Write your charitable purposes

Charitable purposes are the most important part of your governing document or constitution. Sometimes they are called your ‘objectives’; the words mean the same. A charity must have one or more of the purposes which have been defined in law. These include things like: relieving poverty, education, religion, protecting the environment, animal welfare, human rights and community development.

This, we promise you, is the trickiest part of the journey to registration. You need to understand the rules and get the language right. This probably means that you will have to spend some time writing, re-drafting, and writing again.

This step you will help you to set out in writing what you want to do as a charity.  Your purposes explain:

  • WHAT your charity is going to do
  • WHERE you want to do it
  • WHO will benefit
  • And HOW

Before you start, think about the following:

Think about WHAT

What is your charity set up to achieve?  Make sure that the WHAT is an allowed charitable purpose. You can find the full list of the 13 allowed charitable purposes here.

Think about WHO

A registered charity must benefit a significant section of the public (or animals). This is called ‘public benefit’.  Of course, you can specify which section of the public, like ‘those in poverty’; or ‘children with rare diseases’ (or children with a specific rare disease), or the homeless.  And you can specify which animals – elephants or tigers or dogs or cats or a rare breed. The point is, your charity must be open to anyone or any animal that fits the description of your charitable purpose. It must be public and not private.

Think about WHERE

If your purposes don’t say where you plan to operate, the assumption might be made that it will include the whole world. That might raise questions about your capacity to manage or deliver services on a worldwide basis.  It makes better sense to think about the geography in which you will operate: a town, a county, a region, a country.  If it is only a local area, it might be helpful to use wording like ‘…anywhere in the district of (enter name of your local authority area) and especially (enter name of locality).  This gives you the opportunity to expand at some later stage.

Think about the HOW

This is about what your charity will DO to tackle the problem of WHAT it was set up to achieve. Try to be as clear as you can without being too restrictive. See the QUICK TIP below.

QUICK TIP

Don’t narrow your options at this stage. For example, if you say your charity is to support children age 5-10 to develop their social skills through football, this will be all your charity can ever do. But if you say your charity supports children to develop their social skills through sport, you give your charity some room for change and growth.

We suggest that you look at examples before writing your own charitable purposes.  

Example given by the Charity Commission

For the public benefit, the relief and assistance of people in need (what) in any part of the world (where) who are the victims of war or natural disaster or catastrophe (who) by supplying them with medical aid (how).

Purposes are usually written in one or just a few sentences.  You can have additional purposes if they are directly related to the first.  

If those Charity Commission options don’t fit with what you want to do, you might find it useful to look at the objects (purposes) of charities that are already registered.  You can find these on the Charity Commission website under ‘Find a Charity’ on their home page.

  • Just type in the exact name of a charity;
  • Click on the link to that charity;
  • Click ‘charity framework’ (on the left); and there it is, under ‘objects’.

QUICK TIP

The Charity Commission provides examples of charitable objects (purposes) on its website.  If one of those describes the aims of your own charity, you can copy it. Your charity registration will take less time if you can use one of those example objects (purposes) without any alteration.

You must write your charitable purpose/s correctly or your application will be rejected.  We strongly advise you to use the standard wording suggested by the Charity Commission. That is:

  • “to advance…” or “the advancement of…”
  • “to promote…” or “the promotion of…”
  • “to provide…” or “the provision of…”
  • “to relieve…” or “the relief of…”

You can also follow the Charity Commission’s guidance on how to write charitable purposes.

Another example using two clauses

You can use more, if you wish, but make sure they are consistent with each other.  For example, if your purpose is to promote social exclusion; you can’t add a clause that says you are going to promote the well-being of stray dogs.

  • To promote social inclusion (what) in England and Wales (where) for people who are socially excluded due to financial hardship, unemployment, race, or ethnic origin (who) by helping people develop new practical and social skills (how).
  • The promotion of equality and diversity (what) for the public benefit (who) in England and Wales (where) by advancing education and raising awareness of equality and diversity (how).

Choosing a name for your charity is the fun part but don’t rush into it. Firstly, there are some rules:

  • You can’t use the same name as another charity – search the charity register to double check
  • The name of your charity shouldn’t suggest that you do something that you don’t
  • You can’t use words you don’t have permission to use, such as a trade mark or ‘Royal’
  • You can’t use words like British, unless you really do cover the whole of Britain
  • You can’t use any words which are offensive
  • You can’t register initials as your name, but you can use initials (abbreviations) as an additional name, for example, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).

Secondly, you don’t want to make a decision you later regret. You may want to avoid names that are difficult to pronounce; or a name that is patronising to your beneficiaries. Also consider our QUICK TIP below. Take your time!

QUICK TIP

Some charity names tell people immediately what they are all about e.g. The Small Charities Coalition; St Andrew’s Youth Club; Tiny Tots Playgroup, Cancer Research UK.  The advantage of these is that you don’t have to keep explaining what you do.

Other charity names leave you guessing e.g. Scope; Mencap; Centrepoint; Place2Be.  These charities often add a very short statement, after their name, to explain themselves e.g. ‘We’re Scope, the disability equality charity’.  Of course, some of the largest charities are so well known that everybody knows what they do, even if their name alone doesn’t immediately tell you e.g. Oxfam and The Prince’s Trust but we’ve all got to start somewhere… (The Small Charities Coalition might seem unimaginative but we think we think it works and clearly describes who we are and what we do!)