Defining a Not-for-Profit Society

The Conundrum With over 25,000 incorporated societies in New Zealand, and probably a similar number of unincorporated societies, one might think we know what a “society” (not-for-profit) is. The website of the Registrar of Incorporated Societies: Tells us that “An incorporated society is a group or organisation that has been registered under the Incorporated Societies Act 1908 and, when incorporated, is authorised by law to run its affairs as though it were an individual person,” Advises on the consequences of registration, and Also notes that “There are a wide range of groups and organisations that have become incorporated societies. These include sports clubs, social clubs, music and cultural groups, special interest and activist organisations.” The sheer range of groups and organisations that can become incorporated societies and the number that have are, in themselves, clues to the inherent problems of definition. Evolution of Societies As a means of connecting people with common interests, societies have existed for millennia, at least as social and political organisations. In the last few centuries they have, perhaps, been more often associated with recreational activities, with partnerships and companies mainly fulfilling the need for business-related co-operation. As a result of greater leisure time (has Alvin Toffler’s 1970 Future Shock prediction come true?), the number of purely recreational activities and associated societies has grown. The coverage is wide-ranging, and societies are associated with sports and games, cultural activities, arts, crafts, and other recreational and occupational activities. In recent articles I discussed “The ‘Pecuniary Gain’ Conundrum in Society Law” (Issue 197, 16-11-2012) and “What is a non-profit organisation?” (Issue 195, 5-10-2012). However, a charitable entity (therefore...