Societies


Learn more about societies by clicking one of the links below.

What is a society?

A society is an incorporated group of five or more people who share a common recreational, cultural, scientific, or charitable interest.  The Societies Act regulates societies incorporated in Alberta.

What is the purpose for incorporating a society?

Incorporation is not mandatory; the decision up to each group.  There are several advantages to incorporating a group.

  • Members of societies may not be held responsible for the debts of the society.
  • Societies may own property and may enter into contracts under the society's name, as opposed to its individual members entering into a contract.
  • The public's perception of a society is that an incorporated group has a more formal, permanent status than an unincorporated group.
  • Note:  Societies may not incorporate primarily to carry on a trade or business.

How do I incorporate a society?

Step 1:  Chose a name.

  • Your society’s name must not be the same, or similar to, any other society or corporation's name.
  • A society name is made up of three parts, or elements, all of which must be present in the name but not in any particular order. Those elements are:  distinctive element, descriptive element, legal element. 
    • Here is an example of a society name that contains all three elements:  John Smith White Water Rafting Memorial Foundation.
    • The 'distinctive element' of a name is a unique word or location that makes the society’s name different from others. In our example, the distinctive element is 'John Smith'.
    • The 'descriptive element' of a name describes what the society is or does.  In our example, the descriptive element is 'White Water Rafting Memorial'.
    • The 'legal element' of a society name must be one of the following words:
      • Society
      • Association
      • Club
      • Fellowship
      • Guild
      • Foundation
      • Institute
      • League
      • Committee
      • Council
      • Board
      • Centre
      • Bureau
    • In our example, the legal element is 'Foundation'.

Step 2:  Get a NUANS Report

  • Corporate Registry will examine this report to determine whether your group can use the name you have chosen.
  • If you choose to have a name that is similar to another name, you will need to obtain written permission from the other group to use the similar name.

Step 3:  Complete the forms.  

  • Complete the application to form a society (pdf). 
    • You must include the society's objects (objectives, purpose) 
      • The objects must be non-profit in nature; the society cannot be formed for the purpose of carrying on a trade or business.
    • Make sure that at least five people sign the application and that their signatures are witnessed.
    • You can use the standard application or you can create your own application form.
      • If you create your own application form, you must make sure it includes all of the same items as the standard form.
  • Complete the society bylaws form.
    • The bylaws set out the way the society is organized and the rules surrounding its activities. e,g. rights and responsibilities of members, meetings, appointment of directors.
    • You can use the standard bylaws or you can create your own bylaws. 
      • If you create your own bylaws, you must make sure they deal with all of the issues referred to in the standard bylaws.
  • Complete an address form.

Step 4:  Send the forms and fee to Corporate Registry.

  • Send two copies of your application, bylaws, and address forms, along with a copy of the NUANS report.
  • Your information will be examined to ensure it meets the requirements of the Societies Act. 
    • If the requirements are met, a certificate of incorporation will be sent to you.

How does my society become a registered charity or conduct a fund-raising event?

  • Some non-profit companies may be eligible to become registered charities.  Review the Canada Revenue Agency website for detailed information. 
    • In particular, ensure your company objectives and dissolution provisions meet the 'charitable' requirements.
  • Your non-profit company may need to register if it plans to conduct any fund-raising activities.  Learn more about Alberta's requirements for charitable organizations.
  • The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission is responsible for issuing gaming licences for charitable organizations

How can our society handle internal disputes?

  • Societies must be prepared to resolve their own internal disputes.
  • Corporate Registry does not supervise the conduct of societies, nor does it provide a counseling service on matters other than forms and the documents filed with them.
  • To ensure that internal disputes are handled fairly, Corporate Registry recommends adoption of a bylaw that outlines an mediation or arbitration procedure.

How can I become an effective board member for my society?

  • You can learn more about the ethical and legal responsibilities of serving on a board as well as the roles and responsibilities, committee effectiveness, recruiting and orienting board members, and board/staff relations.  See Alberta Culture's Board Development Program (BDP).
  • The BDP offers hands-on board governance workshops free of charge for nonprofit boards and has a variety of online resources that can be downloaded from its web site at no cost.