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Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Applying to become a charity – what you need to do

If you think you want to set up a charity or apply for an existing organisation to become a charity, you will have to make some decisions about whether being a registered charity is right for you, how the charity will be run, and who your trustees will be.

Things to think about before setting up a new charity

Before deciding whether to set up a new charity, you should think about the following things:

  • is a new charity the best way forward?
  • are there existing charities with the same purposes and activities as yours?
  • have you thought about joining forces with an existing charity?
  • do you know how a charity must operate?
  • do you need to become a limited company as well as a charity (if so you will need to do this first)
  • where will you find trustees?
  • where will you get funding?

To find out about some of the minimum requirements to be a charity and some of the pros and cons read the articles ‘Setting up a charity’ and ‘Choosing trustees and finding funding’.

Making an application

If you want to apply to become a registered charity you need to fill out an online application form which is available from the Charity Commission website.

You need to complete:

  • the application form
  • a detailed description of how you will run your charity – called the governing document

Once you have completed the form, you will be sent a document by email that your trustees will have to sign.

You can contact the Charity Commission to get a paper application form, but it may slow down the time it takes to process the application.

Preparing a governing document

A ‘governing document’ is a document that outlines how the charity will operate and is used throughout the life of the organisation.

A governing document must include:

  • what your charity is set up to do
  • how it plans to work
  • what happens if changes need to be made to the document
  • what happens if the charity comes to an end
  • who the trustees will be and how they will run the charity
  • internal arrangements for meetings, voting, looking after money etc

The Charity Commission provides model governing documents on its website which you can use to set up your charity. If you use a model governing document this will speed up your application.

What happens next?

Once your application is received you will usually receive a response within 10 days. In some cases more information will be required before a final decision can be made.

If you have not been successful, you will be told why and you can appeal the decision. If you are successful, your charity's details will be added to the public Register of Charities.

Details about all registered charities, including accounts and names of trustees, are kept on a public register, which is available online.

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