NZ 2nd for charity giving

February 16th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New Zealand is placed second in a list of the most charitable countries around the globe, with the United States taking the top spot.

A report released on Sunday from the Charities Aid Foundation showed that individual Kiwis giving to charity made up 0.79 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

In comparison, the United States ranked in first with 1.44 per cent, and Canada wasn’t far behind New Zealand in third place with 0.77 per cent.

The top 10 are:

  1. US 1.44%
  2. NZ 0.79%
  3. Canada 0.77%
  4. UK 0.54%
  5. South Korea 0.50%
  6. Singapore 0.39%
  7. India 0.37%
  8. Russia 0.34%
  9. Italy 0.30%
  10. Netherlands 0.30%

Good to see us so generous.

1,000 fewer charities

July 14th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Jo Goodhew announced:

Greater scrutiny of the Charities Register has resulted in over 1000 charities being deregistered says Community and Voluntary Sector Minister Jo Goodhew.

A recent inspection of Annual Returns held by the Charities Register found more than 2,000 registered charities had not filed their Annual Returns and financial information for two years or more.

“This clean-up of the Charities Register will provide the public with greater confidence that the 26,866 registered charities in New Zealand are fulfilling their legal obligations to report their financial information,” says Mrs Goodhew.

“Registered charities receive generous tax advantages funded by the taxpayer, and in return they are expected to explain to the public how they are using their funds and resources to benefit the people or cause they were set up to help.”

The inspection has led to 1,010 charities being deregistered, including 106 that voluntarily deregistered, and 904 that failed to respond to the requests to file their overdue Returns.

That still seems a staggeringly high number of charities.

Venture Philanthropy

July 5th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Washington Post reports:

By the late 1990s, the Bethesda-based Cystic Fibrosis Foundation had spent decades searching for ways to alter the course of the deadly lung disease. Researchers had identified the genetic cause of the condition a decade earlier, and incremental improvements in care meant that many patients were living into their 30s.

But frustrated that no game-changing treatments were in sight, the group’s leaders in 1999 placed what many considered a risky bet, deciding to invest millions of dollars in a small California biotech firm. Robert J. Beall, the foundation’s president, believed that putting money into drug companies directly, rather than merely making grants to academic investigators, might persuade the industry to focus on the disease and turn existing research into real-world treatments.

So what happened?

That initial risk, which over time grew into a $150 million investment, has paid off in a big way. It led to the approval in 2012 of a breakthrough drug — the first that treats the underlying cause of cystic fibrosis rather than the symptoms, in a small subset of patients. On Thursday came another big win: The Food and Drug Administration approved a second drug the group also helped fund, which eventually could aid roughly half of the 30,000 patients in the United States.

So by investing in a drug company, and targeting that investment into the area they were interested in, they achieved a major benefit for their cause.

And last fall, the CF Foundation sold its rights to future royalties of the drugs for a jaw-dropping $3.3 billion, the largest windfall of its kind for a charitable organization.

And they got a 2000% return on their investment, meaning they can spend 20 times as much now on helping cystic fibrosis sufferers, or funding more research. A win-win.

The pioneering success of Beall and the CF Foundation in the practice of “venture philanthropy” is prompting a growing number of nonprofit groups to explore whether they, too, might be able to benefit their patients, and bottom lines, by investing in similar ways.

Dozens of organizations, from the Michael J. Fox Foundation to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, have embraced the approach over the past decade.

A great mixture of capitalism and philanthropy.

“There’s a reason why corporate America exists, and there’s a reason why philanthropic organizations exist,” said David Cornfield, a professor of pediatric pulmonary medicine at Stanford University. “When that distinction becomes invisible, it becomes very difficult to know where philanthropy ends and venture capital begins.”

Proponents counter that venture philanthropy has helped to fill a persistent gap that exists between basic academic research funded largely by the government and later-stage clinical trials typically funded by large pharmaceutical companies — a gap known as the “valley of death.”

 “It’s where great ideas, unfortunately, go to die,” said Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, who as a researcher at the University of Michigan helped identify the gene for cystic fibrosis in 1989. “If foundations can pitch in there, that’s great. … We need as many models to get there as possible.”

One size doesn’t fit all. But for some charities, it looks like a really good thing to do.


Family First ruled a charity

July 1st, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A charities lawyer says charities can now speak out on political issues without fear after a landmark High Court judgment overturning the deregistration of the lobby group Family First.

Sue Barker of Wellington law firm Sue Barker Charities Law said “hundreds” of charities would be affected by the judgment, which follows on from an earlier Supreme Court judgment last August ordering the Charities Board to reconsider its deregistration of Greenpeace.

Both organisations were deregistered on the grounds that their purposes were primarily “political” rather than “charitable”.

Deregistration means that they cannot claim tax exemptions for their donations, and usually means that the Inland Revenue Department will no longer allow donors to claim tax rebates for donating money to them.

