A charity’s governing document is the formal document that sets out:
- the charity’s charitable purpose or purposes
- that the charity operates on a not-for-profit basis, and
- the way the charity's governing body (such as its committee or board) makes decisions and consults any members.
This governing document may also be referred to as a charity’s rules, constitution or trust deed.
Sometimes it may be necessary for a charity to change its governing document to support new ways of doing things or to improve governance structures.
Making changes to your charity's governing document is a significant decision, and there are some things to keep in mind when working through this process.
Work out the required changes beforehand
Your charity should work out all the changes it needs to make to its governing document before beginning the process. If you are intending to make specific changes, it might be a good time to take stock and consider whether other parts of your charity’s governing document also need updating.
Check the requirements for changing your charity’s rules
Your charity’s governing document may set requirements for making changes, or there might be legislation that sets certain requirements.
For example, your charity may be required to provide 21 days notice to its members about the meeting at which a change to its governing document will be considered.
Follow any other legislative requirements that apply to your charity
Other requirements may involve completing and lodging forms or other documents with a relevant state or federal regulator.
In addition, there may be a fee payable for making changes.
Find out more from the regulator that incorporated your charity. If it is a company limited by guarantee, the regulator is the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC); if it is an incorporated association, it is the state or territory regulator.
Notify the ACNC
Charities must notify the ACNC of a change to their governing document, and do so within the required time period.
Charities do not have to pay a fee to notify us of changes.
Small changes can lead to bigger issues
Changing your charity's governing document or rules can be a simple task, especially if the changes are only minor. But sometimes even small changes can lead to issues.
If you are unsure about a potential change, or the impacts it might have, consider seeking professional advice.
What not to do
- Be careful not to accidentally make a change that may result in your charity no longer being entitled to registration. For example, changing your charity's purposes to include a non-charitable purpose. Similarly, if the not-for-profit clause or dissolution clause in your charity’s governing document changes, it may affect its entitlement to registration with the ACNC.
- Do not leave changes too late and risk delaying your charity’s plans. Remember that there are often set notice periods for changes to governing documents or rules, and a charity's Responsible People and its members are likely to also need time to discuss and agree on the change.