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Your step by step guide to starting a Charitable Trust




1. Define your Charitable Purpose – this will be laid in your governing document (deed or constitution). There are four categories set out in the Charities Act 2005 they are:

a. Relieving poverty,

b. Advancing education,

c. Advancing religion,

d. Other purposes beneficial to the community (e.g. a public benefit in areas such as health and disability, homelessness, environment and animal protection).

2. Determine whether your trust will be “society” or “trust” based?

Trust Based– two or more trustees set up a trust for a charitable purpose in the event the initial trustees want to retain control of the organisation, including appointing further trustees. Requires a trust deed under which it operates.

Society Based– an established group (minimum of 5 people) can register a society as a charitable trust board under the Charitable Trusts Act 1957 (as long as it meets the requirements of being charitable. On incorporation the members of the society become members of the board. Requires a set of rules or constitution under which it operates.

3. Choose a name – check the name is available is on the Societies and Trusts website It cannot be identical or almost identical to another charitable trust or body corporate.

4. Select the trustees or board members.

5. Create a trust deed or constitution that includes your vision, aims, powers and the rules of the trust or board. There are no specific rules about what must be included but the following checklist is good practise:

  • The name.

  • The charitable purpose, mission and objectives.

  • Area of operation (In general, IRD requires your activities to be restricted to NZ in order to obtain donee status for tax purposes (i.e. so that people making a donation can claim a tax deduction).

  • The make up of the board including the number of trustees or members, how they are appointed, how long they serve and how they can be removed.

  • Whether trustees or members can be paid for their services – a pecuniary benefit clause.

  • How meetings will be held and notified, quorum numbers and how decisions are made.

  • Finances – management including banking and the preparation of financial accounts. · Accounts do not need to be audited unless the rules state this.

  • Power and duties of the board and how property of the trust will be controlled and managed.

  • Permission and how to alter deed or trust rules.


Time To Start The Application

You can apply for incorporation online by uploading the required form; or manually, by returning the form by post or by email.

Online - if you are applying online you will need:

1. A RealMe login – If you don’t have one you will need to create one – follow the link below.

2. Then, an online services account with the Companies office.

Manually - Download an application from Companies Office here:

Note:The application form you’ll be required to complete, and the documents you’ll need to submit, will depend on whether you’re applying for incorporation of trustees, or a society.

You will need to have ready:

a. The name you have chosen (see above).

b. The address of your registered office - You cannot use a post office box, private bag or DX address as the registered office.

c. An address for communication with companies office.

d. The names and address of the trustees or society members.

e. The signatures of the trustees or society members.


Call A Meeting Of The Trust Board

At this meeting you need to:

a. Approve the trust deed (for a trust) or rules (society based).

b. Approve the application for incorporation documents, including the registered office and statutory declaration.

c. Elect a secretary, treasurer and management committee (for a society).


Send Or Submit

Completed application documents back to the Companies Office.


Charitable Trust Certificate

The Companies Office informs your group that it is now a registered charitable trust and sends you a certificate.


Maintain Registration

You will need to file the following documents with the Registrar of Incorporated Societies:

  • Rule changes (including name changes).

  • Address changes.

We recommend considering registering with Charities Services.


Written by: Rebecca (Bexs) Waterhouse

co workers

If your organisation needs a sustainable funding plan or grant applications completed, Claire Dooney and Rebecca Waterhouse at Leafcutter Business Support is here to help.

Together, Claire, Bexs and the funding team have sourced over $1.6million in revenue for not-for-profit organisations nationwide. Funding has been secured for sports clubs, art centres, cultural events, heritage restoration, youth and education, tertiary schools, social services, national events, rebuild and refurbishments.

We can also assist with suggesting which Charitable Trusts to apply for funding.

For any funding and grant writing enquiries contact us:



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