Q) What is the definition of a not-for-profit organisation?

Generally, a not-for-profit is an organisation that does not operate for the profit, personal gain or other benefit of particular people. This can include people such as its members, the people who run it or their friends or relatives. The definition of not-for-profit applies both while the organisation is operating and if it ‘winds up’ (closes down).

An organisation does not fail to be a not-for-profit if it simply provides a benefit to a member while genuinely carrying out its purpose. For example, film societies or film clubs are still non-profit organisations because the benefits provided to members (cheap film screenings) are consistent with the purposes of the organisation (to screen films).

Not-for-profits can make profit, but any profit made must be applied for the organisation’s purpose(s). Organisations can retain profits (instead of applying it towards their purpose), as long as there is for a genuine reason for this related to its purpose. For example, a good reason to retain money may be to buy new equipment, provide another service to members or accumulate a reserve to ensure an organisation remains sustainable.


Q) What should I do about insurance?

A film society is liable for material loss or damage to any borrowed film from the time it leaves until it is received back at the distributor or film library. This includes loss in transit, theft, damage by fire, etc. as well as damage while being fed through the projector.

Insurance cover for film damage is supplied automatically to any member of the Australian Film Societies Federation although an excess applies to all claims. For more information see Insurance policy for film societies.

Other insurance such as public liability and equipment insurance can be gotten through commercial insurance providers, please contact the Federation for more details.


Q) Do I need to worry about film classifications?

Yes, film societies are required to comply with the legal requirements of classification regarding film. Film Classifications are:

  • General — Suitable for all ages
  • Parental Guidance — Parental guidance recommended for persons under15 years
  • Mature — Recommended for mature audiences 15 years & over
  • Mature Accompanied — Restrictions apply to persons under the age of 15 years
  • Restricted — Restricted to adults 18 years and over


Q) Should I organise discussions about the films we screen?

We think so, a film society should aim at more than just film viewing. Generally film societies promote discussion of the films it is screening. This is often done by organising a committee member or guest speaker to introduce the film before it starts and serving coffee, tea and other light refreshments after the screening to encourage member to stay after the screening and talk in a relaxed atmosphere. However this is not essential. Many successful film societies do not do this


Q) How should I organise my budget?

The budget for your film society should aim at a modest surplus remaining at the end of the financial year. The major expenditure items to consider would be:

  • Film hire
  • DVD purchases and rights,
  • Venue hire
  • Printing and advertising
  • Federation membership
  • Depreciation of equipment
  • Insurance

The society’s funds can only be used to further the aims set out in the Constitution. Membership fees should be fixed to cover all estimated expenses as well as an allowance for emergencies.


Q) Should my society have a constitution?

We recommend it, in a small society rules can be less formal but as the society grows it is important to set up aims and rules of conduct for the society.A constitution is a statement of the aims and rules which the members of the society agree to follow.  A constitution is necessary if you ever want to become ‘incorporated’ i.e. become a legal entity.

The Federation recommends that you base your constitution on the NSW Department of Fair Tradings model constitution.


Q) Can I start a Film Society to help with my Fund Raising

There a two ways to show a film in order to raise fund; a theatrical screening and a non-theatrical screening.

1. THEATRICAL SCREENING (the audience is legally charged an admission fee):

(a) Arrange with a cinema to screen the film on a normal commercial basis. This would be a bit complicated and it would involve a lot of work. You would probably have to pay some costs up front. But the advantages are considerable. The cinema could probably help guide you through the process of obtaining screening rights. You wouldn’t have to worry about securing a suitable venue, lining up a projector, screen, sound system, seating, projectionist etc. You would also be able to advertise the event and maximise your potential return.

(b) Arrange a screening in a public place, eg a local hall, using your own projector, screen etc. You would have to contact the film maker/s directly and obtain their approval for you to screen the film at no or reduced cost, and for you to charge admission.

2. NON-THEATRICAL SCREENING (an admission fee is not permitted):

Screen the DVD in a private residence and issue personal invitations to the evening, which would be a total event including eg discussion of the issues raised, wine and cheese/supper and the film. You would not be able to advertise the film, you can’t charge your guests admission and you can’t solicit donations that can be construed as admission fees. On the night, when you are making your announcements, you can indicate that your cause needs funds, and that you are not asking for money to cover the costs of the evening. No one is obliged to give anything, but if they do feel like giving something, they can drop it in a bowl/hat/bucket that is being passed around/on the supper table/or whatever. You might be surprised at how much you can raise this way.

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