A majority of the Supreme Court in the Greenpeace case ruled that an organisation with charitable purposes could also have political purposes, depending on the objectives being advocated and the means used to promote those objectives.

It held that the objectives did not have to be generally accepted and could be “controversial”, and ordered the Charities Board to reconsider Greenpeace’s application for registration.

A Greenpeace spokesman said today that Greenpeace was about to resubmit its application “in the next few days”.

High Court Justice David Collins has now ordered the board to reconsider Family First’s case too. He said Family First would still need to show that its role was “of benefit to the public” by analogy to other cases, but he warned against applying that test too narrowly by comparing Family First only with existing charities.

I’m pleased for Family First that they have been treated the same way as Greenpeace. If Greenpeace are eligible, then Family First should be also.

However my view is that the definition of charity and charitable purpose under the law needs to be reviewed. I certainly think charities should be able to do advocacy that is related to their charitable work. But if an organisation primarily exists to lobby for law and policy changes, then they should no more be eligible to be a charity, than a political party would be.

Family First should not be a charity

June 26th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A lobby group fighting to keep its status as a registered charity says it operates the way it always has, so it shouldn’t lose its status.

Family First is appealing a decision the Charities Registration Board made to de-register it in 2013.

The group said its opposition to gay marriage was the reason Charities Services wanted to deregister it.

The Charities Registration Board said Family First’s main purpose was to promote “particular points of view about family life” and the lobby group did not advance religion or education, nor promote a benefit to all New Zealanders, as the law required charities to do.

I don’t think Family First should be eligible to be a registered charity. Likewise I don’t think the Sensible Sentencing Trust should qualify. Ditto for Greenpeace and the National Council of Women. And neither should commercial companies owned by religions or Iwi.

We should have a much tighter definition of charity in NZ, and only register organisations that:

  1. provide welfare, education or health services to needy families
  2. provide funding for public good activities such as conservation

The antics of Greenpeace yesterday shows what a mockery of the law it would be, for them to be a registered charity.

NZ Initiative on charities

May 18th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Big charities are claiming income tax exemptions while small non-profits struggle to gain official charity status under the current rules, a new report says.

The New Zealand Initiative’s latest report, titled Giving Charities a Helping Hand, calls for the Government to provide greater transparency in the charity sector, set clearer rules and processes, and remove the “unfair” tax advantages enjoyed by the for-profit arms of charity groups. 

The business lobby group analysed 12 years of regulatory change to find the current legislation allowed the commercial arms of large charities to claim income tax exemptions with little oversight into how much money was passed on for charitable purposes.

At the same time, smaller operators were struggling to achieve or keep registered their charity status, threatening the important work they did in New Zealand communities, report author Jason Krupp said. 

“With about $16 billion flowing into charities a year, it is absolutely necessary to have effective regulation in place to maintain the public’s trust in the sector,” he said.

“Unfortunately, we appear to have set the regulatory bar too high in some places.”

The current law is inconsistent with some small charities struggling to get registered, while large trading companies are registered.

The same legislation allowed large charities with commercial arms to keep their earnings within the business tax free, regardless of how much of the profits were distributed to charities or what the charities did with the funds.

Such companies included food giant Sanitarium, Ngai Tahu’s 38 limited liability companies (which included Shotover Jet and Whale Watch Kaikoura), private schools, and private hospitals like St George’s Hospital in Christchurch. 

“We’re not saying religious and cultural groups can’t be charitable but we need a levelling of the playing field,” Krupp said.

He wanted the Government to “rebalance” the charity sector by reviewing the Charities Act and the definition of charitable purpose. 

I’d like to see it reviewed. I do not think the advancement of religion should be a charitable purpose. There is no benefit to society in having groups promote a belief in a supreme being or beings. Many religions do a lot of very good charitable work, and would still qualify for charitable status. But it should be based on what they do, now on promoting a belief system.

Who should promoting evolution or jihadism (both tenents in holy books) be a charitable purpose, but promoting science is not?

Religious groups should not be tax exempt

April 23rd, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The secretive Gloriavale religious community owns assets worth $36.6 million, including a dairy farm, deer enterprise and an aircraft repair firm.

The tax-exempt charity operating as the Christian Church Community Trust is run by four church leaders and overseen by Hopeful Christian, who is referred to in documents as the “Overseeing Shepherd”.

Assets and financial results of the West Coast Gloriavale Christian community are listed on the Charities Services website, a government agency which is part of the Department of Internal Affairs.

The trust’s annual returns for August 2013 through July 2014 show it is worth more than $36.6 million and made a net profit of more than $1.86 million in that year.

Former members Elijah Overcomer and Mordecai Courage told Campbell Live the trust owns everything in the community, and when members leave they take nothing with them.

Mr Courage said he had spent his whole life in the community and worked for the benefit of the community, but was entitled to nothing after he left.

The 30ha farm in the Haupiri Valley where the community lives and works is worth $10,200,719, and no community members are paid for their work in its eight companies.

Merely promoting a belief in a supreme being should not qualify an organisation for tax exempt status.

