Apply for an authority to fundraise
Follow the steps below to secure an authority to fundraise. An authority is like a licence or permit to fundraise.
- If you raise over $15,000 in a financial year for a charitable purpose in NSW, you must have an authority to fundraise from NSW Fair Trading.
- Not sure how much you will raise? You can always apply for an authority – it doesn’t cost anything, lasts up to 5 years, and can be easily renewed online – but you will have additional financial reporting responsibilities and must maintain certain records.
- An easier alternative to applying for an authority, is to partner with an existing organisation that holds an authority and run your fundraiser through them.
- Even if you are exempt from requiring an authority, good records must be kept and maintained for several years.
How to apply for an authority
Hint: You likely do. Almost all charitable fundraising (including some crowdfunding) requires an authority to fundraise. Feel free to proceed to Step 2: Establish your charitable purpose.
However, there are some exceptions.
ACNC registered organisations
All ACNC registered organisations are automatically eligible to receive an authority. However, you will still need to complete and submit an application. Proceed to Key responsibilities for fundraisers.
You do not require an authority, but you must have written authorisation to work on behalf of the authorised charitable fundraiser you are supporting.
Organisations will need an authority but any branches of the organisation (for example, such as a regional arm of an association) will not need their own authority. However, those specific branches looking to fundraise need to be added to the relevant section of the application so that NSW Fair Trading is aware of the authority’s expansion to cover those fundraising branches.
You do not need an authority if you:
- are running a purely volunteer-based fundraiser that will raise $15,000 or less in a financial year. You still must keep good records and should you raise more you will have to apply for an authority.
- Not sure how much you will raise? You can always apply for an authority – it doesn’t cost anything – but you will have additional financial reporting responsibilities.
- An easier alternative is to partner with an existing charitable organisation that already holds an authority. If you choose to do this, it is important you have written authorisation from the organisation to hold the event on their behalf.
- are crowdfunding for personal benefit or for the benefit of close relatives or friends and not for a charitable purpose
- represent a university or associated body, or a local council
- are a parents and citizens association of a government school
- one of the listed exempt religious organisations
- you appeal to or receive money from a local registered club outlined in the ClubGRANTS guidelines
Note: Exempted fundraisers and fundraising appeals not requiring an authority must still maintain certain records under the charitable fundraising laws. However, they are not required to submit financial reports to NSW Fair Trading. See the key responsibilities for fundraising.
When applying for an authority you must give information about your charitable purpose. For there to be a charitable purpose, there must be an intention to provide a benefit to the public or a section of the public rather than to obtain a private benefit or advantage. A charitable purpose is defined to include "any benevolent, philanthropic, or patriotic purpose”. A charitable purpose can include the relief of financial hardship and other purposes that benefit the community, for example, disaster relief appeals.
Be careful about the wording of your charitable purpose – it is legally binding and cannot be changed once the fundraiser is underway. For example, as in the case of Celeste Barber’s fundraising appeal during the summer bushfires of 2019/20, the millions she raised could only go to the charitable purpose she described at the outset of her fundraising appeal. These donations could not be applied to any other purpose.
The ACNC has a more detailed definition of what is a charitable purpose. For more information visit the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission (ACNC).
The application for an authority will ask for your organisation structure. There are different requirements for each structure.
If you are applying as an organisation, you will need to state if you are a trust or an incorporated body such as an incorporated association, company or co-operative.
If you are an individual, you may choose to become an incorporated association when starting a fundraiser in order to create a separate entity which offers protection from being sued, affords limited liability and the ability to enter into contracts.
Note: Like the charitable purpose, once you declare your organisation structure it cannot be changed halfway through the fundraising appeal.
Your fundraising appeal must tell members and donors how you will operate and manage the funds raised. This is done differently depending on whether you are an organisation or an individual. You may want to consider seeking professional assistance from lawyers or charitable fundraising bodies like FIA (Fundraising Institute Australia), PFRA (Public Funding Regulatory Association) or Justice Connect (not-for-profit legal assistance) when preparing these documents.
Organisations must have a governing document ‘constitution’.
A constitution is the ‘instruction manual’, and a legal document that may include matters such as:
- Charitable purpose - What is the fundraiser set up to do?
- Powers - How will the fundraiser do those things?
- Limits - Advise how the money raised cannot be given to its members.
- Management - Who will run the fundraiser? How is this decided?
Individuals or unincorporated bodiesshould consider setting up a ‘terms of appeal’. A ‘terms of appeal’ should show your:
- Charitable purpose - What is the fundraiser set up to do? Make sure the purpose of your appeal is clear, and donors know how their donations will be used. This is legally binding and can’t be changed once the fundraising has started.
- Plan - How will this be achieved?
Note: The ‘terms of appeal’ should be provided to donors before they make any donations. Transparency is key.
Breach of conditions
If there is a breach of operational conditions or allegations of misleading or fraudulent behaviour NSW Fair Trading can cancel or suspend an authority via a written notice.
The written notice will specify:
- the date or time from which the suspension/cancellation takes effect
- the period of suspension
- the grounds for the suspension/cancellation
You can apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) for administrative review of the suspension or cancellation.
Setting up a fundraiser can be confusing. Once you start you can’t make any changes to your fundraiser, so we’re happy to help you get it right from the start. If you have any enquiries about charitable fundraising applications you can email Fair Trading or call 13 32 20.