Investigating charities

NSW Fair Trading takes the misrepresentation and deception of charity work very seriously. If you suspect something is wrong with the operation of a charity, you should alert us right away.

What complaints are looked at?  

We’ll consider complaints that:

  • there is misconduct or mismanagement
  • the funds and assets are at risk - the funds and assets are being used or applied in breach of the purposes for which they were raised
  • the public is being misled in a material way
  • unlawful charitable fundraising or community gaming activities are being conducted
  • a prize won is not delivered or is different in a material way
  • persons are receiving unauthorised benefits
  • proper accounts are not kept
  • fundraising or administrative costs are too high
  • improper activities are being undertaken.

The police are responsible for criminal matters. If an investigation uncovers criminal offences we will refer it to the police. We cannot help you with legal action taken against a charity or an organiser of a community gaming activity and we will not resolve internal disputes between members of a charity or its management committee.

How to alert NSW Fair Trading?

If you have any concerns, lodge a complaint through our website.

You should include the following information in your complaint.

  • your full name and address and other contact particulars (email address, telephone number) and details of your connection with the charity or the community gaming activity (if any)
  • the name of the charity and its CFN licence number (if known)
  • the name of the organiser of the community gaming activity and its permit number (if any, if known)
  • a summary of your complaint or concern, and the background to what has occurred
  • relevant dates and times
  • description of incidents
  • details of conversations and meetings
  • copies of relevant letters
  • any explanations you think are important
  • any documentary evidence (or copies) in support of your complaint
  • details of any attempts you have made to have someone in authority in the charity or the organisation of the community gaming activity to put right what you believe to be misconduct or wrong
  • details of any previous correspondence or contact with us about these matters
  • details of any complaints made to the police or other public bodies about these matters.


We don’t normally take any action on the basis of anonymous information. If you write to us, please state:

  • whether we can put your complaint and any evidence to the charity or the organiser of the community gaming activity, and
  • whether we can reveal your name to the charity or the organiser of the community gaming activity as the complainant.

If you want to stay confidential, mark your complaint with words confidential or in confidence and make your intention clear to us. We have a policy that prohibits officers from divulging information about complainants, etc., to anyone else. Even if there is unclear direction from you, your name and particulars will not be stated.

Be aware that if the results of inquiries are used in Court proceedings, and some information may be published.

What happens when we are alerted?

Compliance Officers in our Investigation Unit will examine your complaint and the information you provide, together with any other information on our files about the charity or the community gaming activity. The Investigation Unit will evaluate the information to decide whether:

  • it is a matter which we can properly investigate, and
  • the matter is sufficiently serious to justify an investigation.

What action can we take to put matters right?

If an inquiry finds misconduct or mismanagement, we can:

  • prohibit further fundraising or community gaming activities
  • stop further actions by the charity’s management committee in dealing with the charity’s property (which includes land, buildings, investments and cash)
  • appoint an administrator to conduct the affairs and activities of a charity
  • refer the matter to the appropriate authorities for them to consider legal proceedings
  • refer the matter to the police or to other government agencies for appropriate action
  • refer issues concerning trustees to the Department of Justice and Attorney-General for consideration of matters under the Charitable Trusts Act 1993 (suspend or remove trustees and employees, the appointment of new trustees, etc.).

In less serious cases, we might simply give a charity or the organiser of a community gaming activity a warning and, if necessary, we’ll monitor future activities.

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