How can UK not-for-profit and charities best prepare themselves before they consult with an Australian lawyer?

Congratulations! You’ve decided to set up a charity in Australia.

What are your next steps?

Before you consult an Australian lawyer to assist you, there are a few things you can do.

It would be in your best interest to do your own research to be prepared to provide the lawyers in Australia with the vision and purpose of your charity organization.

As not all charities are the same, having clarity about the direction you want your charity to take will be beneficial to you. This is especially true if you are planning to increase your scope beyond borders.

The governing body for charities in Australia – the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (the ACNC), offers you some advice on how to prepare:

1) Outline your purpose

So, you’ve decided to set up in Australia. You can write down in detail what you want to achieve with your charity, and what your timelines are.

This will be easy if you are an existing Charity abroad and have your vision, mission, objectives, purpose – already in operation.

This will help you figure out the appropriate structure that will best for your organization..

If you are a new charity and you need to develop this, some questions you should ask yourself are:

  • What will the charity try to achieve?
  • What will its main activities be?
  • What programs or services will it provide?
  • Who is its target audience?
  • Who will benefit from its activities and programs?
  • Why is there a need for this new charity?
  • How long will it last? Will it be for a one-off short-term project or an ongoing long-term venture?

It is also important that you ensure the charity has charitable purposes. You can also see the ACNC’s  examples of charitable purposes.

2) Consider the resources you would need

Setting up a not-for-profit or charity in Australia will be different from your previous walked path of setting it up in your home country.

Things to consider include:

  • How much money and resources is needed in the start-up?
  • What will the ongoing costs of setting up in Australia look like?

If you are already thinking down this track, here are more questions to ponder:

  • Do you have the money or other resources?
  • What assets will you need (for example, a physical location, equipment, vehicles)?
  • What will ongoing costs look like (for example, utilities, rent, licences, insurance, salaries)?
  • How will you raise money?
  • Will you need an ongoing income?
  • Do you need investors?
  • Do you need staff or volunteers? How many?

3) Consider any fundraising requirements

There are different ways to raise money as a charity in Australia and may include the following:

  • charging membership fees
  • public appeals, including door-knocking, public collections, social media and letter campaigns
  • events such as conferences, movie nights or fun runs
  • public auctions
  • selling goods or services.

Before you meet with an Australian lawyer, have questions on hand to ask them regarding fundraising regulations in Australia. They may be different then what you are used to in your home country.

A point to keep in mind is that in Australia, the laws and regulations may differ in states and territories. For example, if you intend to raise funds by raffle tickets or door knock appeal – the ACNC does not regulate fundraising or gaming activities (such as raffles).

Such activities are regulated by:

  • state and territory laws
  • corporations and consumer laws

Your lawyer in Australia can also provide you with the information and guidance you need for fundraising activities regarding state or territory regulator in the state or territory you want to raise money in.

4) Understand the legal structure

This can be confusing for you and each structure has its advantages and disadvantages. The structure you choose would also depend on your charity’s circumstance and plans.

Be prepared to discuss this with your Australian lawyer to enable compliance regarding the country’s charity law requirements. You may also read more here regarding  ATO’s guidance on different legal structures for not-for-profits.

It would also be important to note that an overseas charity that does not have some form of legal operating structure in Australia will experience the following:

  • difficulty to be registered with the ACNC.
  • difficulty to receive charity tax concessions from the ATO (as registration with the ACNC is a precondition); and
  • may struggle to gain public support, secure leases or employ staff.

You must keep this in mind when discussing with an Australian lawyer. If you are planning on undertaking significant operations in Australia, they will advise you on the following:

  • Creating a separate Australian legal entity.
  • Registering with ASIC as a foreign company.

5) Planning your promotions

So, you’ve done your research, you’ve taken steps to getting established in Australia – and the next part is to promote your charity/cause.

It is best to have an idea of how you intend to do this as this will differ to promoting your not-for-profit and charity in your home country.

Here are some starter questions:

  • How will you promote the charity?
  • How will you communicate the charity’s goals and activities, in a clear and effective manner?
  • Which platforms will you use to get your information to your target audience?
  • What are the main ways to publicize information?
  • Will you need a website or other communication tools for the charity?
  • How do you engage people to get involved?

You can consider the kind of involvement you would like not only from the public, but also from potential investors or donors.

Do you need a lawyer now?

We have a great team of experienced lawyers that have served on the boards of schools, churches and charities and who are able to guide you regarding the set-up of your not-for-profit or charity in Australia.

It can be a daunting task to set up in a new country, however with their assistance, you will receive the advice and guidance needed to establish your not-for-profit or charity in Australia.

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