Small charities

In many cases, trustees of smaller charities can make relatively straightforward – but important – decisions with minimum checking from us. As a result, trustees should be able to clear routine issues with us quickly and efficiently.

This page brings together resources for trustees and others involved with 'small charities' – that is, generally, charities with incomes of under £25,000 a year (although the legal requirements vary according to what you want to do).

Starting a small charity

You won't have to register with us at all if you're setting up a charity which

  • is unlikely to ever have an annual income exceeding £5,000
  • will not own a building; or
  • employ people.

However, this doesn't mean it can't be a charity. You should read:

If your charity does need to register with us you should read our guidance on how to apply to register.

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Small charities: accounting, annual reports and reserves

Over 85% of registered charities count as small and are able to take advantage of simpler reporting and accounting arrangements. The Commission produces helpful templates for you to use and offers worked examples and guidance. Our guidance Small charities and the SORP provides more information.

The following pages explain what you need to send to us every year.

If your charity has a gross income of £250,000 or less and is not a company then you may be able to prepare receipts and payments accounts that provide a simple and flexible basis for accounts preparation.

For trustees, consideration of the level of reserves their charity needs to hold is an important part of planning and sound financial management. It is also a key issue for the Charity Commission as the regulator. If reserves are set too high, they tie up money that could and should be spent on charitable activity. If they are too low, the future of the charity may be put at risk.

Our report on Small Charities and Reserves examines the experience of charities whose income is below £10,000 per year.

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Charity milestones

There are many milestones in the life of any one charity. This report concentrates on those for which the Charity Commission’s regulatory experience adds a particular perspective and value. It is not a manual; it does not give detailed instructions on what to do when each milestone is met.

Instead it draws attention to the main issues that the Charity Commission sees and of which charity trustees need to be aware. It may be useful for small charities as they evolve.

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Managing small charities

The Charities Acts 1993 and 2006 make it easier for small charities (generally those with an income of less than £10,000) to make changes to the way the manage their resources, including

  • altering governing documents
  • changing charitable purposes
  • transferring property, and
  • spending permanent endowment

The guidance and forms on our website will help trustees to decide how to proceed in these cases and what information to send us if they need to apply for our authority for certain proposed actions.

The following table directs you to the relevant information that we recommend you read before deciding which form you need to use.

Proposed action

Information sheet

Relevant form(s)

Modification of administrative Provisions



Changing purposes



Transfer of property



Spending permanent endowment


CSD 1347D

Once you've read the guidance, you need to print off the appropriate form and fill it in by hand before sending it to us by post.

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Guidance for specific types of small charity

Many almshouses, village halls and community centres are small charities, and we have some specific guidance covering them.

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Useful links


Almshouse Association


Community Matters

Charity Trustee Network

Directory of Social Change



Small charities coalition

Wales Council for Voluntary Action

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