Governance records

These are the documents that relate to your charity’s legal creation, registration, and operation. 


Documents concerning the legal creation of your organization are usually issued by a government department. You typically receive them from, or have them kept by, the lawyer who helped establish the organization. If kept by the charity's lawyer, the charity should keep photocopies at its office in case anyone needs to refer to them.

Examples of these documents are:

  • letters patent (and supplementary letters patent, if any) or articles or certificate of incorporation, which are issued by a government department;
  • a legal constitution or trust deed, if your organization is not incorporated; and
  • by-laws passed at the time of incorporation and all amendments to them.

A charity must pass by-laws at the time of its incorporation. By-laws form part of the legal historical record of the charity. So do all amendments to the by-laws. These should be kept with the original by-laws so that there is always an up-to-date set available for reference.


Once your organization legally exists, it typically registers with one or more government or regulatory agencies for various purposes. Registration documents are issued by these agencies and are sent either to your lawyer or directly to you. Examples of these documents are:

  • a business license (requirements vary depending on location; check your province and municipality of operation for specific details);
  • a GST/HST/QST registration document; and
  • charitable registration documentation from CRA.

As with by-laws and similar documents, these documents should be kept in a safe location, with photocopies available for reference.


The legal operation of the charity is conducted at meetings of its members (if the charity has members) and by a board of directors, trustees, or other governing body appointed by the members (or as set out in its governing documents). Meetings of the members, the board, and the committees that the board designates to fulfill some of its responsibilities are important activities. Minutes of each meeting should be kept in writing, approved at the next meeting, signed by the chair or secretary of the meeting, and filed by date.

Other required governance records relating to your charity's operations include:

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