Should donors receive consumer rights?

Australian Consumer Law has come under review, and with it, the possibility of extending commercial obligations to charity fundraising.

When are you a consumer?

There has been ongoing debate as to how donors are seen under law. The protections a consumer is entitled to is doubt clearer when there’s a tangible transaction of goods or services. In the case of benevolence however, this becomes murky grounds.

What expectations do donors have that the law can reasonably uphold? While a sense of hope and community connection are important reasons to give, it’s another issue, as to whether a charity should be held accountable to these expectations.

There are however, a number of charity obligations to a donor that should be considered. These include reasonable fundraising practice, the management of donor information, and the use of donor funds.

What are donors currently entitled to?

Fundraising practices come under public scrutiny for being deceptive and emotionally manipulative. This can range from insecure payment models, misleading campaigns, or irresponsible marketing that preys on vulnerability. These efforts are currently regulated by a complex web of state and national law, diverging in standards and outdated requirements.

Community Council for Australia CEO David Crosbie says that the appropriate application of Australian consumer law is a great new framework to increase public trust in the sector as a whole. Not only would it hold poor behaviour to account, protect donor interests and help preserve support for the vast majority of organisations and fundraisers growing the charitable dollar.

What would consumer law look like in fundraising?

Fundraising law is currently made and administered at State and Territory level. With some legislation dating back to the horse and cart era, we’re not only seeing inconsistencies across fundraising practices but very little thought made to the modern day donor and their needs.

One national legislative framework of Australian Consumer Law has its appeal, but it also its risks. There is no doubt, that a legal framework that enhances donor confidence, manages the regulatory burden – and all the while gives our charity sector a license to boost support is a delicate game.

One that needs to be navigated with thought and sector consultation.

Where to next?

Good2Give will continue to advocate for policy and legislative developments that make it easier for companies to undertake national fundraising and build donor trust in their giving experience.