Risk & Compliance for Australian NFPs

Not-for-Profit organisations must adapt to change in Australia

Increasing government regulation, legal obligations, and public scrutiny have elevated risk and compliance obligations for not-for-profit organisations in Australia.


In recent years, not-for-profit organisations in Australia have found themselves operating in an environment of increasing government regulation, legal obligations, and public scrutiny. While these measures are designed to foster transparency, accountability, and responsible governance, they have also brought forth significant challenges for these entities.

This article aims to shed light on the evolving scenario and explore potential mitigation strategies for NFPs to successfully navigate the complexities of their obligations.

The Changing Landscape

Government authorities in Australia have been steadily intensifying their focus on not-for-profit organisations due to several reasons. Firstly, the sector plays a vital role in delivering essential services and support to the community, necessitating robust oversight to ensure public funds are utilised appropriately. Secondly, past instances of financial mismanagement and misuse of funds in some organisations have raised concerns about accountability and governance within the sector.

As a response to these concerns, the Australian government has implemented a slew of legislative changes, such as the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Act 2012. This act establishes the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), an independent regulator tasked with overseeing the sector and enforcing compliance standards. The ACNC requires not-for-profit organisations to meet reporting requirements and adhere to specific governance practices.

Additionally, public scrutiny has amplified due to social media and instant communication, placing not-for-profit organisations under an ever-watchful eye. High-profile scandals involving certain charities have contributed to a loss of public trust, prompting a demand for greater transparency and ethical behaviour across the entire sector.

The Evolving Risk Environment

With increased regulatory oversight and public scrutiny, not-for-profit organisations in Australia are facing a multitude of risks. Some of the prominent risks include:

  • Financial Mismanagement: As financial transparency becomes paramount, organisations must maintain meticulous records, comply with reporting requirements, and allocate funds judiciously to avoid accusations of mismanagement.
  • Reputational Damage: Any adverse publicity, even if unsubstantiated, can tarnish an organisation's reputation, leading to a loss of public trust and potential donor withdrawal.
  • Compliance Violations: The evolving regulatory landscape demands strict adherence to laws and guidelines, making it essential for organisations to stay abreast of any modifications and promptly implement necessary changes.
  • Cybersecurity Threats: With increased reliance on technology and online platforms, not-for-profit organisations are susceptible to cyberattacks and data breaches that can compromise sensitive information and undermine public trust.
  • Talent Attraction and Retention: The demand for skilled professionals well-versed in risk management and compliance has grown, posing a challenge for organisations in attracting and retaining such talent.

Mitigation Strategies

To successfully navigate the evolving landscape of increased risk and compliance obligations, not-for-profit organisations can adopt several strategies:

  • Robust Governance Structures: Implement strong governance frameworks that emphasize accountability, transparency, and compliance. Regularly review and update policies to align with the latest regulations.
  • Training and Awareness: Invest in ongoing training for staff and board members to ensure they understand their roles and responsibilities in risk management and compliance.
  • Technology and Cybersecurity: Enhance cybersecurity measures to safeguard sensitive data and protect against cyber threats. Utilise advanced technologies to streamline compliance processes and reporting.
  • Reputational Management: Develop a comprehensive reputation management plan to respond promptly to any potential reputational crises and rebuild public trust.
  • Collaboration and Networking: Engage with industry peers, risk specialists, and compliance experts to share best practices, insights, and experiences.


The not-for-profit sector in Australia is experiencing a significant transformation, driven by increasing government regulation, legal obligations, and public scrutiny.

While these changes present challenges in terms of risk and compliance obligations, organisations can adopt proactive mitigation strategies to navigate this landscape successfully.

By adopting robust governance practices, proactive risk management, and compliance programs, NFPs can safeguard their reputations and thrive in an era of heightened scrutiny.

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In today's environment, not-for-profit organisations must treat risk management and compliance as strategic imperatives rather than bureaucratic necessities. By integrating robust risk practices into their operations, they can protect their reputation, preserve public trust, and drive sustainable social impact.


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