Te Kotahitanga
Manu Reo o Aotearoa

Young Person's Guide to Starting a Choir

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This resource was written with young choral practitioners in mind but is applicable for anyone who wants to start a choir. 
It was written as part of the “Singing for Lifelong Wellbeing” project, funded through a grant from Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture & Heritage.

Young Person's Guide to Starting a Choir
Initial questions → Planning and research → Setting up officially → Running a choir → Administrator's Toolkit → Financial matters → Funding applications → Other resources

Setting up officially

Most of the grant and funding bodies in New Zealand require an applicant organisation to be a legal entity. We recommend that you start with forming an incorporated society and then work toward getting charitable status. If you feel that there is a strong reason to be a charitable trust from the start, we recommend that you get the assistance of a lawyer to ensure the trust is fully compliant from the start. 

If you haven't already:

Open a bank account

You will need money from the start to pay for:

  • becoming incorporated – currently $88.89 (2024),
  • venue hire for rehearsals,
  • any recruitment costs,
  • branding (logo), website set-up etc.


Create a legal entity

Incorporated society

Prepare a constitution:

Look at the constitutions and rules of other societies that are similar to you on the registers (Incorporated Societies Register and the Charities Register).

Use the constitution builder on the Companies website. It will guide you through step by step and help you with the clauses that are legally required, those that are recommended and those that are optional. It is important to have the right terminology so that you can apply for not-for-profit status with the IRD once you are incorporated. To create your constitution, you will need the following information:

  • a 'purpose' of the choir – prepare a clear statement of what you plan to do
  • a Balance Date of your financial year
  • details of your committee members and other officers
  • confirmation that you have at least 10 members
  • an idea of how you want to run your AGMs and committee meetings
Hold a General Meeting to:
  • agree to incorporate under the 2022 Act
  • approve the constitution
  • agree on your operational processes
  • decide who the officers will be (your society’s committee plus any other officers it may need)
  • decide who the contact person will be — there must be at least one and no more than three
  • sign up a minimum of 10 people who will be your initial members. They may be choir members, people who will help with the administration/finance, music staff etc. Gather their contact details and keep these in your records.
Apply online for incorporation at this link 

Charitable trust

If you want to set up a charitable trust rather than an incorporated society, we recommend that you consult a lawyer to ensure you meet the charitable purpose requirements. The lawyer will also be able to ensure that your trustees fully understand their obligations and liabilities.

You can only form a charitable trust for exclusively charitable purposes. These include:

  • the advancement of religion 
  • the advancement of education 
  • the relief of poverty 
  • other purposes beneficial to the community
To set up a charitable trust, you will need to: 
  • decide on a name for the trust – check the Charitable Trusts register to ensure it is not too similar to the name of an existing charitable trust.
  • have a registered office – this must be a physical location and have a street address.
  • decide who the trustees (trust board members) will be and what rules will be in the trust deed. While Charities Services don’t require specific wording in the rules, they must meet a list of specific criteria. Once you've decided all that, click here for a template that you can download and edit.
  • hold a meeting at which you will complete the necessary forms, approve the trust deed and elect officers (for example, secretary, treasurer).
  • complete the application forms, online or in print (see below) There is no fee associated when applying to register as a charitable trust.   

Click here for information about charitable trusts and the documents you will need to register. 

If you are an incorporated society and want to register as a charity

There is an invaluable checklist on the Charities Services website that you should work through to help you decide whether this is the right pathway for you. It will then lead you through the process of registering. 

To get tax exemptions

The Inland Revenue website has a clear set of instructions to follow if you want to gain tax exemptions and have charitable status for your donors.