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Model governing documents: FAQs

Below you will find  answers to our frequently asked questions and answers on model governing documents.

If you click on a question in the list below, you will be brought to the answer for that question. Alternatively, you can scroll down to read all of the questions and answers.


Q. Is a model governing document the same as an approved governing document?

No. A model governing document is not an approved governing document.  Rather, it is a template or model for your organisation to use and, if necessary, adapt to your needs. 

If you have used a model governing document to help in drafting your own governing document, when completing the online application to register as a charity, you should not select that you have an approved governing document. 

An approved governing document is a governing document which has been agreed with a parent or sponsoring body (often an umbrella body) and by the Commission as one that is suitable for registration in advance.

Q. If we use a model governing document does this mean we will be registered as a charity with the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland?

The use of a model governing document will not impact on the Commission’s decision on whether your organisation is registered as a charity. We will always consider each application on a case-by-case basis. 

Q. Can we make changes to the model governing documents?

Yes. Some clauses or articles contain blank spaces that you will need to fill in or amend to ensure the governing document is specific to, and meets the needs of, your organisation. For example, you will need to include the purposes of your organisation.

There may be spaces between clauses or articles in the model governing documents to allow the help notes to align with the relevant clause. These spaces are not necessary when you are adopting your own governing document.

Q. How do we know which model governing document to use?

If you are setting up a charitable company, you should use the model memorandum and articles of association. If you are setting up a charitable trust, use the model trust deed. For unincorporated charitable associations, there are two model constitutions: one for small associations that have a simple structure and one for larger associations with a more complex structure, requiring additional clauses. 

There is additional guidance within each document setting out criteria for when that document should be used.

Q. How do we start using the governing document?

This will vary depending on the nature of your organisation. For example, a trust deed must be executed. This means that it needs to be signed and dated, in the presence of at least two independent witnesses, by those who are setting up the trust. Only one witness is required if that witness is a qualified solicitor with a valid practising certificate. The witnesses must then sign their name against each of those signatures and give their address.

For information relevant to your organisation, refer to section 2 of the specific model governing document.