Eleven charities have status revoked
Non-profit groups are improving standards
The Island’s non-profit community is boosting its standards, with the Bermuda chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) to be up and running by March.
AFP president Andrew Watt explained the motive for the new organisation was to be “supportive, rather than clamping down on perceived abuses”.
Mr Watt came to the Island yesterday to address non-profit and corporate donors on the today’s techniques of fundraising.
Traditional fundraising events are giving way to “a more non-structured, viral environment, where you put something out there and watch the ripples spread”, he said.
He said Bermuda’s AFP will compliment the Centre for Philanthropy in enhancing collaboration, and boosting standards of fundraising.
Added Mr Watt: “Any form of competition becomes exhausting. If you as a donor feel fought over, it’s going to turn you off donating at all.”
Jennifer Burland Adams, president-elect of the Bermuda AFP said it was imperative for Bermuda’s non-profit to work together.
“You don’t need to give away your trade secrets — but it lets you see where we can support each other,” she said.
Eleven of the Island’s charities have been struck off the register as the Charities Commission continues to sift through financial records from across the sector.
Deputy chairman Richard Ambrosio declined to name the organisations that had their charity status revoked, but a recent check by The Royal Gazette of public financial records showed several lagging years behind.
Other charities, such as the Bermuda Hospice Trust, or the group Friends of the Bermuda Cathedral, have never provided Government with their accounts.
Mr Ambrosio said the Commission preferred to respect the privacy of organisations crossed off the list, rather than “naming and shaming”.
He added: “The vast majority have come through with their financial statement. A small number have asked for extensions, which we have accepted.”
Most of the charities deemed delinquent in providing their financial statements have provided all their outstanding details, he said, and continue to operate as charities while they prepare their records.
The Commission, which consists of seven part-time members, hopes to get through the backlog of financial statements in the next month or so. The latest round of eliminations brings the Island’s roster of registered charities down to roughly 365 organisations.
Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy has vowed to tighten the regulation of Bermuda’s charitable sector, and Mr Ambrosio said Ministry staff and the Attorney General’s Chambers were working “around the clock to bring it to fruition” before the year’s end.
“The new Act gives us a wider range of remedial powers in order to investigate charities’ affairs, instead of relying on the blunt weapon of cancelling a charity,” he said. “I don’t want to go into details at this stage, but there will be more powers for us as a Commission to safeguard the public trust.”
The Act will also create new criminal offences to help the Commission in its role as the Island’s main regulatory body for the third sector.
“While we’re going to be rigorous, we will be flexible where warranted,” the deputy chairman added.
The new Act should also make it easier for the Commission to encourage collaboration among charities.
The Commission’s new guidelines will contain sweeping new terms for the recognition of what qualifies as a charity under the law.
“It’s not sufficient just to have a charitable purpose. They will now have to demonstrate that they are providing public benefit.”
The Commission will obtain a more detailed list of the public requirement benefits that qualify an organisation as a charity.
It will include a “poverty restriction”, Mr Ambrosio added, explaining: “Some charities charge fees. That’s all right, as long as their fees aren’t prohibitive, and don’t exclude those in poverty.”
As for the criterion of defining a charity as an organisation that relies mainly on public contributions, Mr Ambrosio said it would be interpreted “liberally” to avoid undue restrictions — and won’t be a requirement under the new Act.
Mr Ambrosio also clarified a quirk in the Island’s register of charities.
For example, the group Bermuda Literacy Charitable Trust remains on the list — but has never submitted any financial details.
Founder Dame Jennifer Smith said the organisation had served only a brief purpose, explaining: “The Trust was set up during my time as Premier, to help fund the OECD National Adult Literacy Survey. As far as I know, it ceased to exist after the survey.”
Mr Ambrosio said: “The problem in the past Act was it gave the ability to grant one-year registries or indefinite registry. The practice for some time was to grant indefinite. That’s now ceased — we’re back to one-year registry as a normal policy.”
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