A charity’s governing documents are the formal documents that set out:
- the charity’s charitable purpose or purposes
- that the charity operates on a not-for-profit basis, and
- the way that the governing body of the charity (such as its committee of management, or board) makes decisions and consults any members.
These documents may have different names, depending on your charity’s structure or form.
What its governing documents are usually called
Incorporated association (usually incorporated under state or territory law)
Statements of purpose and rules or articles of association
Company limited by guarantee or other company under Corporations Act 2001 (Cth)
Constitution (previously these were known as memoranda or articles of association)
Indigenous corporation under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (Cth)
The Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations’s (ORIC’s) rule book for Indigenous corporations
An organisation or body that is incorporated in some other way (such as through an Act of Parliament)
Usually set out or defined in its constituting legislation or charter
Unincorporated associations – this can include small groups such as church groups or parishes or parents associations
Usually rules, but can be any documents that show the elements described above, and can be enforced against the association.
Identifying your governing documents can be harder if your charity is unincorporated. For example, churches may not have a standard, single set of documents as its governing documents.
It may be that your governing documents are a reference to your constituting legislation, church or canon law. If your charity is a local parish, we suggest that you contact your diocese or other regional or central administrator as they may have made the decision for a group of branches or parishes.