Registering an NPO in South Africa is not difficult, provided that the application is complete and all the provisions of the Nonprofit Organisations Act, 1997 (Act 71 of 1997) are followed. Registration is only the first step of a very long, difficult journey in the nonprofit sector where you will face a myriad of challenges you never even thought of.
What To Consider Before Registering
- Will you be the only organisation in your area doing the work that you want to do? If not, find out who the other organisations are and approach them to see if you could rather add your ideas to what they're already doing. Why? In the 2015-2016 reporting year, the Department of Social Development received an average of 124 applications per day. Of the 32452 applications received during the year, 46% did not meet the requirements to be registered. During the year, 241 NPOs were deregistered for non-compliance.1
- What is your single focus area? If you have more than one focus area, rethink it. Why? When you apply for tax exemption, you will have to choose a sole or principal public benefit activity. Spreading your activities too wide will complicate your application.Apart from that, we all set out to save the world, and very often realise somewhere along the line that we do not have the time or resources to actually do that in a meaningful way across too many activities or focus areas. Why set yourself up to fail? Start small – you can always add things to do later.
- How will you fund your organisation? Why? If you think you'll just send some letters to donors and get funding, think again! Has some government official / public servant told you to start a NPO because "government has funds available for it?" Be wary! Government funding objectives change – what will you do when they change?
- What legal form will your organisation take? Why? Depending on your answer in 3, you will want to consider whether you want to start a social enterprise2, which could take various for-profit or not-for-profit forms. If you don't want to start a social enterprise but a pure NPO, your choices are between a Voluntary Association (VA), Non-Profit Company (NPC) or Trust. Read our post about the different types of organisations for more.
Once you're satisfied with your answers, you can start your NPO registration with the Department of Social Development, or your NPC registration with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), or your Trust registration with the Master of the High Court.
How to Register an NPO in South Africa
In the following 6 easy steps, you will submit an online application to register as an NPO in South Africa.
What You Need to Register an NPO in South Africa
- A laptop or computer with internet (for online NPO registrations)
- Your organisation's constitution or founding document, signed and in .pdf, .doc or .docx format.
- Certified IDs of office bearers in .pdf, .doc or .docx format and contact details, including residential and postal address, phone numbers and e-mail addresses
Steps to Register an NPO in South Africa
Step 1: Open the online NPO Registration page.
Step 2: Complete the required information:
- Organisation Name
- Organisation Type
- Financial Period
- Contact Person Name in the format Title, Initials, Surname (Mr S Smith)
- Contact Person Cellphone Number
- Organisation's Physical Address
- Organisation's Postal Address
When complete, click on next.
Step 3: In the section for office bearers, click on "Add a Office Bearer." A form to complete details for each office bearer will appear. After adding all the office bearers, be sure to type in the number of office bearers above the office bearer names. There has to be a minimum of 3 office bearers, with a maximum set by your constitution. When complete, click on next.
Step 4: This section requires uploading the Founding Document (Constitution, Trust Deed or MOI) and Supporting Documents (ID Copies or any other documents relevant to the registration) in .pdf, .doc or .docx format. When complete, click on next.
Step 5: The last section of the application is a declaration of authorisation to apply and correctness of the information provided in the application. Tick the box next to "I Agree," and click on the "Submit" button.
Step 6: A reference number for the application will be provided. Keep this for any future enquiries on the status of your application. The reference number will also be sent to the Contact Person's e-mail address or cellphone.
1State of the South African Non-Profit Register 2015-2016 from the Department of Social Development. Back to reference.
2Guide to Legal Forms for Social Enterprises in South Africa from the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship. Back to reference.