What is governance?
Governance refers to the processes, activities and relationships that make sure your charity is effectively and properly run.
There is ‘good governance’ when charities have practices and procedures in place that help them to do their work effectively and openly, and when the roles and responsibilities of people in the charity are clearly understood. This includes the particular roles of board members and the roles of staff, volunteers and members. Of course, good governance is more than the rules of your charity and the individual behaviours of board members. It involves strong relationships between the members of your governing body and stakeholders and is much more about working as a collective than the individual responsibilities.
Why is good governance important?
Good governance helps make sure that the day-to-day work of a charity aligns with and contributes to achieving its purpose. It is important that board members ask themselves a few questions:
- Why are we here?
- What are we doing?
- How are we doing it?
Asking these questions (and trying to answer them) helps charities to stay true to their vision and mission.
What is a charity?
The word ‘charity’ means different things to different people. People commonly understand charities to be organisations that exist to help others. Whether it is providing accommodation to people in need or teaching English to newly arrived migrants, charities are at the heart of the effort to make our communities safer, fairer and more vibrant places to live.
There is, however, a particular legal definition of charity. Charities must be not-for-profit, have a charitable purpose and be for the public benefit. Charities have to meet this definition and the requirements of the ACNC Act before they can be registered as a charity with the ACNC.
What are registered charities?
In this guide, we use the term ‘charity’ to refer to all types of charities registered with the ACNC. Charities may also be registered with other government agencies such as state and territory regulators or accreditation bodies.
The ACNC registers different ‘types’ or categories of charities. These are:
- 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
- purposes beneficial to the general public that may reasonably be recognised as analogous to, or within the spirit of, any of the other charitable purposes
- promoting or opposing a change to law, policy or practices
- Public Benevolent Institution (PBI)
- Health Promotion Charity (HPC).
What is the role of the ACNC?
The ACNC is the independent national regulator of charities. We:
- register organisations as charities
- ensure that charities comply with their obligations
- help charities understand and meet their obligations through information, guidance, advice and other support
- maintain a free and searchable public register so that anyone can look up information about registered charities
- work with state and territory governments to develop a ‘report-once, use-often’ reporting framework for charities.
For more information, read our fact sheet on who can register with the ACNC.