Want to Start a Charity?

starting a chartiyWhen I tell people what I do, almost every sentence that follows is ‘so can you help me start a charity?’ or ‘I have this great idea for a charity…’ And my response is “DON’T!!!”

Although these conversations and intentions of starting a charity are driven from such a good place, it’s often based on misinformation. Sometimes there’s such a strong emotional undercurrent that people neglect to see and understand that in starting a new charity – it’s more detrimental than helpful.

My approach might seem a bit harsh, so here’s some context to the current charity and NFP landscape:

  • There are approximately 54,000 registered charities and NFPs in Australia 
  • NFP orgs have doubled every 20 years which equates to around 10 new charities established every business day 
  • With more choices of causes to support, each charity is fighting for the same dollar. In creating more charities, it’s taking away from those who rely on donors to survive and creates a more competitive fundraising environment. 
  • There are so many amazing and established organisations doing important work on issues and causes, with highly skilled individuals. You may very well be duplicating what’s already existing in the community. 
  • There are almost 19,000 ‘extra small charities’ in Australia, these are charities with an annual income of less than $50,000 and entirely voluntarily staffed. This accounts for 37% of the charities in Australia.

It’s so amazing you want to make a positive impact on the world, have the passion and drive to act. Chances are however, you have underestimated what has already been done (often quietly, on the ground) by existing charities and NFPs. But also the exhaustive steps, legal requirements, the transparency of finances, the governance structures… all the time and energy that goes into setting up a NFP or charity in Australia.

If you’re still keen to start a charity, here’s what I recommend

  • Do some research, map the landscape of what’s already existing. You can also check out the ACNC Charity Register to see what charities are already operating for similar purposes.
  • Get in contact with the organisations working in the space that lights you up, go for a coffee, ask questions, and get a better understanding of the work they do.
  • See if you can add value to the work these organisations are doing. Maybe it’s a career change? Maybe it’s volunteering your transferable skill set? Maybe it’s collaborating with them to develop a new project or program in your key area of interest that aligns with the core work they are doing?

Once you start to ask more questions and understand the community, charity and NFP landscape, you will be able to navigate how you can contribute to making difference.

Kathryn BrooksWriter, Kathryn Brooks 
Kathryn is the Founder, and Community Facilitator at Social Threads, a start-up social enterprise that empowers community and businesses to find inspiring and forward-thinking solutions. Kathryn was inspired by the concept of ‘social threads’ that bind a community.

These threads need to be resilient and connected to keep a community strong.  When the threads are broken or tangled – that’s when there is a break down leading to social issues. Kathryn sees her role as helping to untangle, mend, and strengthen these threads.


Author: Kathryn Brooks

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1 Comment

  1. Yes! And more yes! I work for a charity and I agree with everything you’ve written. Don’t even think about starting a new charity. Thanks for this great post

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