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The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland
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Are there existing charities with the same purposes and activities?

According to estimates, there are over 7,000 charities operating in Northern Ireland. One or more of those organisations may be doing the kind of charitable work your new charity would do, and in the same area.

Many charities often find it difficult to get access to the limited funding that is available to the charitable sector and this can be a particular problem for new charities. This is because local authorities, the public and organisations who give money to charities often prefer to give to charities that they are already familiar with and which have a proven track record.

There are clear advantages to be had from a healthy mix of charities, which are constantly refreshed by new charities pursuing new activities. But, there are also big benefits of public confidence and support for charities that collaborate, rather than compete, with each other. For example, with so many charities competing for limited funds, a significant amount of charitable resource may be saved if charities pooled their resources and worked together.

Most charities are small, local organisations that rely on the unpaid help of their trustees and other volunteers. They may have similar purposes to each other but  are serving different communities. It is less likely  there will be areas of overlap and duplication or scope for cost-cutting for these charities. However, for many charities, particularly medium and larger-sized ones, joint working or merger can make for more effective use of resources in meeting the needs of their beneficiaries.

It is not our role to push particular charities towards this way of working - each charity must consider and decide what is in the best interests of their users. Nor can we refuse to register an organisation with clearly charitable objects which meets the minimum requirements for registration simply on the basis that another similar charity already exists. However, we want charities to be alive to the possibilities of working better by working together.

Before setting up a new charity we would like you to think about offering your services to, or combining with, an existing charity if there is a possibility of duplicating existing charitable work.

You will be able to look for existing charities doing similar charitable work in your area on the online register of charities using the charity register search button at the bottom of this page..

If this approach isn't for you and you wish to go ahead with opening a new charity, you next step is make sure you fully understand how a charity must operate and what constraints and legal obligations it places on you.