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The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland
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Requesting a scheme

Sometimes charities need to adapt the way they operate to reflect changes in society or the context in which they work.

Some charities may have the power in their governing document to make changes, while others may be able to use specific provisions set out in the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008 (as amended). For example:

  • all charitable companies can amend their articles of association, however, there are certain regulated alterations which require our approval. Further information can be found in our guidance Consents for charitable companies.
  • some unincorporated charities may change their governing document even if there is no power to do so in their governing document by using specific provisions in the Charities Act. Further information can be found in our guidance New powers for unincorporated organisations.

Otherwise, you will need to apply to the Commission to request a scheme. A scheme is a legal document, made by the Commission, which changes, replaces or extends the trusts of a charity.

An example of when a scheme would have to be made is when there is a gift to an educational society which no longer exists. Using a scheme, the Commission may direct that the fund is used to further education in another way, for example, in the purchase of prizes or to further research.

Under section 26 of the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008, the Commission can make a scheme to change the purposes of a charity where the current purposes:

  • can no longer be carried out, or not in the way laid down in the governing document
  • have been fulfilled or adequately provided for in other ways, such as out of public funds
  • do not provide a use for all of the charity's income or property
  • use outdated definitions of areas, places or classes of people
  • have ceased to be charitable in law
  • have stopped being a useful way of using the funds or property, such as providing for very small payments or gifts of food or fuel to beneficiaries
  • where two or more charities with similar purposes want to merge but do not have the legal power to do so.

Where the Commission applies property for alternative purposes, it must apply the legal doctrine of cy-pres as well as ensure that the alternative takes account of the ‘spirit’ of the existing purposes and of current social and economic circumstances.

For further information, or if you have any questions, please read our guidance for charity trustees on Requesting a scheme and our requesting a scheme FAQs.  You may also be interested in our Failed legacies - cy-pres scheme or Royal Sign Manual direction? section.

Download CCNI EG026 Requesting a scheme guidance PDF (774.9 KB)

Please use our online Request a scheme: application form  to apply to the Commission to make a scheme to change, replace or extend the trusts or purposes of a charity. If you need further information, please contact us.

Request a scheme: application form

The Charity (Failed Appeals and Disclaimers) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013

The Charity (Failed Appeals and Disclaimers) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013 highlight a significant step in the Commission’s history, as the first regulations which the Commission has had the authority to make itself. The regulations came into effect on 1 July 2013.

A failed appeal occurs when an attempted appeal by a charity does not raise the target amount required, for example, an appeal to complete a particular project or to purchase a piece of equipment.

In the case of a failed appeal, the regulations state that one of two outcomes can occur.

  • Charity trustees return all donations to the original donors and explain that the appeal has failed.
  • Charity trustees can apply to the Commission for a scheme to be made to amend the original purpose(s) of the appeal to allow use of the funds raised. A scheme may also be needed when an excess of funds are donated, to allow the remainder to be used for another purpose. Donors should be informed at the outset that if the original appeal fails, their donation will be used for something similar.

A specimen form for donors to disclaim their right to have donated property returned can be found within the appendices to the regulations. A full copy of the 2013 regulations can be accessed by clicking here.

If you require the Commission to make a scheme for a failed appeal or would like further clarification or assistance, please contact us.