If an organisation (whether religious or not) does charitable work, then they should qualify on the basis of what they do – but not on the basis of what they believe.

Greens want political advocacy to be charitable

August 13th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Denise Roche blogs:

 In Australia political advocacy is recognised as a charitable purpose in its own right”.

It is time we modernised our system and included advocacy in the Charities Act. I have a members bill in my name that would do just that

I’m absolutely opposed to this. You should not get a tax deduction because you donate to do political advocacy. Should Kim Dotcom get a $1.3 million tax deduction because he gave $4 million to the Internet Party?

This law change would allow every lobby group in New Zealand to claim they are a charity.

Who is a charity?

August 7th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Greenpeace has won the right to register as a charity, the Supreme Court found today.

No. They have won the right to apply again.

Greenpeace has been involved in a lengthy court battle after a previous application to register as a charity was dismissed because it was found to be too political and its protests could land them on the wrong side of the law.

Today the Supreme Court found that political advocacy for a charitable undertaking is allowed.

It was a 3-2 decision which will now mean that almost anyone can be considered a charity. Family First certainly will be eligible now.

In light of this decision Greenpeace will now have to the right to apply to the Charities Board, formerly the Charities Commission, for reconsideration.

This decision made New Zealand democracy a little stronger, Greenpeace’s executive director Bunny McDiarmid said.

“It means that the Supreme Court has now recognised that trying to change our world for the better, and taking on government to do that, is a public good.

On that basis, the Labour Party is also a charity. So let’s make donations to all political parties tax deductible. I’d donate a lot more if I could claim it off tax!

They can’t take it with them

February 11th, 2014 at 7:19 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, were the most generous American philanthropists in 2013, with  a donation of 18 million shares of Facebook stock, valued at more  than $970 million (NZ$1.17 billion), to a Silicon Valley non-profit in December.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that Zuckerberg’s donation was the largest charitable gift on the public record in 2013 and put the young couple at the top of the magazine’s annual list of 50 most generous Americans in 2013.

The top 50 contributors made donations last year totalling $7.7 billion, plus pledges of $2.9 billion. …

Ten of the 50 made the list because of bequests after their deaths, including the second biggest giver in 2013, George Mitchell, a Texan who made his fortune in energy and real estate.

At No 3 were Nike chairman Philip Knight and his wife Penelope, of Portland, Oregon, who made a $500 million challenge grant to Oregon Health & Science University Foundation for cancer research. 

The Knight pledge requires the university to match it within the next two years.

No 4 was philanthropist and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who made gifts totalling $452 million in 2013 to arts, education, environment, public health and other causes.

More than 120 of the world’s wealthiest individuals and families have pledged to give at least half their wealth to charity since the movement began. Although most people on the list were prominent wealthy people who have given generously in the past, Palmer said a few were surprises, including Jack MacDonald, a Seattle lawyer, who gave $139 million to three non-profits upon his death.

Some people get upset that we have millionaires and billionaires. They say it is terrible anyone has so much wealth. We even have some local communists academics who claim that it should be illegal for anyone to earn more than three times as much as anyone else.

But ultimately a lot of the wealth now ends up in the charitable sector when people die – or before. It is very different to 100 years ago when wealth was almost always inherited. And I think that (for example) the Gates Foundation does far more good with a billion dollars of expenditure than a government would do with it.

Greenpeace claims the Govt often requests them to liaise with them

August 2nd, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

 Charities which were “all sizzle and no sausage” should miss out on official recognition and the accompanying tax breaks, the Supreme Court has been told.

The court is hearing argument today about what limits should be placed on the advocacy work of charities before they go beyond what is allowable for a charity.

Environmental and peace organisation Greenpeace is arguing its political advocacy should not disqualify it from having charitable status.

They are a lobby group, not a charity. If Greenpeace can qualify to be a charity, then so can almost every lobby group in New Zealand.

At the moment this “charity” is running a billboard campaign personally attacking a Government Minister and calling him a liar.

The lawyer for the Charities Registration Board Peter Gunn, said the law permitted charities to be advocates but you could not have a charity that was only an advocate.

“You can’t have just sizzle and no sausage,” he said.

That’s a good point.  Does Greenpeace actually do anything practical to help the environment? Or do they just do campaigns?

To compare them to Forest & Bird, F&B do actually do a lot of actual conservation work – and they advocate on conservation issues also. Greenpeace seem to do nothing but run political campaigns.

Earlier Greenpeace’s lawyer, Davey Salmon, said Greenpeace and many other charities “engaged” with parliament and government.

They were asked to make submissions to select committees and they lobbied to change government policy.

They liaised with government often at government’s request, Mr Salmon said.

Okay here’s a challenge. Name one occassion since 2008 when the Government has requested Greenpeace to liaise with it? I don’t mean the standard “Here is a bill or policy which we seek feedback on which goes to everyone on a department mailing list”. I mean something significant.

Is advocacy charitable?

