The New Zealand Association Resource Centre Trust (NZARC) blog is a place for board members, partner organisations, and subscribers to contribute articles and discuss issues of relevance to the non-profit sector. Contributions are welcome and encouraged.

Official word from the Charities Commission – Membership Restrictions in Charities

You may recall we had an article in last month’s newsletter regarding ‘Membership Restrictions in Charities. We had a number of enquiries around this topic and received the following response from the Charities Commission:

 Only entities that have charitable objectives (purposes) are eligible for registration with the Commission.

Charitable purposes include the advancement of education or religion, or the relief of poverty, or any other matter beneficial to the community. (There is considerable case law about what constitutes a “charitable purpose”, but the Commission has published a number of “plain language” information sheets about charitable purpose, and sample wording for trust deeds and constitutions that your members may find helpful). 

Charities must also provide a “public benefit”. This means that the benefit they provide must be available to an appreciable section of the public, and not just an individual, or a small group of people (there is more about this in our information sheet - "Public benefit" test: Guidance for charities).

The Commission has registered a number of charities that have a paid membership. Paid membership on its own doesn’t disqualify a charity from being registered with the Commission – it is only if the organisation’s membership criteria unreasonably exclude such a large part of the public that its benefits (in effect) become unavailable to “the public” (and therefore they don’t provide a “public benefit”).

Regarding the tax status of donations and corporate sponsorships, you may wish to contact Inland Revenue for clarification. However, registered charities that have donee status are eligible for income tax exemption. You may like to read the two Inland Revenue brochures I have attached, which explain registered charities’ tax status.”

If you have any further queries, we are happy to respond to them – you can email

Social Media is not a fad

Seeing social media as a passing trend seems to be a viewpoint that won’t die. As pointed out on Heather Mansfield’s Nonprofit Tech 2.0 website, non-profits that embraced social media in its earliest form have the most successful online profiles now, because building an online identity takes work. You need to able to devote time to connecting with the right kind of people, identifying the message you want to convey, interacting with your connections, and keeping your profile up-to-date.

But I hear some of you thinking, Facebook is just the new MySpace, or Bebo, it will die out eventually, why bother? Fair enough, but, and here is the crucial point that I want to get across, Facebook IS NOT social media, sharing and interaction IS. This is why Social Media isn’t going to go away, because it is firmly ingrained in our online experience now, because we don’t give a second thought to sharing a page that we think our friends might enjoy, to commenting, blogging, liking, and connecting. That is what your organisation needs to focus on, no matter what platform you choose to do this on.

If you’re unwilling to utilise all the great (free) social media platforms out there, you can still have a social media strategy built around your website. Have a blog with a commenting system, sharing options on every page, and if someone comments on your blog post, comment back! That way you’re still interacting with people interested in your content. 

The only fad in social media is what we’re using; perhaps even how we’re using it, but the figures speak for themselves, we are using social media, and that won’t be changing any time soon.

By Colette Palmer - Business Professional Services Limited, Executive Officer - Communications

Do we need more non-profit organisations?

As recently reported by Mark Rosenman, ‘did you know that a recent study showed that in the US, 12 million baby boomers want to start their own non-profit or socially oriented business over the next decade. In the US, a million non-profit groups already exist, and plenty of for-profit ventures are dedicated in part to providing some social benefit.'

In New Zealand, we already see 25,473 registered charities – and that is at today’s count! We can expect that there would be a similar feeling amongst our population. How does this translate to things like solving community based issues; if there were more non-profits we would see more fragmentation of delivery of services to those who need it the most.

Would it not be better to strengthen those non-profit entities already making great positive difference and change at a community level? Wouldn’t it be better to harness the passion and willingness to ‘make a difference’, especially given the entrepreneurial bent that many New Zealanders have. This is a time when the non-profit community is being encouraged to be more efficient, and at the same time be more visible in the way in which the make a difference. 

Our challenge therefore is to channel the energy and passion of this group into existing organisations. Perhaps we can shift the focus to an ability to work collectively, building stronger, more effective and efficient non-profit organisations.

Mark Rosenman is director of Caring to Change, a project in Washington that seeks to improve how grant making serves the public.

What makes a business a social enterprise?

Social says that there are many shapes and sizes and kinds of social enterprise, but there are some important things that make them different from both conventional businesses and charities.

A social enterprise does:

  • Make its money from selling goods and services
  • Cover its own costs in the long-term (though like any business, it may need help to get started)
  • Put at least half of any profits back into making a difference
  • Pay reasonable salaries to its staff

A social enterprise does not:

  • Exist to make profits for shareholders
  • Exist to make its owners very wealthy
  • Rely on volunteering, grants or donations to stay afloat in the long-term


Do you hire for skill or spirit?

Expert blogger Michelle Randall explores why organisations spend a huge amount of time and resources crafting organisational strategies. Even so, most of these strategies end in failure. 

If employees don’t buy into a strategy, it’s doomed to failure from the start. After all, strategy doesn’t execute itself. People execute it. This is why it’s vital to integrate strategy and people. Employee development needs to be included in both strategy creation and execution. There are two main ways to assess people and their development: skills and spirit.

Skills are things that can be acquired with training. A leader can be coached on how to become more influential and engage their team to achieve great results. An employee can be trained with technical skills such as engineering, accounting, and marketing that they need to do their jobs really, really well.

Spirit refers to the “soft” skills that can’t be acquired effectively with training. You have to hire people with them. These are hard to find but are necessary for an organisation to function smoothly.

Too often, companies hire for skills without enough consideration for spirit. When that happens, you end up with a bunch of 'wonks' who can’t work together. There needs to be a balance between skills and spirit across the entire company. 

