You’ve got the next best idea to help your community and make this world a better place. You’ve been gathering information and resources for a while now but, as you get ready to move into a new stage of this purposeful journey, you still need to figure out the steps to register your non-profit organisation. How do you get started?
Over the years, I’ve noticed how a wealth of lengthy information can discourage eager folks ready to hit the ground running. Even though it’s essential to know and understand the details, in this article you’ll find a quick overview of the overall process to officially become a non-profit organisation.
Get clear on your non-profit’s legal structure
Bear in mind non-profits are legal entities and as such, there are obligations to be met. As you progress, you’ll think, plan, and gather key information about your non-profit’s purpose, goals, budget, funding, team members, meetings, activities, and programs -to say the least.
Once you have clarity, you’ll have to choose a legal structure by which your non-profit will operate. The right legal structure will allow the organisation to be effective and function properly within the law. Tax responsibilities, liability, eligibility for tax concessions, reporting obligations and more are some pieces of the legal puzzle.
The ‘incorporated association’ structure is the most widely chosen by Australian non-profits as it’s straightforward and affordable. It only requires a one-off payment -currently waived until 2021.
However, you may choose to go for a cooperative, a trust, an unincorporated association, an Indigenous corporation, or a trust depending on your needs and goals.
Create your non-profit’s governing documents
Before registering as an association and then getting into the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission, you need to create your organisation’s governance documents.
In a nutshell, this document sets the formal rules under which your non-profit will run. This needs to be clear as you, the committee members, and everyone involved in the non-profit will rely in what’s outlined there -so better make it good!
How is governance important to the legal status of non-profit organisations? Good governance helps keep everyone accountable and all of the non-profit’s actions -such as fundraising, and donations– within ethical practices.
Check out Megan Buntines website if you want some solid governance assistance. She’s been in the game for YEARS in Australia.
Get an organisation’s Australian Business Number (ABN)
Issued by the Australian Business Register (ABR) the ABN is the official register your non-profit will hold as a legal entity. To register, you first need to know your legal structure and information of all the people currently involved in your organisation. It’s possible to start the application process and get back to it if you need to gather more information.
If your application is successful, you’ll receive an 11-digit number and will automatically become a legal entity under the Australian Business Register.
Register on the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission
Now that your non-profit is officially a legal entity, you can register on the ACNC. To do so, you must first create an account and log into the charity portal to start the application process. Again, you can begin the application and get back to it if you need more data.
As you fill in the form, you’ll need to upload your governance documents, finances, desired tax concessions, plus you’ll get the chance to include any other relevant information.
Registering on the ACNC is mandatory and free of charge for charities and non-profits. If there’s any information missing, you’ll be contacted by the ACNC. Applications usually take 15 business days, so better get to it ASAP!
Once your application has been accepted
Welcome to the non-profit world! Once your application has been approved, your information will be passed to the Australian Taxation Office. They will evaluate and consider the tax concessions and endorsements you asked for in your application.