Not-for-profit Law
Legal help for community organisations

Guidelines for pro bono referral

Please change your location to view this page.

This page contains content that does not match your current location

Not-for-profit Law eligibility guidelines for a referral for pro bono legal assistance

There are a number considerations on who we help, how we help and the type of matters for which we can provide help. 

The following are our full eligibility guidelines for existing organisations. If you are starting up see our guidelines below.

Eligibility guidelines for existing organisations

For existing not-for-profit community organisations (whether incorporated or not), eligibility for assistance from Not-for-profit Law depends on the type of organisation seeking assistance and the kind of legal assistance required.

1. What types of organisations can Not-for-profit Law assist?

1.1. The organisation must be a not-for-profit community organisation

An organisation requesting the legal assistance of Not-for-profit Law must be not-for-profit.  This means that the organisation’s constituent documents (for example, its rules or constitution) must state that it does not distribute income amongst its members either during the group’s lifespan or upon winding up.

1.2. The organisation must have exhausted all other avenues for assistance

Generally, Not-for-profit Law can only assist an organisation where it has exhausted all other avenues for legal assistance. Before seeking legal assistance through Not-for-profit Law, groups should consider whether their matter can be resolved by approaching a peak representative body for support or a specialised legal information centre (for example the Arts Law Centre).  If the organisation is based outside Victoria or New South Wales, it must have exhausted all options for legal support in its home state or territory (for details of these organisations refer here).

1.3. The organisation must serve the public interest

To qualify for Not-for-profit Law assistance, a not-for-profit organisation must have public interest objectives. 

Generally, this means that the organisation’s goals and objectives are to serve the broader community, rather than just its membership base.  We will have particular regard to those community organisations that assist individuals (including members) considered to be disadvantaged or marginalised within our community.

1.4. The organisation must be unable to afford, or have difficulty in accessing legal assistance 

Not-for-profit Law seeks to ensure that community organisations are not forced to divert their limited funds to obtain legal advice where that money is better allocated to advancing the objectives of the group.  Accordingly, Not-for-profit Law will give priority to smaller organisations that rely heavily on volunteers as opposed to those groups that might otherwise have the resources to afford or access legal assistance. We will, however, consider assisting larger not-for-profit groups and peak representative bodies that might otherwise not meet this criteria where the legal issue is of significant public interest, and where the matter is such that it has a broad flow-on benefit for other community-based organisations in the sector.  This will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

In general, Not-for-profit Law will be unable to assist the following groups:

  • Sporting organisations           
  • Trade unions
  • Religious organisations
  • Overseas aid operations
  • Political associations
  • Residential action groups
  • Statutory bodies         
  • Privately controlled foundations          
  • Corporate foundations
2. What kind of legal matters can Not-for-profit Law assist with?

2.1. Matters with sufficient legal merit

Not-for-profit Law will only assist where there is an identifiable legal issue, and where that issue has sufficient legal merit.  Generally, Not-for-profit Law will not assist with matters that could otherwise be adequately resolved through non-legal methods such as dispute resolution or mediation.  This will often include internal disputes or disagreements amongst members.

2.2. Matters related to the organisation’s compliance obligations

Not-for-profit Law is focussed on assisting not-for-profit community organisations advance their objectives by guiding them through the range of legislative requirements.  Not-for-profit Law therefore prioritises matters relating to the governance of the organisation and delivery of its services.  For example, Not-for-profit Law will generally accept legal matters that focus on a not-for-profit group’s constitution, available tax concessions, property issues, reporting obligations and fundraising options.

In general, Not-for-profit Law will be unable to assist with the following types of matters (unless they raise a matter of significant public interest):

  • Internal disputes
  • Litigation
  • Second opinions
  • Business ventures        

Justice Connect also manages other legal assistance schemes that assist individuals and matters of significant public interest – this may be relevant for clients or members of your organisation.  Contact Not-for-profit Law on 1800 NFP LAW if you wish to discuss the eligibility of your legal inquiry further.

