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The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland
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The public benefit requirement

Public benefit is at the heart of what it means to be a charity. The public benefit requirement is defined in the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008 (as amended) and states that to be a charity in Northern Ireland an organisation:

  • must have purposes which fall under one of 12 descriptions of purposes listed in the Charities Act and
  • the purposes must be for the public benefit.

The public benefit requirement: statutory guidance, available below, is aimed at promoting awareness and understanding of the public benefit requirement for any organisation wishing to be recognised as a charity in Northern Ireland. The guidance is essential to all charities. You must consider this guidance when:

  • starting a charity
  • applying to register for charitable status
  • running your charity
  • reporting annually on your activities in pursuing your purposes.

Under the Charities Act, charity trustees must have regard to the public benefit statutory guidance produced by the Commission. This means charity trustees must be able to show that they are aware of the guidance and that they have taken it into account in making a decision where the guidance is relevant.

You can read or download The public benefit requirement as well as the accompanying glossary using the links below. You may also be interested in the Commission's frequently asked questions on public benefit.

CCNI PBR1 The public benefit requirement

Download PDF (711.6 KB)

CCNI PBG Public benefit glossary

Download PDF (598.6 KB)


In addition to this statutory guidance, the Commission has produced Registering as a charity in Northern Ireland, new guidance aimed at setting out the legal requirements, providing best practice advice and supporting organisations in applying to register as a Northern Ireland charity.

CCNI EG016 Registering as a charity in Northern Ireland guidance

Download PDF (1 MB)


The Commission has also produced individual supporting documents which provide further information on the 12 charitable purposes detailed in the Charities Act: 

CCNI PBSD01 The prevention or relief of poverty

Download PDF (691.8 KB)

CCNI PBSD02 The advancement of education

Download PDF (418.2 KB)

CCNI PBSD03 The advancement of religion

Download PDF (434 KB)

CCNI PBSD04 The advancement of health or the saving of lives

Download PDF (518.1 KB)

CCNI PBSD05 The advancement of citizenship or community development

Download PDF (601.6 KB)

CCNI EG055 Rural or urban regeneration guidance

Download PDF (537.9 KB)

CCNI PBSD06 The advancement of the arts culture heritage or science

Download PDF (410.7 KB)

CCNI PBSD07 The advancement of amateur sport

Download PDF (509.1 KB)

CCNI PBSD08 The advancement of human rights conflict resolution etc

Download PDF (405 KB)

CCNI PBSD11 The advancement of animal welfare

Download PDF (575.2 KB)

CCNI PBSD10 The relief of those in need

Download PDF (502.7 KB)

CCNI PBSD09 The advancement of environmental protection or improvement 20131128

Download PDF (421.6 KB)

CCNI PBSD12 Any other purpose

Download PDF (568.5 KB)