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Establishing a charity

Collyer Bristow can take you through the process from advising on and drafting the best form of constitution through to registration with the Charity Commission.

The first question to ask is whether you really want to set up a new charity or whether a donation to an existing charity would be more appropriate, perhaps to a separate commemorative fund. Clearly a new charity, of which you are a trustee, gives you more control over how funds are spent but it carries with it significant responsibility. Look at our page on trustee responsibilities for more information about this.

The process of creating a charity is straightforward in principle although often time consuming in practice. Before beginning it is worth visiting the Charity Commission's website which has a wealth of information. 

The key steps to creating a charity are:  

  • Decide what the charity will be doing and seek advice as to whether these objects are in fact charitable.
  • Choose a name for your charity (this should be different to any other charity that is already register to avoid confusion).
  • Choose at least three people to act as the first trustees. A company can also act as a trustee.

Choose an appropriate constitution - the four main alternatives are a trust, company, a charitable incorporated organisation or an unincorporated association. Of these a company or charitable incorporated association is the most appropriate if the charity is likely to be a service provider with significant liabilities, such as employing staff or leasing premises. A trust structure is more suitable for grant making charities. An unincorporated association might suit a smaller charity without significant liabilities where member participation will be important. Whilst the Commission has model documents, for all but the simplest charities, a bespoke constitution is likely to be more flexible in the future.

Complete the formalities associated with whichever form of constitution you have chosen. Complete the Commission's application form and the trustees' declaration and submit your application to the Commission. It generally takes between 10 and 28 days for registration. Note that certain small charities may not need to register.

Register your new charity with HMRC.

You may also need to attend to various administrative matters such as opening a charity bank account and drawing up policies for investment, risk and conflicts of interest.

Additional information