 

 Eligibility guidelines for start up organisations

Not-for-profit Law gives priority to assisting existing not-for-profit organisations.  However, we do have some limited capacity to help groups seeking legal advice on starting up a new not-for-profit organisation.  For the purposes of determining whether we can assist, we will consider the amount of scoping and planning that has been undertaken, the type of organisation proposed and the kind of legal assistance required.

1. What is a sufficient amount of scoping and planning?

Not-for-profit Law will only be able to consider legal referrals for groups who have:

  • a clear idea of the aims and purposes of the proposed organisation (a draft mission statement for the organisation)
  • considered what existing services are available, if a new organisation is needed and whether they can work together with existing organisations
  • details of the proposed programs / services the new organisation plans to provide or carry out
  • given proper consideration to the governance arrangements for the proposed organisation (for example, the names of potential directors or committee members), and
  • a realistic financial plan and given proper consideration to potential funding sources

Before contacting us you should use our Checklist: Questions about your group which sets out some important questions to consider before you start up a new community group.    You may also find that many of your preliminary questions can be answered on the ‘getting started’ pages of our website.

2. What types of proposed organisations can Not-for-profit Law assist?

2.1. The proposed organisation must be a not-for-profit community organisation

This means that your group intends that the new organisation will be mission-orientated and not distribute income amongst its members either during the group’s lifespan or upon winding up. 

2.2. The proposed organisation must have exhausted all other avenues for assistance

Generally, Not-for-profit Law can only assist an organisation where it has exhausted all other avenues for legal assistance. Before seeking legal assistance through Not-for-profit Law, groups should consider whether their matter can be resolved by approaching a peak representative body for support, or a specialised legal information centre (for example the Arts Law Centre).  If the proposed organisation is based outside Victoria or New South Wales, it must have exhausted all options for legal support in its home state or territory (for details of these organisations see here).

2.3. The proposed organisation must serve the public interest

To qualify for Not-for-profit Law assistance, a not-for-profit organisation must have public interest objectives. 

Generally, this means that the proposed organisation’s goals and objectives are to serve the broader community, rather than just its membership base.  We will have particular regard to those community organisations that are proposing to assist individuals (including members) considered to be disadvantaged or marginalised within our community.

In general, Not-for-profit Law will be unable to assist groups proposing to set up the following groups:

  • Sporting organisations
  • Trade unions
  • Religious organisations
  • Overseas aid operations
  • Political associations
  • Residential action groups
  • Privately controlled foundations
  • Corporate foundations
3. What kind of legal matters can Not-for-profit Law assist with?

3.1. Matters with sufficient legal merit

Not-for-profit Law will only assist where there is an identifiable legal issue, and where that issue has sufficient legal merit.  In the case of proposed groups this includes assistance with drafting constituent documents, advice on incorporation options, suitable legal and membership structures, and other relevant matters.  Generally, Not-for-profit Law will not assist with issues that could otherwise be adequately resolved through non-legal methods such as dispute resolution or mediation.  This will often include internal disputes or disagreements amongst the group.

3.2. Matters related to the proposed organisation’s compliance obligations

Not-for-profit Law is focussed on assisting not-for-profit community organisations advance their objectives by guiding them through the range of legislative requirements.  Not-for-profit Law therefore prioritises matters relating to the governance of the organisation and delivery of its services.  For example,

Not-for-profit Law will generally accept legal matters that focus on a not-for-profit group’s constitution, available tax concessions, property issues, reporting obligations and fundraising options.

In general, Not-for-profit Law will be unable to assist with the following types of matters (unless they raise a matter of significant public interest):

  • Internal disputes
  • Litigation
  • Second opinions
  • Business ventures        

Justice Connect also manages other legal assistance schemes that assist individuals and matters of significant public interest – this may be relevant for clients or members of your organisation.  Contact Not-for-profit Law on 1800 NFP LAW if you wish to discuss the eligibility of your legal inquiry further.

Last Updated: 11 August 2017

Subscribe to the Update

Subscribe to the Update

Subscribe to the monthly Not-for-profit Law Update for information on changes to the law, new resources, events and other sector news.

Subscribe