May 7th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Simon Collins at NZ Herald reports:

The Green Party is calling for a public debate about how charities are defined after a decision to remove Family First’s charitable status. …

Ironically, the Greens, whose MPs voted unanimously in support of gay marriage, were the only party to speak up for Family First yesterday. Green MP Denise Roche, who has prepared a bill defining advocacy as “charitable” if it is in pursuit of a charitable purpose, said the current law should be reviewed.

This is to allow Greenpeace to become a charity again. If you are going to allow highly politicised lobby groups to be charities, then wwhy not make political parties charities also? They all claim to promote policies to benefit NZ?

I think NZers should give money to the political parties and lobby groups they support. However they should not get to make a tax deduction for doing so.

Ms Roche, a former board member of Greenpeace NZ, prepared the bill when the former Charities Commission ruled in 2010 that Greenpeace was not a charity because of its political advocacy. That case is going to the Supreme Court in July.

If Greenpeace qualifies as a charity, then every lobby groups in NZ should.

Family First have queried the charitable status of the following:

Action For Children And Youth Aotearoa CC11198
Amnesty International New Zealand Inc CC35331
Caritas Aotearoa – New Zealand CC36055
Child Poverty Action Group CC25387
Te Kahui Mana Ririki CC28437
New Zealand National Committee For Unicef Trust Board CC35979
Human Rights Foundation Of Aotearoa New Zealand CC22917
Waves Trust CC24175
Humanist Society of NZ CC36074
Agender Christchurch Inc CC20922
Save the Children CC25367
QSA Network Aotearoa CC48531
Waikato Queer Youth CC29356
Rainbow Youth Incorporated CC24284

I can’t comment on all of these, but I would not regard the Child Poverty Action Group as charitable – they are a highly activist lobby group. Likewise the Humanist Society doesn’t seem charitable to me – they promote a belief system.

Lobby groups and charities

May 6th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Family First NZ says it will be deregistered as a charity because of its views on gay marriage.

National director of Family First Bob McCoskrie said the group has received notification the Charities Commission intends to deregister the organisation.

He said the decision was highly politicised and showed groups that think differently to the politically correct view will be targeted.

I was actually surprised that either Family First or the Sensible Sentencing Trust were registered charities. Likewise I was surprised that Greenpeace was also (and they are no more – for now).

This is nothing to do with my degree of agreement with any of those groups. All of them have some views I agree with and disagree with.

But if you run campaigns calling on people to vote a certain way, then I think you cross the line from being a charity to a lobby group.

I’m all for lobby groups. We need more of them. And people should donate to the ones they agree with. But they should not get a tax rebate for doing so.

Now there are some groups that do some stuff that is charitable and some stuff that is lobbying. One solution is to structurally separate the two. For example the SST does some amazing support networks for victims of serious crimes such as murders. Donations to support that work should be tax deductible. But donations to fund their lobbying on law and order issues should not be.

The same goes for Forest & Bird. Donations for their actual conservation projects should be tax deductible. But donations for their political advocacy in favour of certain political parties should not be. Under their current structure I think Forest & Bird should not be registered either.

That is not to say no charity should be unable to express views on political issues. But when almost everything you do is around political issues (as was the National Council of Women), then I’d say you are not charitable.


Telecom gives a little

November 27th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

I’ve been a fan of the Give A Little website which makes it easy to donate to your favourite charity.

There used to be a small admin fee to cover the site’s costs. Some good news, in that the Telecom Foundation has taken over the site and is covering all the admin costs. This means you can now donate through the site with no fees at all being charged.

More than just charities can use it. Individuals, schools and clubs can also use it for fundraising.

Greens support lobby groups being charities

November 18th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

On the one hand the Greens rail against lobbyists, yet on the other hand they say they should be able to be tax free charities. I guess the difference is whether or not they agree with them.

Green MP Denise Roche blogs::

Community organisations already spend much of their time advocating. They shouldn’t be excluded from getting charitable status (and tax exemption) because of this. Organisations of long standing repute including the National Council of Women have been denied charitable status on the basis that advocacy is their primary purpose. Advocacy  is not currently deemed a ‘charitable purpose’ under the Act, and therefore they are denied  tax exemption for donations.

And this is how it should be. Lobby groups should not be escaping tax. The National Council of Women is one of the most prolific lobby groups in New Zealand. It puts in a submission on almost every single bill before Parliament. Now good on them for being politically active, but allowing them to be a registered charity would be allowing any organisation to be a charity. Would we accept Business NZ being a registered charity?

On the back of the government’s announcement I have drafted a simple Private Member’s Bill to write advocacy into the definition of charitable purpose in the Charities Act as an ancillary purpose. I’ve been holding off for ages because I kept hearing that there would be a review and this would be the main focus of it.

That will make it open slater for every political lobby group in New Zealand to gain charitable tax status.

Personally I think the guidelines should be even tighter. As a secular country I think churches should lose their general tax free status. If they have subsidiaries that do charitable work (such as homeless shelters) then that should be charitable. But why should donations to Scientology be tax deductible?

