DGMT NGO Commons - A Resource for Enhancing Good Governance and Accountability

A Resource for Enhancing Good Governance and Accountability

Establishing a Non-profit Trust

Non-profit Trusts are established when ownership of a property or funds is transferred (by written agreement/testament or court order) to another party/group, who will administer the assets for the benefit of others or to achieve a specific goal. Very often, Trusts are created during the lifetime of the founder of the Trust, with the specific intention of using assets to carry out public benefit activities.

Non-profit Trusts may be regulated by Common Law, but this is seldom the case. They are, therefore, usually

    • established in terms of The Trust Property Control Act 57 of 1988
    • have closed membership; and
    • are governed by a Board of Trustees.
    • But, there are some legal requirements:
  • the Master of the High Court oversees the appointment of Trustees;
  • trustees can only act in this capacity once authorised – in writing – by the Master;
  • the first Trustees must lodge a Trust founding document – also known as a Trust Deed –with the Master. The Trust Deed outlines the activities of the Trust, sets out the powers of Trustees and any public officer; and
  • overall responsibility for policing the performance of the trustees’ duties with respect to the property of the Trust, rests with the Master.