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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.

Download CCNI PBR1 The public benefit requirement PDF (711.6 KB)

Download CCNI PBG Public benefit glossary 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.

Download Registering as a charity in Northern Ireland guidance 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: 

Download CCNI PBSD01 The prevention or relief of poverty PDF (691.8 KB)

Download CCNI PBSD02 The advancement of education PDF (418.2 KB)

Download CCNI PBSD03 The advancement of religion PDF (434 KB)

Download CCNI PBSD04 The advancement of health or the saving of lives PDF (518.1 KB)

Download CCNI PBSD05 The advancement of citizenship or community development PDF (601.6 KB)

Download CCNI EG055 Rural or urban regeneration guidance PDF (537.9 KB)

Download CCNI PBSD06 The advancement of the arts culture heritage or science PDF (410.7 KB)

Download CCNI PBSD07 The advancement of amateur sport PDF (509.1 KB)

Download CCNI PBSD08 The advancement of human rights conflict resolution etc PDF (405 KB)

Download CCNI PBSD11 The advancement of animal welfare PDF (575.2 KB)

Download CCNI PBSD10 The relief of those in need PDF (502.7 KB)

Download CCNI PBSD09 The advancement of environmental protection or improvement 20131128 PDF (421.6 KB)

Download CCNI PBSD12 Any other purpose PDF (568.5 KB)