Tax status aids fundraising

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

Linking a tax deductible status to local fundraising efforts could result in greater funding flow into isolated rural communities.

That's the message from Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal chief executive Alexandra Gartmann, who recently toured the Wheatbelt.

But, according to Ms Gartmann, the process to register as a Deductible Gift Recipient with the Australian Tax Office is not an easy one, and something community groups may shy away from.

Ms Gartmann said the FRRR had been established to provide a link between rural communities and philanthropic support, with the scope of FRRR's remit broadened to allow groups to borrow the DGR status for projects that align with FRRR objectives.

She said many smaller community groups often did not have the resources to progress a DGR status.

"It can be quite challenging to acquire DGR status, but it's something that I encourage organisations to try, particularly if you can receive some pro-bono legal support," she said.

"But in the interim, we can lend organisations our DGR status, to allow them to fundraise as though they are a DGR themselves, making donations to their project tax deductible and enabling groups to determine if it's worth the effort of applying for DGR status."

_Ms Gartmann said communities considering this path needed to think big, and consider combining fundraising efforts with other groups working towards similar goals. _

"As a national funder, we get to see things across a range of scales and communities," she said.

"One thing that we see time and again is that communities with strong leadership, plentiful social connectedness and well-functioning local organisations have the greatest wellbeing."

"They self-organise, self-determine, use their networks and apply skills to address issues. This is perhaps the greatest asset that any community can have."

Ms Gartmann said the FRRR facilitated the distribution of funds, exclusively to rural regional and remote communities, much of which came from philanthropic gifts.

"Philanthropy is often conducted through a legal entity such as a Trust or Foundation, which is non-profit, non-Government and created by an endowment from a gift of money," she said.

"Foundations make grants or operate programs with the income earned from investing the endowment, allowing gifts of money or other forms of assistance to provide for people in need and to serve the common good."

However, Ms Gartmann said some philanthropic entities such as Private Ancillary Funds were legally required to donate only to groups with a DGR status.

"There are about 2000 trusts and foundations in Australia, including FRRR. A lot of donors want to contribute to rural and regional Australia but their hands are tied," she said.

Since Private Ancillary Funds can only give to groups registered for DRG status, it means there are a lot of rural, regional and remote projects that they just cannot reach due to a lack of DGR status, she said.

But that can be less of an issue thanks to the FRRR.

Ms Gartmann said FRRR had been described as a philanthropic toothbrush.

"The FRRR enables philanthropy to get to hard-to-reach places," she said.

Ms Gartmann said philanthropy could often be a first responder.

"The reality is that donors, or philanthropic funders, are increasingly interested in tackling the hard things and many projects I visited on my tour through the central Wheatbelt highlighted such partnerships," she said.

The FRRR was established in 2000 as a partnership between Government and Philanthropy by former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson and Bailliau Myer.

Ms Gartmann said the organisation had funded more than 750 projects in 2014, distributing almost $6.4 million.

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