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Key points:

  • A charity's board leads the charity, overseeing and implementing its ongoing strategy.
  • Responsible People are those responsible for governing a charity. Generally, a charity’s Responsible People are its board or committee members, or trustees.
  • A governing document (the charity's constitution or rules) sets out a charity’s charitable purpose, as well as how its governing body makes decisions. Charities must provide their governing document to the ACNC.
  • Think carefully when engaging volunteers or hiring staff – ensure you have planned properly and know your responsibilities.

Charity boards are responsible for leading their organisation, as well as overseeing and implementing the charity’s ongoing strategy. The board also bears ultimate legal responsibility.

A charity’s board should be active in a number of areas:

  • overseeing accountability – ensuring the charity meets its obligations, manages its finances responsibly and operates transparently
  • development of strategy - setting the charity’s long-term goals and making sure it pursues its charitable purposes
  • resourcing - securing funding and other resources to support the work of the charity
  • advocacy - representing the charity to the community and to its members and stakeholders
  • monitoring – ensuring the charity complies with its governing document and the law.

Our Governance for Good guide provides helpful information for board members about governing a charity.

For the ACNC, a Responsible Person is someone who is responsible for running the charity. Generally, a charity’s Responsible People are its board or committee members, or trustees.

To comply with Governance Standard 4, charities must ensure their Responsible People are suitable. Governance Standard 5 compels charities to ensure their Responsible People are aware of their duties and comply with them.

Charities must notify the ACNC if their Responsible People change.

A charity’s governing document is a formal document that sets out:

  • the charity’s charitable purpose or purposes
  • that the charity operates on a not-for-profit basis
  • the way the charity’s board or committee makes decisions and consults members.

A governing document may have different names (such as constitution, rules, or trust deed) depending on a charity’s structure or form.

When applying to register as a charity, you must provide the ACNC with a copy of your current governing document.

The information charities provide will be made publicly available on the ACNC Charity Register.

Under the ACNC Act, charities must notify us if their governing document changes, and also provide a copy of the changed document. This can be done online through the ACNC Charity Portal.

When engaging volunteers, your small charity should:

  • think about the role you want volunteers to play before you start recruiting, and consider developing a role description
  • ensure you properly support volunteers, by mapping out how you will induct them through training, and support them through the provision of a safe and stimulating environment
  • ensure you carry out appropriate background checks.

Taking on staff is something your small charity needs to approach methodically by ensuring that:

  • you know your obligations under workplace or employment law
  • you can afford to pay staff, and can properly manage them
  • staff understand their conditions of employment, and that you as an employer are clear on your obligations.

Your charity will have different legal obligations depending on whether a person is an employee, contractor or volunteer, so it is important to understand their relationship to the charity.

Beyond complying with the ACNC’s legislation, registered charities may have further obligations to other regulators.

These obligations may be based on your charity's legal structure, or if it engages in fundraising activities.

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