Not-for-profit (NFP) organisations are generally created to benefit the community or members and, as the name suggests, do not have the objective of making a profit. The NFP sector in New Zealand includes charity, voluntary and non-government organisations and is estimated to be a more than $10 billion industry. Governance in the NFP sector is playing an increasingly important role.

In this section:

  • Key organisations and websites
  • Charities
  • Incorporated Societies and Trusts
  • Maori organisations

The legal structure for NFPs in New Zealand are variable and include, incorporated societies, trusts/charitable trusts, limited liability companies, organisations constituted by Act or Parliament and unincorporated associations. The NFP sector also includes many Māori organisations.

IoD’s First Directors online resource has an overview of how an NFP board works.

The following boardroom articles discuss aspects of NFP governance:

The 2013/14 Grant Thornton NFP survey, Doing good and doing it well?, shows that NFPs on both sides of the Tasman are striving to adopt more professional standards in how they manage, operate and govern the organisation.

Key organisations and websites

The IRD has information for NFPs on employing staff and volunteers, paying and claiming GST, receiving donations and grants, and keeping records and filing returns.

Changes to financial reporting requirements in New Zealand have implications for NFPs. The XRB has information about accounting standards for different types of entities, including NFPs.

DIA’s Community Development branch (previously OCVS) has resources for NGOs and volunteers.

Social Development Partners is a national organisation for community organisations in New Zealand. Working with member organisations and others, the Social Development Partners help to strengthen the capacity and influence the community sector.

CommunityNet Aotearoa is an online hub with resources designed to strengthen community organisations. The Community Resource Kit includes an introduction to Governance.

Philanthropy New Zealand has information and assistance about philanthropic giving.

Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) is the New Zealand representative of Transparency International, the global civil society organisation against corruption.

The Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) has a range of resources on NFP governance in Australia on its website.

Not for is an independent site with resources for NFPs.


The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) Charities branch carries out the registration, education and monitoring functions for charities. The Charities Registration Board makes independent decisions about registration and deregistration of charities.

Incorporated Societies and Trusts

Incorporation is the legal mechanism used by NFP organisations where members have a common interest. New Zealand has over 23,000 incorporated societies, including cultural, sporting, educational, religious, business and professional groups, and social service providers.

The Companies Office maintains the register for incorporated societies and charitable trustsThe Societies and Trusts Online website has useful information, including guidance, forms and templates.

The Incorporated Societies Act 1908 sets out the mechanisms for incorporation and minimum requirements for governance structures and rules. The Law Commission has reviewed the Act in 2014 the Government produced a report accepting most of the Law Commission’s recommendations.

The IoD summarised the Law Commission’s recommendations in this Boardroom article.

In 2015 a Bill was drafted and a request for submissions (with commentary) released. Submissions are due on June 30 2016. 

The Law Commission has also reviewed the Law of Trusts, and published an issues paper, The Duties, Office and Powers of a Trustee in 2011.

Māori organisations

The Federation of Māori Authorities represents over 150 Māori authorities with an estimated natural resource asset value of approximately $7 billion dollars.

The Māori Economic Taskforce report estimated the total asset base of the 2010 Māori economy at about $36.9 billion.

The Māori Trustee is an independent role (appointed under the Māori Trustee Act). The Māori Trustee organisation, Te Tumu Paeroa, administers 100,000 hectares of Māori owned land on behalf of nearly 100,000 owners.

Te Puni Kōkiri’s governance information is designed to help trustees and directors of Māori organisations with their responsibilities and role as guardians and leaders.

Chapman Tripp’s presentation to the Te Tau Ihu Economic Summit in 2012, provides an overview of Iwi corporate structures and governance, including for a post-settlement governance entity (PSGE).