7 Considerations for Starting a New Church or Charity

October 24, 2019 - 7 minutes read

Planting a church or starting a new charity requires more than goals and a passion – crucial as those things are. Even if you are very clear on what you want to achieve you also need to think in very practical, down-to-earth ways to get there.

This includes considering a whole range of factors – such as organisational name, seed funding, teams, legal structures, registration, suitable premises, networking, fundraising, marketing, scheduling events, insurance policies and more.

Anyone who has ever started a church or charity will no doubt tell you it’s no walk in the park, and sometimes you do need some guidance for getting started. Our brief guide below should hopefully help get you going on those first essential steps.

1. Your purpose

Defining your purpose involves asking yourself a number of questions about your organisation – such as what its main activities will be, what services it will offer, who is the target market, who will benefit and more.

The Charities Act lists twelve types of charitable purpose – with the advancement of religion, health, education, public welfare and human rights being among them. For more information on this visit the ACNC website.

2. Resources

No matter how noble your purpose, you still need money and other resources to operate a church or charity! For this you need to consider:

  • Assets – building (e.g. worship space, offices), vehicles, equipment, furniture.
  • Finances – ongoing costs, income, fundraising, attracting investors.
  • Human resources – employees and volunteers, and how you will manage them.

3. Legal structure

Charities can choose from a range of legal structures depending on their activities, size, liabilities and other features.

Incorporated (e.g. ‘ABC Inc’) is the most common for not-for-profits and allows for establishing a legal entity separate from its members. Another option is to set up a company limited by guarantee (e.g. ‘ABC Ltd’).

Unincorporated structures for not-for-profits may be suitable for trusts, foundations or associations that do not require a separate legal entity. The organisation will still be considered a separate entity for tax purposes however.

For more information on legal structures for churches, charities and other not-for-profits see the ATO website.

4. Management

This covers aspects relating to governing bodies, boards, trustees, governance rules, meetings, risks and more. When it comes to management, charities need to be able to demonstrate when asked that they are transparent, responsible with finances, meeting their stated purpose and accountable to members.

5. Registration with the ACNC (Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission)

To register with the ACNC your organisation will need to meet the standards for governance and external conduct.

‘Governance’ refers to the minimum standards required for running charities. There are governance standards regarding the purpose of the charity, its accountability to its members, its compliance with Australian laws, and the suitability and duties of its ‘responsible persons’. For more information on governance standards visit the ACNC website.

Charities that operate outside Australia also need to meet ‘external conduct standards’. These refer to how the charity manages its finances, keeps records, combats fraud and corruption, and protects vulnerable individuals. The ACNC has more detail on external conduct standards.

6. Marketing and promotion

As a charitable organisation you may not wish to operate like a business, but it might be needed to communicate your message, reach your target audience and get people involved in your aims.

This means you need to consider how you will market and promote your not-for-profit organisation. This might include the use of flyers, setting up a website and social pages, word-of-mouth, and reaching out to your local community.

7. Risk management and insurance

No matter how great your faith you still need to manage your risks!

Some common church risks include property damage, property theft, church vandalism, accidents and injuries, child safety, misuse of church funds, cyber attacks, motor vehicle accidents, arson and lawsuits.

Managing your organisation’s risks involves identifying and analysing hazards and creating a risk control program. Our previous post on the basics of risk management provides more detail and guidance on controlling risks within a church environment.

Insurance cover also forms part of any robust risk control strategy in that it provides financial protection for the risks the organisation faces. Important types of insurance for churches, charities and not-for-profits include:

  • Property cover – for property loss, damage or destruction and interruption to your organisation’s activities.
  • Liability insurance – in case of lawsuits for claims of negligence, harm or loss.
  • Personal Accident – for volunteers and ministers within your organisation.
  • Business Travel – cover for your people while on national and international trips.
  • Cyber Insurance – financial protection against cyber attacks and hacking.

If you employ people in your organisation you will also need Workers’ Compensation insurance in case of accidents or injuries to your workers. This is administered by your local Workers’ Compensation Authority. See our previous article for more information on Workers’ Comp cover.

See our Insurance Page for more detail on church insurance, not for profit insurance and insurance for charities. You can also obtain an online quote or get in touch with our office directly to discuss your needs.

Links for more information

Starting a charity

Faith Insurance:
6 Common Risks to Insure in the Faith Sector;
What Insurance Does My Church or Charity Need?





Tags: , ,