And the small(er) donations matter too

July 26th, 2011 at 5:29 pm by Jadis

The 3rd of July seemed like any other Sunday for a collection of social league football players.  That was the case right up to the end of half-time when, while walking back to his position in defence, ‘Big Dave’ (otherwise known as Fabio) collapsed to the ground.  He had a massive heart attack right there on the field.

He was lucky.  He had his own teammates and opposition players who had some idea of how to do CPR and mouth-to-mouth (or the big “man-kiss” as Dave likes to call it).  He also had a nurse on the sideline, a Dr walking his dog, and St John ambulance who responded in time to shock Dave’s heart back into some semblance of a rhythm.  He has since had a quadruple by-pass… not quite what you expect at 39.

As a way to say ‘thank you’ to all those people who played a part Dave’s team is putting together a fundraiser to coincide with the re-match of the game that was never completed (despite Dave believing it really should have been).  The team has a lot of community support so it will be a family fun day (bouncy castles, face painting etc) and the opportunity to watch some decidedly average football – from a covered stand.

  • From 10.30am, Sunday 31 July at Porritt Stadium and Wanderers Clubrooms, Hamilton. Kickoff at 11am

‘Big Dave’ is not the sort of guy you’d expect to have a heart attack.  He is called ‘Big Dave’ because of his height, not his weight.  He is a fit specimen of a man – thus the secondary nickname of ‘Fabio’. Dave and the team want this Sunday to be an opportunity to raise a bit of money for St John and to also highlight the importance of us all having some knowledge of CPR and first aid skills.

The game is in Hamilton.  If you can’t make it I am sure that St John’s would be happy to receive a donation from you.  St John provide a huge range of services to the New Zealand community and they have recently been recognised as being New Zealand’s most trusted brand.  If you don’t know CPR or your skills are a little rusty then look up the location for a training course on their site.

The Fred Hollows Foundation

June 2nd, 2011 at 2:02 pm by David Farrar

Back in 2009, I had what I thought was a great idea. To have a Kiwiblog charity voted on by blog readers, and that we could then use the blog to fundraise money for, and organise fundraising events around.

Readers voted and selected the Fred Hollows Foundation. That was great. I met with them, and with Give-a-little who kindly offered to be the donor system. I also had various readers offer to help.

And then I got busy, and remained busy. And months went by and I hadn’t had the time to properly organise online widgets for donating, arranging a schedule of events such as debates and quiz nights etc. So then I though maybe I’ll make them the 2011 charity instead of 2010. But I still never managed to find the time, and then the earthquakes struck and that wasn’t the time to try fundraising for another cause, and then we’re getting close to the election and I realised that realistically I had over-committed and couldn’t  deliver what I wanted to.

Part of the plan was that I would donate 10% of the gross advertising income of Kiwiblog to Fred Hollows Foundation. Today I donated $10,000 to the Fred Hollows Foundation, as my contribution towards their wonderful live changing work. And for those mathematicians out there, no that isn’t 10% of the gross advertising income – it is a much much higher percentage.  But I feel it is what I should do to make good on what I hoped we could achieve.

At some stage I would still like to try using this online community to organise fundraising events for charity, such as celebrtiy debates and the like. But realistically that would need a part-time organiser, not someone with around four jobs like I have.

Anyway the point of this post is not to highlight my donation, but to encourage yours. if you enjoy reading Kiwiblog every day, and appreciate the thousands of hours that has gone into doing 50+ posts a week, then you can show your appreciation by donating to the Fred Hollows Foundation. They are one of those charities where even a modest donations can make a huge difference, because in some of the countries they work, they can restore sight for just $25.

You can donate to them at this link, or by clicking on the widget at the top of the left sidebar. Please do so if you can.

Greenpeace not a charity

May 11th, 2011 at 2:17 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Greenpeace New Zealand’s political activities mean it cannot register as a charity, the High Court has decided.

Greenpeace appealed against a 2010 ruling by the Charities Commission which found its promotion of “disarmament and peace” was political rather than educational and while it did not directly advocate illegal acts, Greenpeace members had acted illegally.

In his judgment Justice Paul Heath found the commission was correct in its judgment and turned down the Greenpeace appeal.

“Non-violent, but potentially illegal activities (such as trespass), designed to put (in the eyes of Greenpeace) objectionable activities into the public spotlight were an independent object disqualifying it from registration as a charitable entity,” the judge said.

