard to ensure these costs are kept to a minimum. Without donations we wouldn’t have the resources or the infrastructure to maintain our services.”

Without donations we wouldn’t have the resources or the infrastructure to maintain our services.

Brian Egan, Aussie Helpers

Both Aussie Helpers and Rural Aid were asked how much of someone's donation ends up with farmers.

Mr Egan said Aussie Helpers are a rural charity as opposed to a drought relief charity.

“We deliver a range of services so it’s difficult to quantify given the levels of assistance we provide,” he said.

“We do work hard to ensure our running costs are kept to a minimum to allow us to value add our services.”

Rural Aid’s Charles Alder said the ACNC didn’t see a need to step in.

“Due to the massive influx of donations they felt it worthwhile seeing how we’re all managing to process and deliver on our mandates,” Mr Alder said.

Mr Alder said the charity runs on a 10 per cent cost of administration on their current donation levels.

“Normally 10 per cent of funds go towards admin fees but we have had some corporates this year who’ve allocated their donations to cover admin so we can pump more money into farmer support.” he said.

Both charities were asked from the point of when a donation is made, what is the monies path until it goes to farmers.

“We call or email all farmers, ascertain their most important need, offer hay, hampers, water or $1500 towards bill payment and provide support from there,” Mr Alder responded.

Mr Egan said “when a donation is made, the money is kept in the bank”.

“Given the nature of our operation, we want to ensure we have funds to continue providing services after this drought breaks and to be prepared for the next drought, flood, fires and economic disasters that will affect farming families,” he said.

“Interest earned is used for administrative and operational expenditure and proceeds of donations are allocated to cover the costs of the services we provide with board approval.”

Mr Egan said farmers contact Aussie Helpers seeking assistance and they determine whether assistance can be provided based on a number of criteria.

Due to the massive influx of donations they felt it worthwhile seeing how we’re all managing to process and deliver on our mandates.

Charles Alder, Rural Aid

“For feed assistance, we determine if the farmer is a primary producer, and assess whether we can assist based on their geographical location and availability of volunteers in that state or region,” he said.

“Mental health inquiries are all referred to our Virtual Psychologist service.”

ACNC Commissioner, the Hon Dr Gary Johns said ACNC staff have visited the operations of the charities and are working with them to understand their work and confirm they have procedures and practices in place to manage the large number of donations they have received.

“Our enquiries are still ongoing; however, both charities have fully cooperated,” Mr Johns said