Not-for-profit Law
Legal help for community organisations

New funding and financing models

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In an era of increasingly tightening funding of not-for-profits, and ever-present unmet social and environmental needs, new funding approaches are emerging.

Australia is beginning to adopt some approaches pioneered internationally, that seek to provide funding for activities that generate a positive social or environmental impacts. These approaches can include:

  • social or environmental impact investments
  • microfinancing
  • community finance
  • new lending practices, and
  • social impact bonds.

Many of these approaches offer blended return - a financial as well as social or environmental impact.

Each of these approaches raise legal issues for not-for-profits. In particular, for a not-for-profit to be able to seek impact investors, it must set up a structure that can attract investors. Not-for-profits cannot attract equity investors, and not-for-profits cannot be 'owned' in the same ways that for-profits can be (ie that cannot have shareholders). Similarly, not-for-profits cannot distribute profits. Therefore, legal structuring needs to be carefully considered if a not-for-profit wishes to be able to attract investors.

Our Social Enterprise Guide steps through legal structuring in more detail, including hybrid structuring that can enable not-for-profits to benefit from equity investors.

Not-for-profit Law delivered a webinar in April 2015 with Allens and NAB, comparing traditional funding approaches with new funding approaches, and outlining the key legal considerations. View the webinar here:


Debt financing

Debt financing is one way an organisation can enhance its financial position and long-term sustainability. The guide below provides an overview of the key concepts in debt financing and explains some of the terminology that is used in debt financing arrangements. 


Financing glossary

To assist in your organisation's understanding of debt financing, equity financing, social impact investing and investors (definitions and resources), Not-for-profit Law has developed a comprehensive financing glossary. It is a useful tool for reading alongside our other resources in this section on new funding approaches.

Extra Resources

The following websites have more information on new funding approaches for not-for-profits:

Last Updated: 22 August 2017

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