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If you run a charity or nonprofit organisation in New Zealand, you may want to have facilities on your website that allow for international donations. If you do, you can reach a global donor pool, which is especially useful if you want to expand your charity overseas. As a result, you can reach more people and gain more funds for your important work. However, there are various legal requirements that you need to meet before you can do this, especially when operating online. This article will explain whether you can accept international donations online when operating in New Zealand.

Operating a Charity in New Zealand

When operating as a legal charity in New Zealand, there are various requirements that you need to meet to operate within the law. These requirements include:

  • having a legitimate charitable purpose;
  • operating from a clear organisational structure;
  • having a clear rules document, such as a constitution or charter; and
  • having qualified officers at your charity.

As a registered charity, you can qualify for donee status (which means your donors can receive tax credits) and tax exemptions. Additionally, you should include donation receipts for your donors. 

International Charities in New Zealand

Depending on your international status, you may have additional requirements to qualify as a registered charity and receive various benefits. You can still operate in New Zealand as a charity with an international charitable purpose, but you need to have:

  • been established in New Zealand; or
  • a very strong connection with New Zealand.

Whether you established your charity in New Zealand will depend on your particular context. However, if your charity operates from an incorporated structure, then you need to have incorporated in New Zealand.

For example, under this rule, if your charity is a company (an incorporated body), this means you need to have set up your company in New Zealand.

A very strong connection means that the Charity Services have enough power to regulate your charity under their New Zealand rules. They will review your charity based on how much of your activities happen in New Zealand and will consider:

  • whether you have administration facilities here;
  • how many of your officers live here;
  • how much of your charity’s property is in New Zealand; and
  • any other strong connections.

Additionally, if your charitable purposes are primarily overseas, you will need to apply to Inland Revenue for overseas donee status.

Protecting Donor Privacy

When you operate online as an organisation, this can raise various privacy concerns that you need to manage. Notably, you will be dealing with donor personal information online, which means that you need to comply with the Privacy Act. Personal information can include:

  • names;
  • email addresses;
  • IP information;
  • tracking cookies;
  • credit card details; and 
  • bank account information.

Therefore, you need to both inform your donors about how you handle and protect this information, including its:

  • collection;
  • usage;
  • security;
  • storage;
  • disposal; and
  • disclosure.

Additionally, when you accept international donations, you will be dealing with the personal information of international donors. These people may reside in countries with their own privacy laws, which can apply to your business.

For example, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) protects the personal data of any European Union (EU) resident. If you accept donations from EU residents online, you will be dealing with their sensitive financial information, which means you need to make sure you comply with these privacy regulations.

These laws will likely have similar requirements to New Zealand’s own, but some countries’ laws are stricter. Therefore, you need to ensure you know:

  • what these laws are; and
  • how you can comply with them.

For instance, both New Zealand privacy law and the GDPR require that you report serious data breaches. However, the specifications for reporting can vary across countries.

Having Secure Online Payment Portals

Leading from the previous point, you also need to make sure you have secure payment facilities to protect international donor privacy adequately. Various companies offer services for organisations that accept financial payments online, which are payment gateways. For example, Paypal is an international payment service that many people know. In addition, some New Zealand based ones include:

  • Windcave;
  • Stripe; and
  • PayStation.

You may use these services to accept international donations. However, you need to thoroughly evaluate your options to provide a secure and convenient option for your international donors. Therefore, you need to consider:

  • PCI compliance;
  • encryption methods for both storage and online connections;
  • ease of set-up and use for your donors;
  • whether your donors can set up recurring international donations;
  • currency conversion rates;
  • cybersecurity measures;
  • bank approvals; and
  • credit/debit card vs bank account functionality.

It is your responsibility to make sure you offer a payment option that can process international donations securely online.

Alternatively, you may use fundraising services such as Givealittle to accept donations. However, your obligations under privacy law will still apply.

Key Takeaways

You can accept international donations online in New Zealand, but there are a few things that you need to be careful with. If your charity has mainly international charitable purposes that draw international donors, you need to make sure you qualify as enough of a New Zealand charity to operate here. Additionally, you need to make sure you protect the privacy of your international donors under all the laws that may apply.

If you would like more information or help with accepting international donations online, contact LegalVision’s regulatory and compliance lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a payment gateway?

A payment gateway is an online payment processor service that processes payments to your online store or charity from customers or donors. Further, any payment gateway you use should be PCI compliant and have appropriate cybersecurity measures.

How can I receive donations online?

You can set up your own page with an appropriate online donation method that complies with relevant requirements to accept donations online. Alternatively, you can use fundraising websites like Givealittle to start a fundraising campaign.

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