Charities must stop using Appco
Appco's services are being used by some of Australia's biggest charities
(Main image source: screenshot)
If you are a student and haven’t heard of Appco, then you are fortunate enough to have found a Christmas casual job before being driven by desperation to apply for positions requiring no prior experience and with the opportunity to be your own boss. Such is how Appco recruits desperate, unemployed students and travellers into one of their myriad businesses – the same business that’s subject to a 700-person-strong class action lawsuit right now.
But what is equally as concerning is that Appco’s services are being used by some of Australia’s biggest charities including the Starlight Children’s Foundation, the Cancer Council, and UNICEF.
Appco is accused of severely underpaying their employees, sometimes even as little as $2.50 an hour, as well as subjecting them to humiliating acts of punishment such as licking underwear and shoving cigarette butts up their bottoms. Its structure resembles a pyramid scheme where an employee’s advancement is linked to the number of new employees they are able to recruit. And yet, with this almost half-year lawsuit in existence, some of Australia’s most popular and well-renowned charities continue to use Appco’s services to fundraise.
Of the plethora of ethical issues, one of the biggest that I discovered when I previously went for an interview is the fact that only half of all the donations Appco receives from the public actually end up in the charities’ accounts – the other half is taken by Appco. And this isn’t an anomaly in the world of fundraising. It was revealed two years ago that 96 percent of funds raised for Special Olympics Australia were not retained by the charity, and furthermore, $7 million of the $12.2 million total raised were kept by Appco for themselves. Even more alarming is the fact that this information is not even mentioned in the leaflets and promotional materials presented by Appco employees to the public.
Such instances indicate a commercial fundraising system which routinely breaches charitable fundraising laws. Firstly, the alleged lack of disclosure on Appco promotional materials informing the public about exactly how much of donations go to the charities is potentially a breach of clause 14(3) of the Charitable Fundraising Authority Conditions (CFAC), which fall under the Charitable Fundraising Act 1991 (NSW) and the Charitable Fundraising Regulation 2015 (NSW).
Furthermore, the fact that half of donations received by Appco are kept by Appco as profit indicates a serious flaw in the regulation of charitable fundraising itself. Clause 7 of the CFAC appears to suggest that any amount up to 50 percent of donations received is a ‘fair and reasonable proportion’ to use for expenses. Given the fact that such fundraising activities are conducted under the guise of aiding those in need, it is a gross ethical oversight to assert that 50 percent is a ‘fair and reasonable proportion’ of charitable donations to be used for expenses by commercial fundraisers like Appco.
If proven to be true, such a gross misuse of donations taken under the guise of helping those most in need in society should not occur, especially when bodies like the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission exist to prevent such practices. It is simply unacceptable that such organisations continue to break the public’s trust.