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Choosing a legal structure

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If your group has decided to incorporate, the people involved in your group will need to make a decision about which incorporated legal structure will best suit the aims, activities and culture of the organisation.

Choosing the right incorporated structure for your organisation is a very important legal decision as it has consequences for:

  • where your organisation is allowed to operate (ie. only in one state or across Australia)
  • the costs of your organisation's operations
  • who your organisation must provide information to (ie. a government regulator), and
  • what kind and level (detail) of information your organisation must provide.

Because choosing an incorporated legal structure has such important consequences for the operation of an organisation, many organisations may want to seek specific legal advice on this issue.

The following legal information resources outline the main options available, and the characteristics of each kind of incorporated structure.

If you are setting up a social enterprise, go to the Not-for-profit Law page on Social Enterprises.

Fundraising Trusts and Grant Making Foundations

If you are interested in setting up a fundraising trust entity or grant making foundation, our fact sheet below may assist you in considering whether this is the right approach for you, and includes links to further resources.  It is important to understand a trust or a foundation is not the same as a not-for-profit organisation.

The following information is for Victorian organisations

The fact sheet below provides an overview of the main characteristics of incorporated legal structures which are suitable for not-for-profit community organisations including:

  • incorporated associations
  • company limited by guarantees
  • indigenous corporations, and
  • co-operatives.

For many Victorian not-for-profit organisations, the decision about which incorporated structure to choose often comes down to a decision between being an incorporated association or a company limited by guarantee. This fact sheet sets out in more detail the differences between these two structures, and the benefits and limitations of both structures.

Before reading this resource, it is important to think about whether your group will be (or will seek to be) a charity.

The following information is for NSW organisations

The fact sheet below provides an overview of the main characteristics of incorporated legal structures which are suitable for not-for-profit community organisations including:

  • incorporated associations
  • company limited by guarantees
  • indigenous corporations, and
  • co-operatives.

For many Victorian not-for-profit organisations, the decision about which incorporated structure to choose often comes down to a decision between being an incorporated association or a company limited by guarantee. This fact sheet sets out in more detail the differences between these two structures, and the benefits and limitations of both structures.

Before reading this resource, it is important to think about whether your group will be (or will seek to be) a charity.

Extra Resources

Incorporating regulators

Incorporated Associations in Victoria

Incorporated Associations in NSW

     NSW Fair Trading is the regulator for incorporated associations in NSW.

Companies limited by guarantee

Co-operatives

NSW Cooperatives report to Fair Trading NSW

Indigenous corporations

Charitable regulator