Australia boasts a thriving not-for-profit (NFP) sector, where organizations like ours play pivotal roles in serving diverse communities locally and globally. In this discussion, we aim to provide valuable insights into the structures of these entities within Australia, offering assistance to newly emerging charities seeking a deeper understanding of the sector’s landscape


The Landscape

Australia’s not-for-profit sector is remarkably diverse, encompassing over 600,000 NFP organizations and nearly 60,000 registered charities (for a detailed distinction between charities and NFPs, refer to our blog “Charities, Not-for-Profits and Social Enterprises: Understanding the Differences in Australia”). These entities operate nationwide, providing an extensive range of services, spanning from healthcare and education to social welfare and environmental conservation, as reported by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC).


Types of NFP Organisations

NFPs can be categorised into several types, each with unique features and legal implications. These include:

  • Incorporated Associations: Often used by small to medium-sized charities, these are incorporated at the state level and governed by state legislation.
  • Companies Limited by Guarantee: This is a public company structure for NFPs that operate across multiple states. It provides limited financial liability for members and is regulated by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
  • Indigenous Corporations: Specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups, these corporations are regulated by the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC).
  • Charitable Trusts: These are legal arrangements where property or assets are managed by a trustee for charitable purposes.
  • Unincorporated Associations: These are typically smaller, informal groups where members share a common purpose. This structure does not provide a separate legal entity for the group.

Legalities and Regulations

Australian charities and NFPs are regulated by a variety of organisations, primarily the ACNC. This body maintains the national Charity Register, provides guidance to charities, and ensures adherence to governance standards. Charities need to report annually to the ACNC, thereby ensuring transparency and fostering public trust.

For NFPs structured as companies, additional regulation comes from ASIC, while Indigenous Corporations are overseen by ORIC. State-based regulation also applies for Incorporated Associations.



Good governance is paramount for NFPs, ensuring they are effectively managed and meet their legal and ethical responsibilities. The ACNC outlines five key governance standards that charities must meet. These standards include:

  • not-for-profit operation, 
  • accountability to members, 
  • compliance with Australian laws, 
  • suitability of Responsible Persons (board or committee members) and; 
  • duties of Responsible Persons.

Commencing Your Journey

When establishing a charity or NFP in Australia, careful consideration of your organizational structure, legal obligations, and governance standards is vital. Seek guidance from experts like Caroline Rose Charity to navigate these complexities efficiently. Whether initiating a new charitable venture or enhancing an existing NFP, understanding these basics sets you on the path to success.

Our Pledge to the Sector

Caroline Rose Charity actively supports grassroots charities with grants, advisory services, and marketing assistance, adhering to best practices and regulations. We respect the NFP sector’s diversity and offer tailored support to uplift Australian charities. In summary, Australia’s charities and NFPs operate under various regulatory frameworks. We’re committed to navigating these complexities, upholding high governance standards, and empowering charities in their mission. Contact us today to join this meaningful journey.