Change to charity registration application process
Applicants for charity registration will have 30 days in which to submit their online application, under new rules from the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland.
The policy change, which will impact on organisations wanting to register as charities from June 2019 onwards, is aimed at streamlining the Commission’s registration process.
“To support organisations keen to start their charity registration application, we’ve looked at ways we can be innovative and manage our processes so that more charities can apply. The timescale change is an example of that,” explained the Commission’s Head of Charity Services, Punam McGookin.
Under the new rules, the Commission will continue managing registration applications in tranches, with organisations in each tranche advised by the Commission one or two months in advance of when they are likely to be called forward to apply.
This will allow them to prepare in advance, including gathering information and attending a free registration workshop where they will be guided through the application process. Attending a workshop is voluntary, but is highly recommended.
The applicant will then be “called forward” by the Commission to apply for registration. They will be issued with a password and advised they have a maximum of 30 days to complete the online form.
If an application is not submitted by this deadline the organisation will be treated as having failed to apply for charity registration – a breach of the law.
Mrs McGookin continued: “Prior to the timescale change, applicants had three months to apply but were not given any advance notification and were only invited to attend a workshop within that time.
“With the timescale change, applicants will be provided with advance notification, so the impact of the change on them should be minimal. However, it means the Commission should be able to work through the list of charities waiting to start registration much quicker.
“The overall aim is that more organisations will be given an opportunity to apply for charity registration, enabling those who are keen – and ready - to be registered to do so,” she concluded.
Given the high numbers of charities in Northern Ireland, charity registration is being progressed as a managed process, with organisations called forward by the Commission to apply in tranches as resources allow.
As of 10 April 2019, there were 6,158 charities on the register of charities with a further 1,479 organisations on the list of organisations the Commission is aware of which are waiting to apply for registration.
The new application timescale will begin with 40 organisations notified this month (April) that they will be contacted by the Commission again in June, at which point they will be advised they may start their registration application. They will be encouraged to use the advance notification to prepare for their application
The Commission has produced various pieces of guidance to support organisations in applying for charity registration – a legal assessment that the applicant is a charity as defined by the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008. This guidance is available online here. A series of FAQs relating to the changed timescale are also available on the Commission’s website here.
For more information please contact Shirley Kernan, Charity Commission for Northern Ireland Communications Officer, on tel: 028 3832 0169 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors
The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland is the independent regulator of charities in Northern Ireland, established under the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008.
The register of charities is not yet complete but is a growing resource, with over 6,000 charities listed.
Working alongside the register, the Commission has published a “combined list”, which lists the names of all charities the Commission is aware of to be called forward for registration. If a charity is not yet listed on the register, then check the combined list to assure yourself the organisation is known to the Commission and will be called forward to apply in time.
Under the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008, the Commission has a general function to establish and maintain an accurate and up-to-date register of charities. The Act also places a duty on the Commission to remove from the register any institution which it no longer considers to be a charity, and any charity which has ceased to exist or does not operate.