Setting up a charity or association (not-for-profit)

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Last updated on January 24, 2019

You may wish to set up an association or charity with others who share a passion for a similar cause. This could be an association such as a sporting group or other group with another shared interest or a group of people who care about a common cause or interest such as cultural groups, scientific interests, sporting clubs or traditional service clubs.

Non-profit organisations operate in many areas of society. They can include associations such as cultural societies, environmental protection societies, community child care centres, neighbourhood associations, scientific societies, sports clubs or traditional service clubs.

On the other hand, a charity is an institution or fund established and operated for altruistic purposes that the law regards as charitable. Charities include most religious institutions, aged care homes, homeless hostels, organisations relieving the special needs of people with disabilities and societies that promote the fine arts.

To register and for more information on the above, please go to Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.

When a club, a community group or a charity incorporates, it becomes a ‘legal person’ – that is, a legal entity that stays the same even if its members change. It can enter into contracts in its own name; for example, to borrow money or buy equipment. This protects the individual members of the association from legal liabilities. Please refer to Incorporated Associations for details on and to register.

The Tax Office accepts an organisation as not-for-profit where its constituent or governing documents prevent it from distributing profits or assets for the benefit of particular people – both while it is operating and when it winds up.

Before registering, you should consider what structure best suits your organisation's purposes.

Please refer to ‘Choosing a business structure’ for details.

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