Starting an NGO: A Step-by-Step Guide


Creating a non-government organization (NGO) in Australia can be a rewarding way to make a positive impact in the community and support issues you’re passionate about. As NGOs operate independently from the government and are focused on achieving specific social or environmental goals, they tend to operate differently from small businesses and require a different approach. In this blog post, we will provide a step-by-step guide on how to create an NGO in Australia.

1. Define your mission

The first step in creating an NGO is to define your mission. This will be the guiding principle of your organization and will help you determine the specific goals and objectives you will pursue. It is important to choose a mission that aligns with your passion, expertise and area of interest.

2. Choose a legal structure

Choosing a legal structure is an important step in creating an NGO. In Australia, the most common legal structures for NGOs are incorporated associations, companies limited by guarantee, and trusts. Each structure has its own benefits and requirements, so it is important to select the one that best fits your organization.

3. Develop a constitution

Once you have chosen a legal structure, the next best step is to develop a constitution. This is a legal document that outlines the purpose, governance, and structure of your organization. Your constitution should be consistent with the legal requirements for your chosen structure and compatible for NGOs.

4. Register your organization

Once you have developed your constitution, you will need to register your organization. The process of registration will depend on the legal structure you have chosen. Incorporated associations, for example, are registered with the relevant state or territory government department. At this stage, it is best to engage with a lawyer or accountant, to explore the options of establishing your NGO as either a trust, incorporated association or company limited by a guarantee. Gathering expert advice can help you find the right way to structure and register your new NGO.

5. Obtain tax-exempt status

In Australia, NGOs can apply for tax-exempt status to receive tax benefits and be eligible for government grants. To obtain tax-exempt status, you will need to apply to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and meet their eligibility criteria. This step is also something that should also be consulted with a lawyer or accountant prior to approaching the ATO, as they may be able to provide crucial assistance with filing our forms and submitting the relevant documents.

6. Recruit a board of directors

Establishing a board of directors is an important step in creating an NGO. Your board of directors will provide oversight and guidance for the organization, and you should choose individuals who have a good understanding or amount of experience of your NGO’s mission and bring a diverse set of skills and experiences to the table.

7. Fundraise and promote your organization

Once your NGO is registered and has a board of directors, you can begin fundraising and promoting your new organization. This may include hosting events, applying for grants, and creating a website or social media presence to raise awareness about your mission and programs.

Creating an NGO in Australia requires careful planning and preparation, but by following these seven steps, you can create an NGO that fulfils your mission and makes a positive impact in the community. Remember to stay focused on your goals and seek guidance from experts in the field to ensure your success.

Good luck!

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