Charity registration – not everyone has got the message

21 Jan 2015 Denise Copeland    Last updated: 26 Jan 2015

The Charity Commission issued a December deadline for all charitable organisations to make themselves known to the Commission however there are still organisations which have not already done so.

The Commission has published countless press releases, and we along with many other networks and membership bodies, have tried to get the message out that this is a legal requirement, not a choice.

In talking to some organisations in the last couple of weeks however we can see that there is still a lack of awareness that the new regulations apply to them or indeed for some, a lack of understanding that the legal definition of charity applies to them.     Some organisations gave the following reasons for not contacting the Charity Commission:

          “we never wanted to be a charity” 

                              “we’re just a sports club, we’re not charitable”

                    “doesn’t apply to us as we’re already a charity with the Revenue” 

          “we’re not a charity, we’re just an historical society”

If you know of any voluntary organisations in your community which wouldn’t necessarily identify themselves as a charity then perhaps you could help them understand by asking them if they’ve heard about these new rules and direct them to the information below. 

How do you know if an organisation is a charity or not?

A charitable organisation is a voluntary run organisation which has control and direction over its own governance and resources, is governed by the law of Northern Ireland and has exclusively charitable purposes.  So if your local voluntary organisation operates for the benefit of the public and it can identify through its activities with one or more of the following 12 descriptions of charitable purposes then it is probably a charity:

1. The prevention or relief of poverty

2. The advancement of education

3. The advancement of religion

4. The advancement of health or the saving of lives

5. The advancement of citizenship or community development

6. The advancement of the arts, culture, heritage or science

7. The advancement of amateur sport

8. The advancement of human rights, conflict resolution or reconciliation or the promotion of religious or racial harmony or equality and diversity

9. The advancement of environmental protection or improvement

10. The relief of those in need by reason of youth, age, ill-health, disability, financial hardship or other disadvantage

11. The advancement of animal welfare

12. Any other charitable purposes.

Voluntary run organisations should check their governing document, for example the constitution, to see if they are established for charitable purposes.   For more information on what to do next, please see our charity registration article and for a list of organisations that can offer assistance with the registration process, see the Helper Group list .

by Denise Copeland

Governance and Charity Advice Manager

[email protected]