Are you thinking of setting up a new charity? Or do you need advice on how your charity should be run? VAS can offer free advice and support.
Setting up a Charity
Typically, a group of people set up a charity when they have identified a need that is currently not being met. Often, this will be a cause that they are passionate about, because they have experienced the problem directly, or know someone who has.
Setting up a charity involves several considerations, right at the start before you do anything. For example, you need to be able to answer the following:
- Is the purpose charitable and for the public benefit? This is a strictly defined term, and not every cause will fall under the legal definition of charitable.
- What sort of structure should your charity have? Should it be steered by a large membership which anyone can join, or by the Trustees alone? Do you need to register with the Charity Commission?
- Do you have at least three Trustees, and are they clear on their roles and responsibilities?
- Do you have a Governing Document (also known as a constitution) with clear rules around how your charity should be run?
These are some of the questions you will need to be able to answer. If you are new to the charity sector, this might all seem a bit complicated. Our fact sheets below should help to clear up the confusion. We also encourage you to get in touch with us for free advice specific to your charity. We can support you with one-to-one advice and guidance. Just send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, briefly outlining who you are (e.g. a registered charity or new group), and what you need help with. Alternatively, call us on 01793 538398 for a chat.
The Role of Trustees
Trustees are unpaid volunteers who have overall control of a charity, ensuring that it continues to serve the cause or people it was set up to support. A charity’s Board of Trustees meets regularly to oversee the work of the charity and ensure it is accountable and legally compliant.
- Trustee Handbook
This document was produced by the Swindon Trustee Network, and is a good starting point for understanding the role and responsibilities of a Trustee. The Handbook also offers some pointers for inducting new Trustees and running successful meetings, including AGMs.
- Trustee Skills Audit
It’s important to have a balanced Trustee Board which can bring a diverse range of skills to a charity. This simple, one page questionnaire can be used to audit your Trustees’ skill sets and identify any gaps in expertise.
Governance Fact Sheets
Whether you’re setting up a new charity or looking for guidance in running an existing one, our Governance Fact Sheets can help you to plan your next steps.
- Starting a New Group
Starting a new group can be daunting as there is a lot to consider. This document outlines the questions you will need to answer, and what to do next to get your organisation set up.
- Why You Need to Register as a Charity
Registering with the Charity Commission is a legal obligation once your annual income reaches £5,000. This should not be seen as a burden however, as there are many benefits to registration which will help your charity to grow – including exemption and relief from certain taxes, new funding opportunities, and impoving your credibility.
- Writing Your Constitution
A charity’s Governing Document (or constitution) is its rulebook. For registered charities, having a Governing Document is a legal requirement. Even if it’s not an obligation for your charity, it’s still a good idea to produce one.
- Management Committee (Trustees)
A charity’s Management Committee (its Trustees) are a group of volunteers who have ultimate responsibility for the organisation. They take the major decisions for how the charity is run, on issues such as finance and legal compliance.
- Annual General Meeting (AGM) Guide
The Annual General Meeting (AGM) is where the Trustees report on the charity’s activities and finances in the year. New Trustees and officers may be elected, and resolutions (changes to the Governing Document) proposed and voted on.
There are many different types of insurance that a charity may be required to have, such as Employers’ Liability Insurance. Others may not be applicable to your organisation, such as Vehicle Insurance. This document outlines the main types of insurance you might be required to have in place.
- Business Planning
Having a Business Plan is not a legal requirement, but is a very good idea as it will help you plan for the future. A business plan should clearly state your aims and objectives, which will help you to draw up a workplan.
- Typical Voluntary Sector Policies
Along with your Governing Document, you will need Policies which go into more detail about specific areas of your organisation’s work, such as Data Protection, Financial Procedures, and Flexible Working. This document lists the most common policies for charitable organisations.
- The Charity Commission
The Charity Commission is the non-ministerial government department that registers and regulates charities in England and Wales.
- NCVO – Governance
NCVO champions the voluntary sector and volunteering. They provide advice and information on governance through events and online training courses.
- Sandy Adirondack
Sandy Adirondack is a freelance management consultant and trainer working exclusively in the voluntary/not-for-profit sector. Her site includes a legal update service which will help your organisation keep up with changes in the law.
- VolResource – Governance
VolResource aims to provide practical resources for people involved in charities, voluntary or community organisations, including advice on governance.
- The Russell-Cooke Voluntary Sector Legal Handbook
This handbook is a single, comprehensive reference guide covering everything that the law and legislation requires of charities and not-for-profits. Copies are available for browsing at the VAS and SAASC buildings.