I cam’y say this is a big surprise. Greenpeace acts in a very political way. The actual court judgement is worth a read – located here. I thought the sections on how there is a difference between promoting peace and pacifism. This is a quote from Southwood v Attorney-General:

The point, as it seems to me, is this. There is no objection – on public benefit grounds – to an educational programme which begins from the premise that peace is generally preferable to war. For my part, I would find it difficult to believe that any court would refuse to accept, as a general proposition, that it promotes public benefit for the public to be educated to an acceptance of that premise. That does not lead to the conclusion that the promotion of pacifism is necessarily charitable. The premise that peace is generally preferable to war is not to be equated with the premise that peace at any price is always preferable to any war. The latter plainly is controversial. But that is not this case. I would have no difficulty in accepting the proposition that it promotes public benefit for the public to be educated in the differing means of securing a state of peace and avoiding a state of war. The difficulty comes at the next stage. There are differing views as to how best to secure peace and avoid war. To give two obvious examples: on the one hand it can be contended that war is best avoided by “bargaining through strength”; on the other hand it can be argued, with equal passion, that peace is best secured by disarmament – if necessary, by unilateral disarmament. The court is in no position to determine that promotion of the one view rather than the other is for the public benefit. Not only does the court have no material on which to make that choice; to attempt to do so would be to usurp the role of government. So the court cannot recognise as charitable a trust to educate the public to an acceptance that peace is best secured by ―demilitarisation‖ . . . Nor, conversely, could the court recognise as charitable a trust to educate the public to an acceptance that war is best avoided by collective security through the membership of a military alliance – say, NATO.

Justice Health notes in this case:

Irrespective of whether ―peace, in itself, can constitute a charitable purpose, it is more difficult to argue for that position with respect of disarmament. So far as disarmament is concerned, Mr Salmon makes a good point in referring to the non-contentious nature of nuclear disarmament in New Zealand, as a result of the nuclear free policy first given effect by statute over 20 years ago. But Greenpeace‘s objects refer only to ―disarmament‖, not to ―nuclear disarmament‖. In doing so they fall foul of the admonition against political lobbying about the way in which disarmament should occur, as expressed (for example) in Southwood.

This is key. Greenpeace promotes pacifism, which is not the same as peace. The former is highly political, the latter is non-controversial. I am sure many of their activists think the two things are the same, but that is more a reflection of the narrowness of their views.

Defining a charity

March 23rd, 2011 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

There’s been an interesting court case as to what constitutes a charity. Paul Matthews of the NZ Computer Society blogs:

As many of you will know we’ve been embroiled in a debate with the Charities Commission over the last year or so as to the educational nature of our activities. Earlier this week the High Court released their ruling, dismissing our appeal.

Without going into huge detail, in short we are of the view that we exist for the advancement of education, in various forms and in various contexts. When you break our activiites and purposes down we think it’s very hard to draw any other conclusion.

After all, in its purest form professionalism is simply education and the application of that (ie. experience) plus ethics.

If we exist for the advancement of education then by definition we are “charitable”. In practice this means two things. People can donate to our programmes (such as KiwiSkills, a programme focused on increasing the country’s digital literacy levels), and we don’t pay income tax on activities (although we still pay GST, PAYE, FBT, ACC etc).

So what did the High Court decide?

The Charities Commission granted us charitable status when we first applied. They reviewed our application in detail then agreed with us that we clearly existed for the advancement of education.

Some time after this decision the Commission began re-looking at charities they thought were in “grey areas” with a view to establishing precedents and after their investigation they concluded that we weren’t charitable after all. While we see our purpose as advancing education and our mandate wider than just our membership, they disagreed.

We appealed this decision to the High Court, and had our day in court. I must say, regardless of outcome our lawyers represented our position well and we got our day in court.

The High Court ruled on the appeal earlier this week, refusing to overturn the Commission’s decision.

What are the implications of this?

We’re still looking at this in detail, however the interpretation appears to suggest that if the result of having particular knowledge or skills imparted is that professionals or “the industry and profession” become more educated or skilled, this is not regarded as Educational under the Charities Act.

One of the primary reasons we appealed the Charities Commission ruling is because we were deeply, deeply concerned about this precedent, which is likely to have a significant impact on other education-focused organisations.

So NZCS conclude:

Frankly, we think this definition is daft and a law change is most likely necessary to clarify this. While we’re most likely not going to appeal the decision, we will be writing to the Minister responsible for this area expressing our very serious concerns.

Another organisation caught up in being deemed non-charitable is the National Council of Women. That one is less controversial as they are fairly overtly political – they submit on almost every single bill that goes through Parliament.

Oxfam Unwrapped

December 7th, 2010 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Oxfam have a way to give a great present this Xmas – a piglet, a duck, a lamb, a goat, coffee beans etc for someone living in poverty overseas. They explain:

Oxfam Unwrapped: This Christmas, change the present and change a future

The holiday season is approaching and it’s looking suspiciously similar to last year…and the year before that. You’re wondering again what to get for that special someone, but coming up empty.

Fear not. Oxfam Unwrapped is here, ready to help you change the present and change a future.

Here’s how it works: you choose a present from the Oxfam Unwrapped catalogue, you get a card to give to your friend, and the gift goes to people in the developing world who need it most.

