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Setting up a charity - A brief guide

5 minute read

Charities and related third-sector organisations play a vital role in our society. Led by altruistic and passionate individuals, they understand and recognise the need where it is greatest and give a voice to those who previously had none.

Charitable purpose 

A charity is a non-profit organisation with a ‘charitable purpose’. It must be set up for one of the following reasons: 

  • The prevention or relief of poverty 
  • The advancement of education 
  • The advancement of religion 
  • The advancement of health or the saving of lives 
  • The advancement of citizenship or community development 
  • The advancement of the arts, culture, heritage or science 
  • The advancement of amateur sport 
  • The advancement of human rights, conflict resolution or reconciliation or the promotion of religious or racial harmony or equality and diversity 
  • The advancement of environmental protection or improvement 
  • The relief of those in need, by reason of youth, age, ill-health, disability, financial hardship or other disadvantages 
  • The advancement of animal welfare 
  • The promotion of the efficiency of the armed forces of the Crown, or of the efficiency of the police, fire and rescue services or ambulance services 
  • Any other charitable purposes 

Legal structure 

There are four main types of structure: 

  • Charitable incorporated organisation 
  • Charitable company (limited by guarantee) 
  • Unincorporated association 
  • A trust 

Registering 

When the income of your organisation exceeds £5000 per year, you are required to register with the Charity Commission. If you are under this £5000 you can refer to yourself as a ‘charity’ but not a ‘registered charity’. Registering with HMRC via the charities webpage is still required and means that you can claim tax back on gift aid donations. The charity will need to produce a ‘governing document’ which covers how the charity will be run and include information about the trustees.  

Trustees 

A minimum of three trustees are required for any charity. Trustees have legal responsibility for a charity’s management and administration. They are usually unpaid and play a very important role in the charity.  

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