Each year thousands of new Australian charities are established but more than half of all applications to be officially registered do not result in registration.

There are nearly 60,000 registered charities in Australia. Last financial year, the ACNC processed 5,886 registration applications and registered 2,659 new charities. Almost 2,000 applications were closed as incomplete, 862 were withdrawn and 151 were refused as they were not eligible.

ACNC Commissioner Dr Gary Johns said groups that would like to start a new charity need to do their research and thoroughly prepare as there are numerous obligations on charities and many things to consider before establishing a new one.

"We applaud people motivated to help others by establishing a charity but it is a big responsibility and you must ensure you can meet your obligations and your promise to the public who will support you. It is important to consider a range of matters, including the legal structure and governance framework most appropriate for your charity’s operations,” Dr Johns said.

“Charities also need to have a governing document, such as a constitution, which sets out their purposes, and those purposes need to be charitable. We use that information to determine eligibility to be registered as a charity or for a particular charity sub-type.”

The ACNC provides guidance on what to consider before you start a charity. Dr Johns said it is best for organisations to focus on what they want to achieve. “Is setting up a new charity the best way to achieve your goals? There may be an existing charity that already does what you want to do or that may take on your idea as a project that it can support. You can search the Charity Register to find charities that you could support or work with.”

The Charity Register now has enhanced search features to allow you to find charities in your local area or that run specific types of programs that might be close to your aims.