In the past five years, Oxfam Unwrapped has raised nearly $3.5 million to help people achieve their fundamental human rights and work their way out of poverty. The impact is massive. Toilets have been built, gardens have been planted, clean water systems have put an end to hours of walking to collect dirty water, livestock has multiplied, farmers have gained organic certification, trees have been planted and small businesses have started up.

There is a great mix of new gifts and old favourites this year. Feeling that animal attraction? A Piglet for $40 is a very sty-lish present! Plus there are Ducks for $18, Lambs for $40 and the perennial favourite, the Oxfam Goat for $47. These furred and feathered creatures not only make cute gifts, they provide food, fertiliser and income for a family.

For foodies there are several gifts you can really get your teeth into like Organic Bananas for $10, Chillies for $15 and an environmentally-friendly Cooking Stove for $30. Or for a veggie-patch enthusiast, it’s easy to go green with Honey Bees for $35 or a gift to Feed a Family with a Nutritional Garden for just $20. Along with training in gardening techniques, these gifts help families create a reliable food source and become more self-sufficient.

If your friends and family like to get back to basics, how about giving Safe Water for 100 People, 20 Bars of Hand Soap, or a Toilet? It’s the season of giving, and what better thing to do than help a community take those first vital steps out of poverty?

There are nearly 50 future-changing gifts to choose from. Prices start from just $9 so there are no more excuses for giving novelty socks or bubble bath!
Oxfam Unwrapped gifts can be purchased online or by free phone 0800 600 700. Simply check out the website to find out more.
With an Oxfam Unwrapped gift you really can change the world, one present at a time.

A nice way to get into the true spirit of Christmas.

I wish I hadn’t

December 6th, 2010 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

A good cause:

Air New Zealand is a proud sponsor of Make-A-Wish® New Zealand which works to grant the cherished wishes of children with life threatening medical conditions.  Today they’re celebrating that partnership with the launch of a fun new way to feel better about life’s little slip ups and raise money for Make-A-Wish at the same time.

We all have moments in life that we’d rather forget – it could be overlooking a friend’s birthday, causing a fender bender, or sneaking that last piece of chocolate cake.  Whatever it is that makes you think “I wish I hadn’t … “, you can now balance the ledger by sharing your “wish” at and donating to Make-A-Wish at the same time.

Now we’re inviting all Air New Zealanders to get on board by confessing their misgivings and supporting this great cause.  If you need inspiration, you can go online and check out the moments others would rather forget – including some classics from high profile New Zealanders such as:

  • April Ieremia – I wish I hadn’t given him my phone number …
  • Richie McCaw – I wish I hadn’t told Ali…
  • Bevan Docherty – I wish I hadn’t run the lawn mower without any oil …
  • Phil Keoghan – I wish I hadn’t forgotten to put the lid on the blender …

Donations can also be made from your mobile phone – great for those feeling bad about sneaky texting while driving!  Just send your name and wish to 3181 to make an automatic $3 donation.

My wish was “I wish I hadn’t sent that fax”.  enjoy reading the other wishes, and hopefully make one yourself to help the Make A Wish Foundation.

ANZACs most generous

September 9th, 2010 at 8:51 am by David Farrar

Kiwis and Aussies have been ranked the most generous givers of time and money to charity.

The Charities Aid Foundation has published the World Giving Index. They use poll data from Gallup, and average out the percentages who say they have donated money, donated time and helped a stranger.

Overall, 20% of the world’s population had volunteered time in the month prior to interview, 30% of the world’s population had given money to charity, and 45% of the world’s population had helped a stranger. Australia and New Zealand are, jointly, the most ‘giving’ countries in the world. These countries both boast a World Giving Index score (the average of their scores on ‘giving money’, ‘giving time’, and ‘helping a stranger’) of 57%. Eight other countries from three regions also have a World Giving Index score of over 50%.

And some interesting correlations:

The link between the giving of money and happiness is stronger (a coefficient of 0.69) than the link between the giving of money and the GDP of a nation (0.58). It would be reasonable to conclude that giving is more an emotional act than a rational one.

The more generous you are, the happier you are.

The top ten countries are:

  • 1= New Zealand 57%
  • 1= Australia 57%
  • 3= Ireland 56%
  • 3= Canada 56%
  • 5= Switzerland 55%
  • 5= USA 55%
  • 7 Netherlands 54%
  • 8= UK 53%
  • 8= Sri Lanka 53%
  • 10 Austria 52%

The bottom eight countries are:

  • 153 Madagascar 12%
  • 152 Burundi 12%
  • 150= Ukraine 13%
  • 150= Serbia 13%
  • 147= Greece 14%
  • 147= Lithuania 14%
  • 147= China 14%
  • 146 Bangladesh 15%

The top country for giving money is Malta at 83%, followed by Netherlands at 77% and Uk and Thailand at 73%.

The top country for giving time is Turkmenistan at 61%, Sri Lanka 52% and Central African Republic 47%.

The top country for helping strangers is Sierra Leone at 75%, and Canada at 68%.

Is Greenpeace a charity?

