Your group might be just a few people who work together to help meet the needs of their community. You don't have to be a 'formal' organisation to be a community group but you might want to find out if it could help your group to grow even larger and work better.
Setting up as a 'formal' organisation involves some preparation and may change the way you work as a group, so the first thing to consider is whether it might be better to become part of another organisation or continue to work as a community group.
Are there other groups doing what we do already?
In Australia there are over 700,000 community groups and organisations so there may already be someone doing the same sort of work as your group. If there is an organisation doing similar work, you could discuss with them if your group could become members and continue your work with their help. This would give you all the benefits of being part of a larger organisation that might have more experience and resources to help your community.
Before talking to other organisations, you will need to have a clear idea about the aims and objectives or purpose of your own group. Understanding why you are working together and what you want to achieve will make it easier to decide if another organisation is already meeting these needs.
You might decide not to join another organisation but some of the people that you talk to may be able to give you advice if you do decide to become a 'formal' organisation.
The following organisations may be able to help you find out about other groups:
Address: 253 Boundary Street West End Queensland 4101
Telephone: (07) 3844 9166
Address: Level 5, 160 Ann Street Brisbane Queensland 4000
Telephone: 1800 053 739 (free call)
Address: 512 Stanley Street South Brisbane Queensland 4101
Telephone: (07) 3337 5400
Caxton Legal Service is a not-for-profit community organisation that provides free legal information, advice or referral to another solicitor by appointment.
Address: 28 Heal Street New Farm Queensland 4005
Telephone: (07) 3337 5400
Do we need to become a 'formal' organisation?
A community group that is not a 'formal' organisation is also known as an unincorporated association. As an unincorporated association, you can organise your activities largely as you like and will only have few legal responsibilities as a group.
For example if another person or organisation donates money to the group, it should only be used for the activities of the group that benefit the community. This is known as being a not-for-profit group rather than a business.
Although you might have fewer legal responsibilities as a group there are more things that individual group members might be responsible for personally. For example if your group wants to rent an office, someone in the group will need to be personally responsible for signing the lease. If the group is unable to pay the rent for some reason, then the person whose name is on the lease may have to pay. If the group wants to open a bank account or take out insurance or buy property, it will be members of the group who may be liable for any debts or may even be sued.
A community group that is an unincorporated association may also have difficulty applying for or receiving grants from the government or other organisations. However, a group that does become a 'formal' organisation or incorporates will have legal status that is separate to the individual members. This means that members of your group may have more legal protection if there are problems. It also means that you will have a number of legal responsibilities.
Finding out more about becoming incorporated
There are a lot of other things that your group will need to consider before becoming incorporated, including how it might change the way that your group does its work. To understand all the requirements of becoming incorporated, it will help if there are members of your group with English language proficiency and book-keeping skills.
To find out more about becoming incorporated, there is further information provided below and in the following sections. It might also be helpful to talk to other community organisations about their experiences.
Before your group makes any decisions about whether to become incorporated, you might want to ask for advice from a solicitor and/or an accountant.