With an intended goal of only $30,000, social media personality, Celeste Barber, raised an incredible $51 million to fight the devastating bushfires across Australia. Despite the astonishing achievement and amazing display of solidarity from generous donors, Celeste soon appreciated that because funds were raised for NSW Rural Fire Service and Brigades they could only be applied to its charitable purposes: training of RFS volunteers and supply of vehicles and equipment.
This was contrary to the representations made by Celeste when seeking the funds, namely, that they would be distributed to assist families and wildlife affected by the fires.
In light of these issues, charities should be very mindful that when articulating their purpose to donors, the purpose should align with the documented objects of the charity as donations can only be applied for those purposes.
It is very difficult to change a charity's objects after the event. We now see Celeste has applied to the Supreme Court NSW for a cy-près scheme where the court is asked to sanction directing funds to another purpose, but usually these are only successful if the original purposes have been superseded and no longer needed.
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