Is your organisation carrying out different activities as a result of the coronavirus?

2 Apr 2020 Denise Copeland    Last updated: 6 Apr 2020

Many voluntary organisations are helping out with the impact of the coronavirus but are they restricted by their own governing document from doing so? 

Check your Objects clause

If you're planning new activities, outside of your usual operations, then you should check that you are permitted by your governing document (constitution, trust deed, articles of association) to do so. 

Most governing documents have an Objects clause which states what the organisation is set up to achieve, who will benefit and the geographical area which they will operate in.  For charitable organisations the Objects are often referred to as the charitable purposes.

Charity Commission guidance

The Charity Commission has issued important guidance on charitable purposes that all charities should read. It would also be important for non-charities such as sports clubs and CICs with stated Objects, as the principle is still the same, that is, you should operate within your stated Objects.  

The Commission has highlighted some Objects that might already allow charities to offer support: 

  • the relief of poverty
  • the relief of need hardship or distress
  • the relief of the elderly
  • the advancement of education or advancement in life of young people
  • the advancement of health

The guidance also gives examples of charities with other Objects which may be able to adapt and respond to the current crisis either directly or indirectly, for example:

"a charity with an Object to advance religion may be able to offer support as part of its pastoral work. An arts charity might help relieve isolation through its online work.

Your charity may also have a general Object that allows you to act for any charitable purposes, or an Object that allows you to support the general benefit of a local area."

You will also need to check if your geographical area is restricted within your Objects and also if you have a specific class of beneficiary, for example, people of a certain age or people with a particular disability or need.  

Do you need to change your Objects clause?

You may be able to amend your Objects to permit you to carry out the activities that are currently outside of your Objects.  Your governing document usually outlines who has the power to make alterations, sometimes its the Trustees but for unincorporated associations and companies it is usually the members. 

Charitable companies must get prior written consent from the Charity Commission before changes are made to their Objects clause. The Commission has detailed guidance on changing your charity's governing document. 

The Commission advises that Trustees who are considering changing their Objects should first carefully consider: 

  • whether there are other charities that may be better placed to respond than yours.
  • the wider and longer-term impacts if you use your charity’s money for purposes other than those for which it was raised. Your existing beneficiaries - whose needs may be less pressing but no less deserving - may also lose out

Protect yourselves and others

In the rush to help out and respond to the needs of others, make sure your organisation is protected which should help limit the liability for the Trustees and the organisation.  

Make sure that your organisation has the appropriate insurance cover if you are taking on new activities - talk to your insurance company if you are not sure.   

If you haven't already done so, carry out risk assessments on the activities so that you can easily identify what control measures you have in place, including safeguarding, social distancing and infection conrol. 

Volunteer Now has produced a template risk assessment including control measures which can be downloaded from the following link along with other very important guidance on volunteering during this coronavirus crisis

www.volunteernow.co.uk/publication/?search=&p_category=54

Further information 

If you are unsure if your Objects clause covers your new activities or if you want help in amending your governing document, please contact Denise or Donna at [email protected] or call us on 028 9087 7777. 

 

denise.copeland@nicva.org's picture
by Denise Copeland

Governance and Charity Advice Manager

[email protected]

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