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 (application, bylaws, address).  

  • Complete the application to form a society (pdf). 
    • If the objectives on the standard application do not meet your organization's needs, you can cross out the ones that do not apply OR you can prepare your own application with customized objectives.
  • Complete the society bylaws form.
    • The bylaws set out the way the society is organized and the rules surrounding all of 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:  Submit the completed forms in duplicate, together with the NUANS report and the incorporation fee, to Corporate Registry.

  • Your information will be examined, and, if the requirements are met, a Certificate of Incorporation will be issued.

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.