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As with all sectors of the economy, not-for-profits too have seen considerable change in the last few weeks amid the unprecedented COVID-19 situation. Legal changes – both temporary and those that may have longer-lasting impacts – are coming thick and fast.

In this piece, we summarise information released by the ACNC recently to assist charities in dealing with issues raised by the outbreak of COVID-19.

1. Meetings

A Charity and its Responsible Persons must discuss how future meetings will proceed, keeping in mind:

– Provisions in their governing documents covering meetings / AGMs
– Whether the Charity has the capacity to hold board meetings remotely over internet or via phone and if Charity rules allow it;
– Consider whether everyone can attend meetings, properly communicate during discussions and access key documents;
– Whether its AGM can it be held in the usual way (using technology) or whether the AGM should be delayed to allow everyone to gather in one location.

If you choose to delay or postpone the AGM – you may need to speak to your regulator for further information or guidance.

2. Annual Information Statement Submission

If the Charity is unable to meet to discuss and approve information that may be included in their Annual Information Statement – you can request an AIS extension in advance of the Charity’s deadline at advice@acnc.gov.au

3. Charity Operations

Operations may need to be modified or temporarily halted to keep beneficiaries, staff and/or volunteers safe. In this case, always keep everyone informed of the actions you are taking and why.

4. Charity Fundraisers

If the Charity has cancelled or postponed a fundraising event, the Charity must be transparent about what it is going to do with the money – this decision must be communicated with supporters and other stakeholders, including why the decision was made and any measures in place to ensure funds are refunded or used in line with the donors’ original intent and the organisation’s charitable purpose.

If your organisation is unsure of where it stands, get in touch with Birchgrove Legal. We continue to assist a range of NFP organisations with their ongoing legal needs, including through this challenging period.

Birchgrove Legal is a boutique Sydney law firm that specialises in the not-for-practice sector. Its market-leading practice is at the cutting edge of innovative approaches to serving NFP sector organisations across the spectrum of entity types. Get in touch with one of our authors to discuss your needs further.

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