What is a charity?
To be a charity an organisation must have purposes all of which are exclusively charitable; a charity cannot have some purposes which are charitable and others which are not. A ‘purpose’ is the overall goal of a charity. It is what a charity aims to achieve from the work that it does. A charity’s purposes are usually set out in its governing document as the ‘objects clause’.
On our website, you can find guidance on the range of purposes that are charitable in ourCommentary on the Descriptions of Charitable Purposes in the Charities Bill. You will also findExample Objects which are suitable for inclusion in a charity’s governing document. Please note, we do not provide a definitive list of charitable objects.
A charity must also be set up for the ‘public benefit’.
What is ‘public benefit’?
'Public benefit' is the legal requirement that every organisation set up for one or more charitable aims must be able to demonstrate that its aims are for the public benefit if it is to be recognised, and registered, as a charity in England and Wales.
This is known as 'the public benefit requirement'.
Our publication Charities and Public Benefit is our statutory guidance on public benefit. All charity trustees must:
- ensure that they carry out their charity's aims for the public benefit;
- have regard to guidance we publish on public benefit (when exercising any powers or duties where that may be relevant); and
- report on their charity's public benefit in their Trustees' Annual Report.
See the Public Benefit section on our website for more information.
What should I think about before setting up a new charity?
There are a lot of very good reasons why people decide to set up a new charity. However, setting up a charity is not always the best way to proceed and, in some cases, it may not be legally possible.
Depending upon your reason for wanting to set up a new charity and what you want to achieve, there may be other, and better, ways of achieving your aims that we would like you to think about.
We therefore suggest that before setting up a new charity you read Things to think about before setting up a new charity.
How do I set up a new charity?
Our publication CC21: Registering as a Charity gives general advice and guidance about setting up a charity.
All charities need to have a governing document. A ‘governing document’ is the formal document which sets up a charity. Our publication CC22: Choosing and Preparing a Governing Documentgives guidance on this.
If you're setting up a charity, you can use one of our Model Governing Documents.
Some large charities also provide Approved Governing Documents which can be used by organisations associated with those charities.
Charity Commission website 18.12.09