Resources for charities with an income under £5000

(October 2009)


Who is it for?

This page is specifically designed for charities which expect to stay small, and have an annual income under £5,000. The constitution is not meant for charities that own a building, employ people or intend to register with the Charity Commission. Small groups which are not charities are also welcome to use this model constitution, though they would not be covered by charity law.

Many national charities produce their own model constitutions, including Parent Teacher Associations, the Pre-School Learning Alliance, Women’s Institutes, Scouts and Guides. See Approved Governing Documents. If you are setting up one of these charities, please contact them for advice and use their model rather than this one.

Setting up a charity - the constitution

If you want to start up a small charity, you will need a set of rules which explain what the charity does and how it is to be run. To help you, the Charity Commission has worked with nine umbrella organisations listed at the end of the introduction, to jointly write and promote a constitution for a small charity. This is of course not the only constitution that would be appropriate, and there are other model constitutions that both the Commission and other organisations produce.

We have pooled our experience to ensure that it is easy to understand, is short (it’s only 700 words long) and meets the needs of small charities. The aim is to encourage people to get involved in running the charity and give them confidence by knowing exactly what their constitution says should be done to run it properly.

The people on the committee will be the trustees of the charity. They will be responsible for the money that other people have given and must ensure it is properly spent and correctly accounted for.  See The Essential Trustee: what you need to know (CC3).

How can we get help and advice?

It is always a good idea to get advice and support – and luckily there is plenty available. Talk to the local community development organisations in your area and ask for their help. Your local authority’s website would also be a good place for information and support. Each of the organisations involved with producing this constitution have websites that contain a wealth of publications and information. All of these organisation share a commitment to help small charities run properly, ensure they comply with the law, are open to people from every walk of life and flourish in every community.

How do we complete our constitution?

You need to discuss the rules and check that everybody understands and agrees with them. You must write in the ‘Purposes’ to describe what the charity has been set up for. You might also need to say which geographical area the charity will work in.

This constitution is suitable for a small charity, but it is important to recognise that just adopting it does not necessarily make the group a charity. To be a charity, all the purposes must be charitable and the organisation must be established for the public benefit. To help you with this, model wording for charitable purposes is provided by the Charity Commission.

To adopt the constitution, the people who are setting up the charity need to sign and date it. By doing this they become the trustees of the charity until the first annual general meeting.

What happens if we grow?

Charities with less than £5,000 a year do not need to register with the Charity Commission. However, if your income grows larger than this, the charity must register and you should read our guidance.

If you find your organisation is getting larger, wants to employ people or buy a building, or in the future wishes to register with the Commission, you will need to replace this constitution with a more comprehensive model governing document as this one will no longer be appropriate.

Small Charity constitution forms

Word format (English) I (Welsh) I PDF format (English)  I (Welsh)

List of other organisations involved in producing and promoting this constitution

Supporting vibrant and sustainable rural communities through the Rural Community Action Network.

bassac is a national membership body, representing and supporting a network of multi-purpose, community-based organisations rooted in their neighbourhoods and committed to common principles and purposes.


Use our website to find bassac members in your area and the name and contact details of the regional manager nearest to you, as well as much more information about the work that we are doing.

Community Matters is the nationwide federation for community associations and multi-purpose community organisations. We play a key role in promoting and supporting action by ordinary people in response to social, educational and recreational needs in their neighbourhoods and communities.


We are specialists in the management of community buildings providing a wide range of services including: advice and information, publications, training, consultancy, technical support and operating standards for community organisations.

Charity Trustee Networks (CTN) is the national charity for trustees of charities and voluntary organisations. It aims to increase trustees’ access to information, guidance and support through networks, our website, signposting and services, as well as promoting trusteeship.

To join CTN’s national network of trustees or trusteenetplus, simply register on CTN’s website at

Directory of Social Change (DSC) is an independent charity with a vision of an independent voluntary sector at the heart of social change.


We achieve this by providing essential information and training to the voluntary sector to enable charities to achieve their mission. Since we started in 1974, we have been running courses and publishing charity and voluntary sector books on fundraising, management, organisational and personal development, communication, finance and law.


If you are interested in our training courses and publications, please contact us for our free guides. visit our website at

NAVCA is the national voice of local third sector infrastructure organisations in England. These are organisations that help and provide services for small charities and community groups. More information about the help that NAVCA members can provide is at:


To find your local NAVCA member visit

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) is the largest umbrella body for the voluntary and community sector in England with over 7,400 members. For 90 years we have been working to build an environment in which voluntary organisations of all kinds can flourish, from community groups working in local neighbourhoods to large national organisations. NCVO believes passionately in the voluntary and community sector and our vision is of a society in which people are inspired to make a positive difference to their communities. We give voice and support to civil society. We provide a wide range of information and support services, and represent the sector to government and policy makers.

The Small Charities Coalition exists to help small charities access the skills, experience and resources they need to achieve their aims.

Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) represents the interests of voluntary organisations, community groups and volunteers in Wales. It has 2,100 organisations in direct membership and is in contact with many more through national and regional networks.

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