Consultation on changes to the application for registration and the Annual Return Regulations 2019

25 Sep 2019 Denise Copeland    Last updated: 30 Sep 2019

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland is currently consulting on proposed changes that it would like to make to both the application for charity registration and the annual monitoring return. 


Respond to the consultation

NICVA has prepared draft responses to the Charity Commission’s consultation questions below and we are seeking your views and comments on these draft responses.

To contribute to NICVA's response, please send your comments to [email protected] by 12pm on Friday 18 October.

Copies of the consultation document can be accessed from the Charity Commission website.

Please email responses to [email protected] or submit the online questionnaire.

Please note that it is not always necessary to answer all questions in a consultation paper if you do not have the time to consider all of the new proposals.  If you don’t want to / would rather not answer all of the questions then this is perfectly acceptable.

The responses to the Commission’s consultation are required no later than 22 October 2019 at 5pm.



The consultation paper divides the proposed new questions into sections. It deals with the proposed new questions for the charity registration application first and then the additional mandatory questions that it wants to include in the Annual Monitoring Return Regulations 2019.

PART 1:  Annual Monitoring Return Regulations 2019

The Commission is proposing to add several mandatory questions to AMR Regulations 2019

1.1 Protection of personal data. 

The Commission proposes to ask: Has your charity reported a data breach to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) within the last 12 months?

NICVA position

NICVA believes that it would be more prudent to ask a charity in the first instance, if they have the appropriate data protection policies and procedures in place to meet data protection laws. This could prove to be more helpful to charities as they are being prompted to look into adopting data protection policies in the same way that many charities have done with the question on safeguarding in the charity application.

1.2 Fundraising

The Commission is proposing to include a question asking charities if they use a commercial fundraising partner.  In the rationale for this the Commission outlines

“that the commercial fundraising partner usually takes a percentage of monies raised as payment for their services. When a charity uses a commercial fundraising partner it is important that the charity has a way of ensuring the commercial partner adheres to fundraising and data protection standards.” 

NICVA position

NICVA does not believe that this one question alone will achieve the objective as outlined above.  NICVA believes that there should be additional questions if they answer yes to the proposed question, for example, is there a written contract or agreement which covers  the financial arrangements, fundraising and data protection standards? 

1.3 Governance of the charity

The Commission is proposing to ask ‘What is your charity’s quorum?’ on both the AMR and on the registration application.

NICVA position

NICVA agrees that including this question should hopefully prompt charities to review their governing document.  Any prompt like this is a good reminder for all charities about the governance arrangements that are outlined in their governing document.  

1.4 Spending on charitable purposes

The Commission is proposing to include a question which would require charities, that prepare receipts and payments account, to provide information on the percentage of funds spent in furtherance of their charitable purposes. This is already a requirement for accrual accounts. 

The Commission states that:

“research indicates that the percentage of charitable funds which are spent by charities on activities directly related to meeting their purposes, is a key driver of public confidence in the sector.”

The Commission recognises that:

“the public do not always have access to reliable information about the complexity of running many modern charities. Or that a well-run charity relies on skilled staff and appropriate backroom processes, all of which must be paid for from charitable funds.” 

NICVA position

NICVA is concerned that the inclusion of this question would only encourage further misunderstanding among the public.

NICVA would point out that the ‘penny in the pound’ analysis has not been a fair or true measure of how total money is spent on delivering charitable purposes.  There have been examples over the years when the media has homed in on this, not fully understanding charity finance, and have portrayed charities with admin costs or fundraising costs as somehow doing something wrong.  Take the very misleading report from the True and Fair Foundation which was carried by mainstream media as an example in point.

What is more important than the ‘penny in the pound analysis’, is the impact which a charity makes. The Commission should be exploring ways to encourage charities to demonstrate their impact better.  This would be more helpful to both the public and the charities. 

PART 2:  New or expanded questions on the charity registration application

The Commission is proposing to add new or expanded questions on safeguarding, related parties and classifications

2.1  New and expanded questions on safeguarding:

  1. Who generally delivers services to users?
  2. Are all staff/volunteers, who undertake regulated activity, AccessNI cleared?
  3. How does your organisation work directly with vulnerable adults to provide a regulated activity?
  4. Does your organisation provide services to beneficiaries overseas?
  5. Are beneficiaries predominantly located overseas?
  6. Does your organisation fund overseas projects or organisations?
  7. Does your organisation send volunteers or trustees abroad to verify activities/project spend?
  8. Does your organisation have appropriate safeguarding policies and procedures in place to enable it to carry out work with this group of people?

NICVA position

NICVA believes that the Commission would need to include an explanation of what regulated activity is and also what it means by Access NI cleared.

Not every charity that works with children or vulnerable adults does so in a regulated activity. There would need to be a question before Qs 2 and 3 asking if the charity is working with children and or vulnerable adults under  a regulated activity and then these same questions should be a drop down if they answer yes to that. 

Q8 could easily get misunderstood as referring to charities working overseas, or is it meant to?  Q8 should be given more prominence and should be one of the first questions asked on this.   For the purposes of clarity, it would be more helpful to say which group of people is actually meant in Q8, if it’s the beneficiaries then keep the same language.

2.2 New questions on assets, payments and loans, and related parties:

The Commission is proposing to ask the same questions that it asks on the AMR in relation to payments to trustees and connected persons on the charity registration application.  Please see attached document for full list of questions.

NICVA position

NICVA agrees that it makes sense for the Commission to ask these questions at the point of registration. 

2.3 New and expanded questions on classifications

The Commission is proposing to add additional questions to the charitable purpose classification section to help charities explain how and who they help under a given charitable purpose.  Please see the Commissions’ full list of proposed questions for details.

NICVA position

NICVA agrees with the Commission that these additional questions should help ease confusion around answering questions in this section of the application. 

2.4 Mandatory question on trustees’ details

The Commission is proposing that charities must provide an email address and a mobile phone number for each trustee in addition to the other personal details that they must provide.  The rationale for this is that the Commission would be able to contact the trustees by text or email to remind them that their annual monitoring return is due.  This information would be collected at application and would need to be verified when the annual monitoring return is completed. 

NICVA position

NICVA agrees that it would be helpful for the Commission to be able to contact trustees individually for this purpose as it should help the charity to file their accounts and reports on time.  However we would be concerned that it is requiring trustees who do not have a mobile phone or an email address to provide someone else’s details for this.  Is it feasible or practical that the charity in reality could include the same mobile and email for all the trustees?

Regarding the annual monitoring return (AMR), there isn’t the opportunity currently (we don’t think) to create a draft annual return before a charity submits it.  Being able to create a draft would be helpful so that the person completing it could send it to all the trustees before submitting it to the Commission, in the same way the registration application can be saved in draft, minus the trustees’ personal details.   This would ensure that all trustees could see exactly what is being filed as not all information that is included appears on the public register.   

Currently, once the AMR is submitted a copy of the completed return is sent to the main charity contact, this includes all of the trustees’ personal details including the D.O.B.  NICVA believes that in the interests of helping charities to protect personal data, this copy of the AMR, and any draft,  should only include the trustee’s names and not their other personal details in case this is shared with others.'s picture
by Denise Copeland

Governance and Charity Advice Manager

[email protected]

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