Is a new charity the best way forward?
Depending on why you want to set up a new charity and what you want to achieve, there may be other, and better, ways of achieving your aims.
The following examples are situations where setting up a new charity may not always be the best option:
- I want to commemorate someone by setting up a charity in their name.
- I want to do something in response to a national or international disaster
- I am applying for lottery money and need to set up a registered charity.
- I want to set up a charity to assist a specific person suffering from a (rare) disease/disorder.
- I have been personally touched by a particular issue in my life and I want to help others in that situation.
- I want to undertake something novel or pursue an existing charitable purpose in a different way.
- I want to make a difference in society by pursuing a political aim, such as seeking a change in the law in the UK or overseas.
If your reasons for setting up a new charity are different to those outlined above, you should consider whether there are existing charities with the same purposes and activities as yours.
Instead of setting up a new charity, think about creating a separate, named fund within an existing charity; this may be just as effective as creating a new charity. You will be able to look for existing charities on the register of charities using the charity register search button at the bottom fof this page.
Before setting up a new charitable appeal fund, we advise you to read the guidance produced by the Charity Commssion for England and Wales, Charities: disaster and emergency appeals (external link).
Instead of setting up a new charity, consider offering money or services to an existing charity, such as the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) (external link) for example.
Organisations do not have to be registered charities to be accepted for a lottery grant.
There are many different lottery grants distributors and each have their own grant eligibility requirements. For more information visit:
- The Big Lottery Fund (external link) for lottery grants specifically for charities, voluntary and community groups
- National Lottery Good Causes (external link) for information on all lottery distributors (or phone 0845 2750000)
In general, it is not charitable to set up a charity for the benefit of a specific named individual or individuals. To be charitable, you would therefore need to define the people who can benefit from your organisation more widely.
Alternatively, you can set up a non-charitable trust fund to benefit the named individual(s) or join forces with an existing charity that is already set up to benefit sufferers of, and/or carrying out research into, the particular (rare) disease/disorder.
Instead of setting up a new charity, consider offering your services to, or working collaboratively with, an existing charity. You will be able to look for existing charities doing similar charitable work in your area on the register of charities using the charity register search button at the bottom of this page
Alternatively, you might consider setting up a named fund or named trust. This is a simple system similar to setting up a charitable trust. You can put money into the trust account, give it a name and specify what charitable purposes the money can be used for. To do this you must link into a community foundation which will manage the administration and distribution of funds and monitor the legal, financial and reporting procedures on your behalf. The Community Foundation for Northern Ireland (external link) has experience of doing this locally and would be able to offer advice to you. The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) (external link) offers a similar system called a Managed Trust Account.
We want to encourage innovation. We therefore take a constructive and imaginative approach to our consideration of novel charitable purposes and new ways of achieving existing charitable aims.
Before setting up a new charity, think about whether what you wish to do will operate effectively within the constraints of charity law. If not, you may need to find an alternative to setting up a charity, such as setting up a non-charitable not-for-profit organisation (perhaps using the new Charitable Incorporated Company format).
Charities in Northern Ireland cannot be established for a political purpose, and must never support political parties or candidates for election. However, there are some circumstances in which a charity can legitimately engage in campaigning and political activity to influence public policy but this must only be in the context of supporting the delivery of its charitable purposes.
We advise anyone who is thinking about setting up a new charity to carry out work that is likely to be of a political nature to read our Charities and politics guidance.
You cannot set up a charity with a political purpose. If you wish to pursue a political aim you will need to find an alternative to setting up a charity, such as setting up a non-charitable campaigning body or pressure group.