Australia: Pitfalls of Online Fundraising

Last Updated: 11 August 2011
Article by Bill D'Apice

As more and more people become regular Internet users, an increasing number of web-savvy charities and Not-For-Profit organisations in Australia realise the potential of using the Internet to raise money for their particular cause. As the number of websites that raise funds online increase, an exponentially growing number of Internet users are donating through the websites of charities and Not-For-Profit organisations and through online fundraising websites. To give an example, donations through the online Australian fundraising website,, have increased from less than $600,000 in 2005 to 2006 to $2.85 million in 2008 to 2009. In the United States of America the amount given online has risen from $US300,000 in 1997 to $US10.4 billion in 2007.

In Australia, fundraising is governed by laws determined by each State and Territory. Most States and Territories in Australia require individuals or organisations that intend to carry out fundraising activity to follow certain compliance rules and to have a valid fundraising licence. These licences are generally only valid in the State or Territory where the licence is issued.

When carrying out traditional methods of fundraising, such as door-to-door appeals, charities and Not-For-Profit organisations in their respective State or Territory can be relatively certain as to what legal requirements govern their fundraising activities, as such activities are usually carried out in that particular State or Territory. However, when donations are received through online sources from donors across Australia or overseas, individuals and Not-For-Profit organisations collecting these funds may inadvertently contravene fundraising laws of various States and Territories.

Existing Legal Frameworks

On page 10 is an overview of the existing laws relating to fundraising in Australia. The Northern Territory currently does not have legislation relating to fundraising activities other than lotteries.


States and Territories that have laws governing fundraising differ in many respects, including but not limited to the following differences:

  • Exempt Organisations: Most States and Territories provide exemptions for certain organisations from having to obtain a fundraising licence, however, the kinds of exemption differs from one jurisdiction to another. For example, in NSW, certain religious organisations are exempt from having to obtain an authority to fundraise, whereas in the ACT, there are categories of exempt organisations, including schools, churches and organisations that raise less than $15,000 a year.
  • Compliance Rules: Each State and Territory with laws relating to fundraising have rules of compliance that organisations (including some exempt organisations) must observe. For example, Queensland legislation requires annual audits of registered charities and organisations that have been granted sanctions to fundraise, whereas in Western Australia, organisations holding a valid fundraising licence are required to submit an audited account of collected money at request of the Minister of Consumer and Employment Protection.
  • State Registers: Most States and Territories require approved fundraisers to submit their details to a public register that is usually available on the website of that State or Territory‟s Licensing Body. This is to allow members of the public to discover whether a particular organisation they may wish to donate to have been approved to fundraise in that State or Territory. However, some states, like South Australia, do not have such a register.

Overview of fundraising legislation

State/Territory Legislation Licensing Body Legal Requirements
New South Wales Charitable Fundraising Act 1991 (NSW) NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing, Department of the Arts, Sport and Recreation Entities that intend to raise funds in NSW for "charitable purposes" must make an application to the Licensing Body to obtain a licence known as an "authority to fundraise".
Australian Capital Territory Charitable Collections Act 2003 (ACT) Office of Regulatory Services, ACT Department of Justice and Community Safety Entities that intend to "conduct a collection" (as defined in the Act) in ACT must apply to the Licensing Body to obtain a fundraising licence.
Queensland Collections Act 1966 (Qld) Department of Justice and Attorney-General, Queensland Entities that intend to publicly fundraise in QLD must be either a registered charity or apply for a licence known as a "sanction" from the Licensing Body.
South Australia Collections for Charitable Purposes Act 1939 (SA) and the Collections for Charitable Purposes Act 1939 – Code of Practice. Office of the Liquor and Gambling Commissioner Entities that intend to collect or attempt to collect any money or goods or obtain or attempt to obtain money by the sale of any disc, badge, token, flower, or other device for any charitable purpose (as defined in the Act), must apply to the Licensing Body for a fundraising licence. While the current Code of Practice does not mention online fundraising, the draft Code of Practice dated November 2010 does provide guidelines in respect of online fundraising.
Tasmania Collections for Charities Act 2001 (Tas) Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading Entities that intend to solicit for "charitable purposes" must be granted an authority before doing so, unless the organisation is based in Tasmania or if the organisation is holding a valid fundraising licence from another State or Territory. The Act specifically provides for certain information that must be disclosed should solicitation for charitable purposes be conducted via electronic media.
Victoria Fundraising Act 1998 (Vic) Consumer Affairs Victoria, Department of Justice Entities that intend to solicit or receive money or benefit for a beneficiary or cause must register with the Licensing Body. There is no other requirement for an entity to have to otherwise obtain a licence to fundraise.
Western Australia Charitable Collections Act 1946 (WA) Department of Consumer and Employment Protection Entities that intend to collect money or goods for a charitable purpose must obtain a licence by applying to the Charitable Collections Advisory Committee who in turn will make a recommendation to the Minister for Consumer and Employment Protection for a licence to be issued.

Other differences between fundraising laws of the States and Territories include whether an organisation wishing to fundraise is required to be incorporated or not and the differing penalties in regard to contravention of legislation (ranging from a $100 fine in Western Australia to a fine of $110,000 for contravention by a corporation in the ACT). While some legislation expressly acknowledges the validity of fundraising licences from other Australian jurisdictions, overall there is little cohesion between the various fundraising laws in Australia at the present time.

What You Can Do

While many organisations may opt to not engage in fundraising online altogether, the reality is that the Internet is an increasingly powerful and convenient tool to inspire people to donate to a particular cause. It is recommended that to comply with the laws around Australia, the most prudent actions for organisations and individuals wishing to fundraise online to take include:

  1. Apply to each State and Territory for a fundraising licence and/or register the entity‟s details onto the public fundraising register;
  2. Be aware of the compliance rules of each State and Territory in relation to fundraising. There are online fact sheets available and telephone enquiry lines set up by Licensing Bodies governing fundraising of most States and Territories that can provide further information;
  3. Ensure that the website where the online fundraising takes place has easily accessible disclosure information to the extent as required by the fundraising laws of the States and Territories, which includes information about the organisation, the cause for which funds are raised, how funds raised will be managed, accounted for and distributed;
  4. Ensure that the online fundraising website is secure if it is to receive sensitive information from donors, such as credit card details; and
  5. Keep detailed accounting records of funds collected and information in relation to online fundraising activities.

It would undoubtedly involve committing some time and costs to ensure compliance is achieved in accordance with every State or Territory‟s laws. Until a more standardised regulatory system is instigated to administer fundraising in Australia it would be advisable that the extra steps are taken to validly appeal to all Australians using online fundraising.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions