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Charity Community

Registering a charity: Navigating the Commission’s online resources

Author: Daniel Warner, Case Manager, Registration Division, Charity Commission

Published: 28 Jun 2023

While the Commission’s website is full of helpful guidance on a range of topics, finding information that is useful to your registration application is not always easy or obvious. In this article, we aim to provide a map to help ICAEW members navigate the Commission’s online resources so that you can quickly find the registration guidance you need.

Guidance, guidance everywhere

The Commission is currently undertaking a campaign to raise awareness of core trustee duties and the guidance that we have available to charities. As an accountant, a trustee or a volunteer, you may already be aware of the Commission’s various guidance documents to assist in establishing and running a charity. Indeed, many of these documents will often be covered in the pages of the ICAEW’s Charity Community newsletter.

Alternatively, this may be the first time you have attempted to register a charity and you may not be aware of the Commission’s online resources. Registration and charity status matters are well covered but the Commission has around 180 pieces of guidance on its website. Finding the right guidance for your application can be tricky. From our research, we know that people find our guidance helpful, but it is often not the first port of call. We want you to get the answers you need and fast. To achieve this, we have set out where to find our key registration guidance.

Finding your way

Our ‘Setting up a charity’ landing page is the best place to start. This provides a comprehensive list of guidance documents related to registration and the early life cycle of a charity. It contains direct links to our guidance on how to set up a charity, how to choose a structure and name, how to write governing documents, what the public benefit requirement is and what the role of a trustee involves.

If your application can be initially assessed as charitable, the charity will be registered in an average of four working days. The following guidance sets will help you navigate our website and are therefore critical to a fast registration process:

  • Charitable purposes provides an overview of the 13 descriptions of purposes, under which various charitable purposes fall. We recommend using this guidance to establish whether an applicant organisation could be a charity and what that organisation’s specific purpose may be. Our example charitable objects may be of assistance in drafting objects (a charity’s statement of its purposes) in a way that is exclusively charitable.
  • Charity Commission Guidance Publications, or ‘CCs’, make up a wide-ranging collection of guidance. Of particular relevance to establishing a charity, charity status matters and applying to register are 3, 3a, 4, 9, 11, 21, 22, 23, 29, 30 and 35.
  • Reviews of the Register, or ‘RRs’, provide detailed guidance on a range of different charitable purposes, establishing the criteria that must be demonstrated in each case and helping to clarify what is meant by ‘charitable’ within the context of different purposes
  • Supplementary public benefit guidance, in a similar way to the RRs, this guidance set outlines the criteria used when assessing applications related to three of the most common charitable purposes – prevention or relief of poverty, advancement of religion and advancement of education
  • The Public Benefit Requirement, or PB1, explains the legal requirement known as the ‘public benefit requirement’
  • Equality Act Guidance provides an outline on when a charity can discriminate by limiting the group of people it helps
  • Model Governing Documents lists the Commission’s models, templates and guidance for constitutions, CIO constitutions, articles of association and trust deeds for new charities. We strongly encourage applicants to adopt our model governing documents, which are designed to include everything necessary for the onward function and regulation of the charity and can in many instances allow for quicker handling of the application.
  • Charity Commission Registration Decisions is a useful resource outlining previous registration decisions that are significant or of wider interest. In many cases, these documents outline our approach to certain purpose types (including sustainable development, the promotion of conflict resolution or when statues, monuments, certain sports or recycling may be charitable).
  • The Commission has also recently developed a collection of short and engaging guidance – ‘The 5-Minute Guides’ – which serves as a basic toolkit for trustees who are running a charity

What’s next?

Looking ahead, we will examine the level of detail required in registration applications. We’ll provide some handy hints and tips so that the Commission can collect enough information to ensure that the registration process is completed as smoothly as possible.

*The views expressed are the author’s and not ICAEW’s.