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Charities Top FAQs

  • It is important that charities think carefully about new charity trustees and plan for training and succession of the charity trustees so the organisation can run smoothly and as effectively as possible.  Consider:-
    • Skills base of charity trustees, are there gaps in that which need to be covered with future trustees?
    • Appropriate checks should be carried out before new trustees take office to ensure that they are not prohibited from acting and references should always be taken up. Remember, all decisions made by the charity trustees are ones for which they are collectively and individually responsible.  Charity trustees may delegate aspects of their role but they need to ensure that they are all involved in running the charity.
  • Yes, but it depends on the type of charity and whether the property is owned in the charity’s name or by trustees on behalf of the charity. There are some specific requirements that apply in relation to buying land and other property most importantly the charity trustees must ensure that it is necessary and within their powers. There are more detailed rules that apply when a charity disposes of land. Generally, charity trustees are under an obligation to sell the land for the best available price unless there are special reasons to sell to somebody else. In certain circumstances Charity Commission consent will need to be obtained but usually, the obtaining of a surveyor’s report on price and marketing will enable trustees to go ahead without involving the Charity Commission. It may be prohibited to sell some land because it was originally set up to be used forever for that charity, known as permanent endowment. However, in certain cases it may be possible to ask the Charity Commission to use its powers to enable a sale of such permanent endowment to take place.
  • A charity trustee is a technical legal term which encompasses anybody who is responsible for the governing of a charity and involved in the key decision-making.  In a company charity these people will normally be the same as the board of directors.  In a trust charity it will be the trustees and in an unincorporated association (i.e. a membership organisation which is not a corporate body) it will be the elected management committee.  Employees of the charity will not normally be charity trustees and indeed there is normally a prohibition on people being paid for their role as a charity trustee.
    • A clear statement of objectives which are for charitable purposes in the public benefit.
    • An appropriate legal structure – you will need to consider whether to be an unincorporated association, a trust or a company – see below.
    • An action plan setting out how you intend to operate, both in terms of fundraising and your activities, to achieve your charitable objects.
    • A group of people prepared to be charity trustees responsible for the governing of the charity.
  • It depends. A number of classes of charities have a separate regulator so whilst they are legally charities, they are not required to register with the Charity Commission e.g. academies and free schools, further education colleges, universities and certain national museums and institutes. Other charities have historically been excluded from the need to register, but now these classes of charities are being gradually required to register e.g. individual church charities in longstanding denominations such as PCC’s in the Church of England. Generally, if you are starting a new charity, unless you fall into one of the above categories, and/or your annual income is below the level of £5,000, you will need to register.
  • Firstly, it must be set up for purposes which are recognised as charitable.  There is no legal definition but there are types of charitable purposes recognised in the 2011 Charities Act and in case law. Secondly, and equally importantly, the charity must be for the public benefit and continue to operate in the public benefit.  This is particularly a point to consider if there is a narrow group of people benefitting from the charity or where the charity is looking to charge for its services, to ensure that the application does not prevent the charity from operating in the public benefit.