Charity Excellence Framework
Posted 1 year ago
Wanting to register a charity is hugely commendable, but it's a big step, so you need to be sure it's the right one for you. There are a large number of options and, often, registering a charity isn't the best. Equally, if a registered charity is the right choice for you, whilst the vast majority of people opt for a CIO, it's not the only option.
If you're unsure about any of the above, you can find my free guides on how to decide what's the best option for you and to set-up and register a social enterprise or charity, including claiming Gift Aid, by clicking here.
Before You Begin
The Commission requires a very large amount of detailed information to be entered, so it's a good idea to get everything together before you start.
The system times-out after a period, but doesn't tell you and allows you to keep entering data, which you then lose when you try to save.
Download and complete the relevant governing document. You’ll need to make decisions on a range of issues, such as trustee types and numbers, the names of the 1st trustees, liability and other issues, such as postal voting.
However, the key issue is your purpose(s), which the Commission takes extremely seriously, so spend time and effort on this. You can have one or more, but these must be exclusively charitable and you can't do anything that's not included, so include anything that you might reasonably do in the near future. Fundraising is not a charitable purpose, so don't include it.
Your purposes should describe the outcomes you are seeking, how you will do this, where and who will benefit - here's guidance and some examples.
Check that your charity’s name hasn’t been used by another and is allowable, and you now also have to check this with Companies House. For CIOs, you also need to check with Companies House for sensitive names, including fund, federation, friendly society, and co-operative and anything vaguely Government(ish), regulatory or Royal.
If your name is something that might be trade marked, you may wish to check this here. For example, Golf Charity Cup is trade marked and there are 86 pages of others with 'Charity' in the title.
You will need to upload substantial information about your trustees. Aim for a minimum of 3 and maximum of 12. Complete a trustee declaration, which has to be signed by each trustee. Check that your trustees are eligible. If you work with vulnerable people, they will also have to sign that they understand their safeguarding responsibilities and you'll need DBS checks. If you need to recruit trustees, this will help you.
All The Other Material
There’s a lot of other specific information required, so read this Q&A before you begin. You will also be asked for information about the specific activities you will be undertaking, such as education, religion, research, sport and human rights.
The Commission publishes guidance on its website. However, the site is notoriously user unfriendly, so you'll need to put a bit of effort in to find what you're looking for. You can find links to most of the publications here.
You will have to upload your governing document (constitution) and trustee declaration. If you have a business plan, brochures or similar to upload, that can help too. You should upload relevant policies you have, such as conflict of interest, safeguarding, grant making etc. All uploads have to be in pdf format and no larger than 25MB.
Submitting Your Application
Register with the Commission’s online portal. There is no fee to register a charity. There are 24 screens everyone has to complete, but the system will generate additional specialist questions based on your activities. Here are the main sections everyone has to complete.
1. Introduction - lists the uploads that you (may) have to submit.
2. About Your Charity - governing document, replacing existing charity (or not), charity name and structure.
3. Classification - what areas you work in, how you deliver your services, who you do this for and where you do it.
4. Property - do you own, or have use of property and what it's used for.
5. Contact Information - for whoever is submitting, the contact at the charity and the charity organisation to include role, address, e mail, phone number and website, as applicable.
6. Regulators - select any applicable, plus HMRC Gift Aid number, if you have one. If you have a regulator, you will need to enter your regulator number
7. Finance - accounts (optional), estimated gross annual income and income year to date, bank account details (if you have one), financial year-end date, tax issues.
8. Connections - links to a trustee, or the founder, or any organisation connected to them - employment, goods/services, benefits, links to non-charitable organisations. Having links doesn't mean you won't be registered, but the Commission will be very interested in this. You need to explain how this will be managed effectively. A conflict of interest policy to upload is recommended.
9. Trustee Details - safeguarding, trustee numbers and details of individual trustees - names, addresses, e mails, phone numbers, dates of birth. Uploading a safeguarding policy is recommended, if you work with vulnerable people.
10. Declaration - attach any additional information, advise Commission of any additional information you wish them to take into account. Your certification regards accuracy and approval by all trustees. It's a criminal offence under section 60 of the Charities Act 2011 for anyone to knowingly or recklessly provide false or misleading information to the commission; this includes suppressing, concealing or destroying documents.
You won't be able to change your application once you've submitted it, so check it over before you do.
Once You've Submitted
You'll receive an e mail with a pdf copy of your application. A copy of this will also be emailed to the contact for the organisation and each trustee. Hang onto this, as it contains information you'll need to register with HMRC.
You will almost inevitably receive an e mail advising that your application will need to be considered by a specialist. This is Charity Commission speak for 'you are now in a very long queue'.
Once you get to the end of this (up to 6 months), you will almost certainly receive a long e mail asking for more information. Don't give up, because you're nearly there. Give them what they ask for and you'll receive your registration number, at which point you can begin registering with HMRC.
OMG, How Will We Get Through All That?
Im me and I’ll be happy to arrange a chat, to help you think through what you'll need to do and focus on. If you don’t want to do it yourself, I am the lowest cost provider and, if you are doing it yourself, but need some help, I'm happy to work on an hourly basis - more information on how I can help you here.
Finally, Don’t Forget HMRC Registration
Having done all that hard work, make sure you can claim those lovely tax reliefs by registering with HMRC. Last year, the sector failed to claim £600m in Gift Aid alone and that's only one of the many available.
When you're ready, read my Part 3 guide on how to register with HMRC. Here are the charitable tax reliefs you can potentially claim, with links to the resources you'll need and here's my guide to the various types of Gift Aid and how to claim these. To register, you'll need a bank account. if you don't have one, here's my guide to opening a free charity bank account.