Welcome to the Global Nonprofits Guide!
DLA Piper, European Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ECNL), and PILnet are delighted to introduce you to a free tool for navigating the nonprofit laws around the world.
The Global Nonprofits Guide aims to strengthen the resilience and autonomy of nonprofit organizations by providing an easily accessible and user-friendly platform on non-profit law around the world. Visit www.globalnonprofitsguide.org or click on the button below to view the guide.
1. What else should I think about before moving forward with registering a new nonprofit?
Strengthening the civil society in a jurisdiction can have positive impacts , however, we are aware of the risks, such as increased competition for funding, the risks of duplicating efforts in the same environment and on similar topics, the lack of adaptation of activities to the different context, lack of knowledge of specific cultural differences or dynamics (resulting in ineffective activities), and the lack of coordination among multiple organizations.
For these reasons, before setting up a new entity in a country, we always recommend to thoroughly research the jurisdiction and territory, looking for existing nonprofits with similar mission/activities/targeted audience as yours to cooperate with, addressing the special concerns related to the territory (different cultural context and or special safeguarding needed in that particular environment) and consequent eventual need for adaptation of your activities, and strategize on the need for coordination with existing nonprofits.
2. Is registration required or not? Can I operate without a registration?
While in some countries registration is obligatory in order to be able to operate as a nonprofit, other countries may not require nonprofits to register.
In countries where registration is a question of choice, you may want to consider potential benefits a voluntary registration can bring. These are, for example, legal capacity to enter into agreements, limited liability of the persons involved in the nonprofits that is separated from the liability of the profit companies, access to certain fiscal benefits that are reserved for registered nonprofits only etc. For unincorporated nonprofits, the main benefit may be the limited bureaucracy for registration.
You can find more information under the topics “General Information” and “Registration”.
3. I have a limited number of founders. Where can I set up my nonprofit and what are the applicable eligibility requirements?
When you have a limited number of founders, you should check the minimum number required and their eligibility. Countries typically require 2 to 3 founders to set up an association and 1 founder for a foundation. However, there are also countries that require a much higher number of founders, so we recommend checking this before you make your decision.
Check also whether you and your other founders are eligible to found a nonprofits in the selected country. Following are most common eligibility requirements:
- Age of the founders: Some countries may require founders to reach a certain age. Minimum age varies among countries and is typically between 15 to 18 years old. Legal capacity: If you are a youth group or your founders are otherwise limited in their legal capacity, check whether the country does not require founders to have a full legal capacity. Some countries may require at least one founder to have a full legal capacity, others may require it from all founders.
- Legal entities as founders: Some countries may now allow legal entities to serve as founders, especially when it comes to associations. Consider this if you plan to engage a legal entity as a founder.
For more information, check out the topic “Founders”.
4. Can I set up a nonprofit outside of my country of citizenship/residence?
If you plan to set up a nonprofit outside of your homeland, look into the residency and/or citizenship requirements for founders in the selected country(ies). Most European countries allow foreigners to set up a nonprofit and some may require at least a residency permit. However, there are also countries that allow only its citizens to set up a nonprofits.
For more information, check out the topic “Founders”.
5. What are the registration and other related starting costs? Do I need to endow some money to incorporate my organization?
Most common costs include:
- Registration fee: varies among countries and also among legal forms. Some countries may exempt nonprofits from a registration fee.
- Endowments: are typical for non-membership legal forms and vary from country to another, usually in tens of thousands of EUR/USD.
- Translation costs for translating your documents to the language of the country of registration.
- Notarial fees for official verification of the documents.
- Costs of opening a bank account.
- Deposit and first few months of rent of an office space (or payment for a virtual legal seat).
- Costs of office equipment and initial supplies.
- Legal representation costs: depending on the complexity of the registration process, you may need to pay legal fees.
For more information, check out the topic “Costs”.
Civil society continues to face mounting challenges. It is subjected to restrictions arising from a variety of laws, including national security and counter-terrorism laws, and concentration of economic power and battled by the global pandemic. Moreover, nonprofits generally run their operations on limited budgets. Trying to hire a lawyer when expanding is an extra burden put on them which sometimes hinders their growth.
The Global Nonprofits Guide aims to strengthen the resilience and autonomy of nonprofit organizations by providing an easily accessible and user-friendly platform on non-profit law around the world.
The project is run by DLA Piper, ECNL, and PILnet in collaboration with law firms generously dedicating time to the cause. Lawyers from Bowmans, Dentons, Hogan Lovells, Surpass Advocates and Solicitors, Linklaters, CMS, Vieira de Almeida & Associados, Sorainen, Gladei & Partners, Kinstellar, HNS Legal, Mattos Filho, Thomson Reuters, iProbono, Herbert Smith Freehills, PwC, Al Tamimi & Company and others contributed their time and expertise in order to compile the information presented in this tool. We thank them for their efforts.
The project builds on previous Handbooks on registration of nonprofits produced and published by ECNL, DLA Piper, and partners, and was developed based on assessment of needs and responses to requests by civil society for such information.
DLA Piper, ECNL, PILnet, and partners participating in this research are not liable towards third parties for the accuracy of the information contained in the Global Nonprofits Guide. The information contained herein cannot be considered as legal advice. The research was carried out in 2021-2022 and responds to the regulatory framework in effect during this time period.
© 2022 by DLA Piper, ECNL and PILnet
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