Integrating strategy and people accelerates the potential growth of any organization and is critical for high-growth companies.

First NFP to release sustainability report

Ability Options recently became the first disability, non-profit organisation in Australia to release a sustainability report in line with the international Global Reporting Initiative Guidelines.

Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is a non-profit organisation that provides a framework for sustainability reporting around the world. Ability Options recently used GRI’s guidelines to release their annual and sustainability report.

Sustainability reporting requires companies and organisations to demonstrate their corporate responsibility by publicly reporting against economic, social and environmental — or people, planet and profit— values or criteria on an annual basis.

Ability Options’ Chief Executive Matt Donnelly says that by taking a proactive role to collect data, measure and track specific issues through sustainability reporting, Ability Options aims to further improve the lives of the people with disability and their families.

“Sustainability reporting gives us a way to ensure we will operate more effectively in this future landscape and helps us create a meaningful dialogue with all our stakeholders in determining Ability Options’ direction and what that future needs to look like,” said Donnelly.

For more information about Ability Options visit 

The Question That Will Change Your Organization

Whether you are a for-profit or non-profit we thought that the following rings true: "A good question beats a good answer." 

As Polly LeBarre, editorial director of the Management Innovation Exchange recently remarked... ’The first thing you notice when you have your ears pricked for questions is that most people (especially businesspeople) are more interested in presenting solutions, making assertions, and sharing their vision rather than listening to other’s opinions'.

So why ask questions instead of trying to have all the answers? Perhaps because it is impossible to have all the answers - and sometimes questions can identify more possibilities and new ways of thinking about the same old issues.

Vineet Nayar, CEO of the $3.5 billion global IT services firm, HCL Technologies keeps a list of twenty questions and makes time to think about them on a regular (almost daily) basis. Sometimes the most simple of questions can be the most thought provoking. The things he asks can easily be relevant for a non-profit. Things like:

  • Would my children (or my employees' children) want to work/volunteer/donate in/to a company like mine?
  • What would happen if there were no CEO at my company (or at any company in the world)?
  • Who would want to work/volunteer/donate to our organisation?
  • What ideas are we fighting for?
  • What do we stand for (and what are we opposed to)?
  • Why does what we do matter?

We like the idea of questions being asked and explored as a group as they generate more solidarity, engagement and progress. This is how contributors to an organisation can help define its future and buy-in to its success and prosperity. 

Attracting and retaining our people

Consider the following question and how it applies to you. We received some great feedback around this issue and others in a survey you may have taken part in recently. We also posed this specific question on LinkedIn, directed at a special interest group for non-profits.

We thought the following answer was particularly thought-provoking:

“…having done some involved research for a large NFP earlier this year, what I discovered is that not for profits do not position themselves from a recruitment branding perspective, to attract and be appealing to individuals capable of the role who are positioned in other sectors. A NFP who positions themselves to operate more as a private sector organisation and as a business, become more attractive to those who would be ideal for the role, but are otherwise currently working in other organisations…”

We would love to hear your thoughts around this also – you can comment either directly to or via the comments section at the bottom of this post.

 Question – what issues do you think are critical for NFP in attracting and retaining; board members, paid staff and volunteers in associations and charities?

An Accounting Revolution

An accounting revolution is taking place in the not-for-profit sector. A complete new mandatory framework of accounting principles will be introduced for not-for-profit entities, and will impact thousands of users.

The traditional framework of ‘generally accepted accounting principles in New Zealand’ will soon cease to exist, to be replaced by International Public Sector Accounting Standards (“IPSAS”). IPSAS have been based from International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) that is the accounting framework for the for-profit sector, and are being tailored for public sector accounting. We expect that the number of variances between IFRS and IPSAS will continue to grow over time. IPSAS are issued by the International Federation of Accountants (a private federation), and are set to be introduced in Switzerland, and other jurisdictions globally.

Why the change?

New Zealand has attempted to provide a bridge for the public sector by including some concessions with the New Zealand equivalents to IFRS. However, the conclusion was reached that an entire new framework is required. IPSAS was selected as the most appropriate.

Who is impacted?

All registered charities in New Zealand (over 25,000 at latest count) will be required to prepare financial statements under IPSAS.

Incorporated Societies have not yet been caught, as there is law commission review of surrounding legislation. It is foreseeable that they will follow the structure set for charities.

Tiered reporting

Although the principles of measurement and recording will be the same for all entities, the new framework is introducing tiered reporting. It is expected, for example, that around 96% of charities will fall under simple format reporting.

Size of entity Financial reporting requirement
Annual expenses > $30m Full IPSAS financial statements
Annual expenses $2-30m IPSAS financial statements with reduced disclosure
Annual expenses < $2m Simple format reporting

Simple format reporting is proposed to be a fill-in-the-box sort of exercise, with various templates available for different types of entities. This will simplify the reporting process, however does not negate the requirement to follow IPSAS principles. This will be the most complex requirement for not-for-profits. For many very small entities (annual expenses less than $40,000), then cash-based accounting will likely be allowed.

Who is creating this change?

On 1 July a new governmental organisation, the External Reporting Board (XRB) was established. The XRB is an Independent Crown Entity with statutory functions on accounting and auditing. It has created two sub-boards to cover these key areas. The XRB initial Board’s philosophy is to maintain user-needs focus, and to match financial reporting requirements with needs.

When does this apply?

The first financial statements likely to be impacted are for the year ending 30 June 2015, and entities can early adopt in 2014. This is dependent on the process of the consultation process. However, balance sheets two years before the introduction date will need to be adjusted, so the first impact of these changes will be as early as 30 June 2012.

More info
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