June 28th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Greenpeace New Zealand is fighting to gain charitable status after it was turned down by the Charities Commission for advocating peace and indirectly encouraging illegal activity.

I can’t say I am surprised by the decision. Greenpeace is a multinational lobby group, not a charity.

Greenpeace executive director Bunny McDiarmid said the environmental group had appealed against the commission’s decision to the High Court, where it would be heard in August or September.

“We think it’s worthwhile challenging this decision,” she said. “I think it’s an interesting debate that societies should have … around what is a charity and whether the law from 100 years ago is still relevant today.”

The rejection means Greenpeace could lose income tax exemption, which is granted only to registered charities, although people will still be able to make tax-free donations to the organisation.

McDiarmid said Greenpeace still had income tax exemption pending a court decision, but losing the status was not why it was challenging the commission’s ruling. “That doesn’t make much difference because we’re not a business.”

The commission’s decision in April found Greenpeace’s promotion of “disarmament and peace” was pushed in a political, rather than educational, way.

Highly political I would say.

Charities Commission chief executive Trevor Garrett said organisations that dabbled in political advocacy, but were primarily community-focused, such as Plunket, were safe, but those with an overt political role were not charities.

A sensible distinction.

Editorials 10 March 2010

March 10th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald talks charity:

At the heart of John Key’s approach are the concepts that the Government should not be providing everything in social welfare, that, indeed, it may not be the best judge of what is needed, and that charity is a good thing. He has sought to further these ideas by building on work done by the previous Government, most notably in abolishing the $1890 cap on rebates for charitable donations.

Most recently, legislation has provided for that rebate to be received automatically by wage and salary earners who donate directly to an approved charity from their pay cheque.

Yet such measures amount only to tinkering when compared with the extremely enticing tax breaks that underpin the strong tradition of private charity in the US.

The Dominion Post weighs in to the sterilisation debate:

ACT list MP David Garrett should know by now that, when he thinks aloud, he will almost certainly find himself in trouble.

Like Maori Party bad boy Hone Harawira, he shoots from the lip, and his homespun philosophy is rarely politically correct.

But despite both MPs’ comments ritually provoking outrage, a kernel of truth is often found therein.

Last week, Mr Garrett was in hot water again, this time for daring to suggest that parents who have abused their children be offered $5000 to get themselves sterilised. …

Predictably, Mr Garrett’s comments were compared with the excesses of Nazi Germany. Mr Kahui’s lawyer, Lorraine Smith, called them “outrageous and a disgrace”.

Karl du Fresne blogs on how hysterical some of the reaction was, with the Nazi comparisons.

Back to the Dom Post:

But those who lambast Mr Garrett for initiating an idea that at least attempts to confront the issue need to face an unpalatable fact: programmes in place now to protect vulnerable children are failing. Sixteen children died last year as a result of family violence.

Delcelia Witika, Lillybing, James Whakaruru, Nia Glassie, Chris and Cru Kahui comprise just a handful of the names on New Zealand’s roll of shame, each one killed by people whose responsibility it was to care for them.

And people who knew these little ones were being abused did not intervene. It is not good enough.

There is no doubt that the Garrett proposal is a step too far. However, even his most vehement critics should find an initiative instigated by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett more acceptable.

Last week, an Experts Forum on Child Abuse recommended that state agencies be able to keep track of parents whose children had died, or been taken off them.

The problem is that, at present, files are closed when a child dies, and social workers don’t know another child has been born to the same mother until that child, too, comes to their notice through abuse or, worse, because he or she has died.

I’m amazed we do not already do this.

It is no wonder Mr Garrett is casting around for new ideas. The old ones aren’t working.

And that is why his comments, on this blog, sparked a national conversation.

And the ODT looks at government spending restraint:

It makes sense for governments to regularly review the costs of administration and services and, especially, to look for efficiencies in operating and technology costs.

Some $2 billion is required to be found in the next two years for the latter, which in turn it is hoped should lead to less duplication of office support functions and services.

It is telling that Mr Key has cited last year’s health sector reforms, which pooled district health board payroll and procurement, with estimated savings over five years of $700 million – and the loss of 500 jobs.

The Government does not consider what is planned to be on the scale of the radical reforms of the Rogernomics era, yet it has declined to make public estimates of potential job losses, which rather implies that the reforms will be sufficiently substantial to be job-costly, and the public service unions have not been slow to express their anguish.

The recession knocked $50 billion out of the economy – the public sector can’t be immune from that.

Flag Doodle almost at $20,000

February 12th, 2010 at 7:15 am by David Farrar

Incredible. The bidding for the John Key flag doodle has reached $19,238. Now I suspect the bidding is more for the morning tea with John (and Pippa) than the artwork itself – I certainly hope so!

As at 6 am:

  • Top Bid $19,238
  • 188 bids
  • Approx 250 questions and answers – many of these are hilarious. Well done to the TVNZ staffer answering them.
  • 73,622 page views

The Cure Kids charity will be pleased, especially with five days left in the auction.