Step 2: Does my not-for-profit have a charitable purpose?

A purpose is what your not-for-profit has been set up to achieve or what your activities work toward. Some people also call this their organisation's mission or object.

To be a charity, all of your not-for-profit's purposes must be charitable, except purposes that are ‘incidental or ancillary to' (further or aid) the charitable purposes.

The law recognises many kinds of purposes as charitable.

The Charities Act 2013 (Cth) lists twelve charitable purposes:

  • advancing health
  • advancing education
  • advancing social or public welfare
  • advancing religion
  • advancing culture
  • promoting reconciliation, mutual respect and tolerance between groups of individuals that are in Australia
  • promoting or protecting human rights
  • advancing the security or safety of Australia or the Australian public
  • preventing or relieving the suffering of animals
  • advancing the natural environment
  • promoting or opposing a change to any matter established by law, policy or practice in the Commonwealth, a state, a territory or another country, (where that change furthers or opposes one or more of the purposes above) and
  • other similar purposes ‘beneficial to the general public’ (a general category).

Other purposes that were recognised as charitable by the general law before the Charities Act came into effect continue to be charitable (for example, the provision of a public facility).

Some examples of not-for-profits with charitable purposes include:

  • disability support organisations
  • accommodation services for people experiencing homelessness
  • non-government schools
  • animal welfare agencies.

Subtypes of charity

If we decide your organisation’s purposes are charitable, and that it is otherwise eligible, we can register your charity. When we register it, we register it as a ‘subtype’ of charity, which reflects its purpose or purposes (for example, as a charity advancing education). The other recognised subtypes are public benevolent institutions and health promotion charities.

Attention - Important information!You will need to work out what your organisation’s charitable purpose is, so you can select the appropriate subtype during the application process. Only choose the subtype or subtypes that apply to your not-for-profit. Find out more about charitable purpose.


You may not be eligible to register your not-for-profit with the ACNC. However, you may still be eligible for some tax benefits available for non-profits.

You may be eligible to register. Read more about additional benefits and then move to step 3.

Additional tax benefits for some charity subtypes

Extra tax benefits (such as fringe benefits tax exemption or endorsement as a deductible gift recipient (DGR)) are available to a charity that can show it is a:

There are strict requirements that apply and you must be able to demonstrate that your organisation can meet these before it can be registered as being one of these subtypes, for example, by providing supporting information about its activities and expenditure.

Public benevolent institutions (PBIs)

A public benevolent institution is a type of charitable institution whose main purpose is to relieve poverty, sickness, suffering, distress, misfortune, disability or helplessness.

Examples of public benevolent institutions include:

  • some hospitals and hospices
  • some disability support services
  • some aged care services
  • providers of low rental or subsidised housing for people in need.

Find out more about public benevolent institutions.

Health promotion charities

A health promotion charity is a charitable institution whose principal activity is to promote the prevention or control of diseases in people. This may include providing public information about a disease, research to develop cures or treatments, or providing equipment to help people who are suffering from the disease. Examples of health promotion charities include:

  • some community health care providers
  • some medical research organisations
  • organisations that work to raise awareness of human diseases.

Find out more about health promotion charities.

Even if your organisation is not eligible to be registered as a public benevolent institution or a health promotion charity, it may still be able to register as a charity. Move to step 3.

Deductible gift recipients (DGRs)

Certain DGR categories require charities to be registered with the ACNC before applying for DGR status with the ATO. If your organisation is a charity that wants to apply for DGR status, you may need to be registered with the ACNC first.

You can apply to register as a charity with us and apply for deductible gift recipient (DGR) status with the ATO at the same time.

Read more in the ATO’s guidance on DGRs.

More information

Find out more about charity tax concessions and other benefits for registered charities.

Move to step 3.