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Setting up your organisation

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Once your organisation has decided which incorporated structure it wishes to use, the next step is to set up your organisation, following processes required by legislation (that is, Acts of Parliament and Regulations).

If your group still needs to locate some volunteers to sit on its board or help your organisation in the setting up process, go to our Volunteers page for a list of matching services.

The fact sheet contains an overview of the steps required when setting up an organisation, including information on:

  • incorporating
  • applying for an Australian Business Number (ABN), and
  • registering a business name.

For more information on incorporation and whether your group should consider incorporating, go to our page on The incorporation decision.

The incorporation process is different for each type of legal structure. Not-for-profit Law has fact sheets on setting up the different structures below.

National structures

Companies Limited by Guarantee

See the below fact sheet on setting up a company limited by guarantee under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) including information regarding:

  • what is a company limited by guarantee?
  • what laws apply to companies limited by guarantee? and
  • how do we set up a company limited by guarantee?

Indigenous Corporations

See the below fact sheet on setting up an Indigenous corporation under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act) 2006 (Cth) including information regarding:

  • what is an Indigenous corporation and what are the benefits of incorporating as an Indigenous corporation?
  • legislation that governs the setting up of an Indigenous corporation, and
  • how to set up a not-for-profit Indigenous corporation.

Related links - Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC)

State structures

Remember that you can change the jurisdictions (states and territories) that you would like to read about in the jurisdiction selection tool at the top of every page. There is information for every jurisdiction in Australia available on this topic.

Incorporated Associations

See the below fact sheet on setting up an incorporated association under the Associations Incorporation Act Reform Act 2012 (Vic) including information regarding:

  • nominating a secretary and deciding on a name for your organisation
  • drafting or adopting a set of ‘rules’, deciding on the purposes of your organisation and holding a pre-incorporation meeting, and
  • completing and sending the Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) ‘Application for Association Incorporation’ form, documents and fees and awaiting notice.

Co-operatives

See the below fact sheet on setting up a co-operative under the Co-operatives Act 1996 (Vic) including information regarding:

  • what is a co-operative and what types of co-operatives are suitable for not-for-profit groups?
  • what laws regulate co-operatives?, and
  • how to set up a co-operative in Victoria.

Unincorporated Groups

For groups that have decided not to incorporate, the following fact sheet has information about unincorporated associations regarding:

  • the need for a statement of objectives and rules
  • the need to register the name of our group, and
  • the dangers of remaining unincorporated.

Related links

Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) - incorporating regulator

Existing organisations name databases

Incorporated associations

See the below fact sheet on setting up an incorporated association under the Associations Incorporation Act 2009 (NSW) including information regarding:

  • nominating a public officer and the management committee
  • deciding on a name, drafting or adopting a constitution and deciding on the purposes of the association
  • completing and sending the Fair Trading Application for Registration of an Incorporation Association form to Fair Trading and awaiting notice, and
  • ongoing compliance.

Co-operatives

See the below fact sheet on setting up a co-operative under the Co-operatives (Adoption of National Law) Act 2012 (NSW) including information regarding:

  • what is a co-operative and what types of co-operatives are suitable for not-for-profit groups?
  • what laws regulate co-operatives, and
  • how to set up a co-operative in New South Wales

Unincorporated Groups

For groups that have decided not to incorporate, the following fact sheet has information about unincorporated associations regarding:

  • the need for a statement of objectives and rules
  • the need to register the name of our group, and
  • the dangers of remaining unincorporated.

Incorporated Associations

See the fact sheet below on setting up an incorporated association under the Associations Incorporation Act 1981 (Qld) and the Associations Incorporation Regulation 1999 (Qld) including information about:

  • nominating a secretary and deciding on a name for your organisation
  • drafting or adopting a set of ‘rules’, deciding on the purposes of your organisation and holding a pre-incorporation meeting, and
  • completing an Office of Fair Trading ‘Application for Association Incorporation’ form, documents and fees, and awaiting notice.

Incorporated Associations

See the fact sheet below on setting up an incorporated association under the Associations Incorporation Act 1985 (SA) including information about:

  • nominating a secretary and deciding on a name for your organisation
  • drafting or adopting a set of ‘rules’, deciding on the purposes of your organisation and holding a pre-incorporation meeting, and
  • completing a Consumer and Business Services ‘Application for Incorporation of an Association’ form, documents and fees, and awaiting notice.

Incorporated Associations

See the fact sheet below on setting up an incorporated association under the Associations Act 2003 (NT) including information about:

  • nominating a public officer and deciding on a name for your organisation
  • drafting or adopting a set of ‘rules’, deciding on the purposes of your organisation and holding a pre-incorporation meeting, and
  • completing and sending the Licensing NT ‘Application for Incorporation of an Association’ form, documents and fees, and awaiting notice.

Incorporated Associations

See the fact sheet below on setting up an incorporated association under the Associations Incorporation Act 1991 (ACT) including information about:

  • nominating a public officer and deciding on a name for your organisation
  • drafting or adopting a set of ‘rules’, deciding on the purposes of your organisation and holding a pre-incorporation meeting, and
  • completing and sending the Access Canberra ‘Application to Incorporate an Association’ form, documents and fees, and awaiting notice.

Incorporated Associations

See the fact sheet below on setting up an incorporated association under the Associations Incorporation Reform Act 1964 (Tas) including information about:

  • nominating a public officer and deciding on a name for your organisation
  • drafting or adopting a set of ‘rules’, deciding on the purposes of your organisation and holding a pre-incorporation meeting, and
  • completing a Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading ‘Application for Incorporation of an Association’ form, documents and fees, and awaiting notice.

Issues to consider after incorporation

Insurance

It is very important for new organisations to undertake a risk assessment and consider whether getting insurance is a good idea (or even a requirement).

The Not-for-profit Law page on Insurance provides more information.

Charitable status and tax concessions

Some organisations are eligible to apply for charitable status. They may also be eligible for a range of tax concessions that can provide significant savings.

There are benefits that come with charitable status and endorsement for tax concessions, but there are also extra administrative and reporting obligations.

For more information, go to the Not-for-profit Law page on tax concessions.

Getting an ABN

An Australian Business Number (ABN) is a unique number which identifies your organisation to the Australian Tax Office (ATO) and other government departments and agencies.

It is not compulsory for a not-for-profit organisation to have an ABN unless it has a goods and services tax (GST) turnover of $150,000 or more (in which case it is required to register for GST, and must have an ABN to do this). However, even if your organisation is not required to register for GST, it can be helpful to have an ABN.

Organisations commonly choose to register for an ABN so they can:

  • apply for endorsement as a deductible gift recipient (DGR), or an income tax exempt charity, or both
  • claim GST credits (by voluntarily registering for GST)
  • interact with government departments, agencies and authorities (for example, the ATO in relation to fringe benefits tax), and
  • deal with businesses more easily (especially for ordering and invoicing purposes).

More information on ABNs, including who is entitled to apply, is set out on the ATO's website.

Applications for an ABN can be made online via the Australian Business Register, or by paper form available from the ATO, or through a tax agent.

You can check whether an organisation has an ABN (and if so, their business details and any tax concessions) by searching the Australian Business Register.

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