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Charitable aims

There are around 164,000 registered charities in the UK. These charities are supported by individual donations, government, corporations and around 8,800 grant-making foundations (ACF, 2007). The majority of grant-making foundations are registered charities and will only fund other registered charities. There is a growing number of foundations that will now support organisations that are not registered charities, but only if the work itself is charitable in nature rather than political.

What are registered charities?

A registered charity is an organisation that has registered with the Charity Commission. Once registered, they have a responsibility to follow certain rules and to submit an annual report.

To register as a charity you must have only ‘charitable purposes’ (see below). You cannot have some purposes that are charitable and some that are not. You cannot register as a charity if you have a political purpose, which is “any purpose directed at furthering the interests of any political party, or securing or opposing a change in the law, policy or decisions either in this country or abroad”. However, a charity can carry out ‘political activity’ (eg campaign for a change in the law, policy or decisions) if it helps them achieve their charitable purposes. It may also carry out campaigning activities if this clearly is a means of furthering its charitable purposes. Campaigning is described as “awareness-raising and efforts to educate or involve the public by mobilising their support on a particular issue, or to influence or change public attitudes”. There is more information on this in the guide ‘Speaking out: guidance on campaigning and political activity by charities‘.

  • Political purpose: any purpose directed at furthering the interests of any political party, or securing or opposing a change in the law, policy or decisions either in this country or abroad
  • Political activity: activity by a charity which is aimed at securing, or opposing, any change in the law or in the policy or decisions of central government, local authorities or other public bodies, whether in this country or abroad.
  • Campaigning: awareness-raising and to efforts to educate or involve the public by mobilising their support on a particular issue, or to influence or change public attitudes. It also uses it to refer to campaigning activity which aims to ensure that existing laws are observed.

Why become a charity?

Many organisations register as a charity because it means they can get tax relief, including being able to claim Gift Aid on donations (you can claim back 25p every time an individual donates £1). As a registered charity you can also apply to many more foundations for support, which is a major reason why organisations take this route. Many people also believe that registered charities are more credible and therefore are more likely to donate to charities. This often applies to company donations too.

What is a charitable purpose/ aim?

There is a list of 13 headings that a purpose must fall under to be a charitable purpose. These are:

  1. The prevention or relief of poverty
  2. The advancement of education
  3. The advancement of religion
  4. The advancement of health or the saving of lives
  5. The advancement of citizenship or community development
  6. The advancement of the arts, culture, heritage or science
  7. The advancement of amateur sport
  8. The advancement of human rights, conflict resolution or reconciliation or the promotion of religious or racial harmony or equality and diversity
  9. The advancement of environmental protection or improvement
  10. The relief of those in need, by reason of youth, age, ill-health, disability, financial hardship or other disadvantage
  11. The advancement of animal welfare
  12. The promotion of the efficiency of the armed forces of the Crown, or of the efficiency of the police, fire and rescue services or ambulance services
  13. Any other purposes currently recognised as charitable or which can be recognised as charitable by analogy to, or within the spirit of, purposes falling within (a) to (l) or any other purpose recognised as charitable under the law of England and Wales

The government also gives examples of charitable objects. A charity’s objects are a statement of its purposes. Some example objects are below:

  1. To relieve poverty [or financial hardship] among refugees, asylum seekers, migrant workers and their dependants living in [insert geographical area] by providing interpreting/translating/advocacy/ health/housing advice and education.
  2. To assist in such ways as the charity trustees think fit any charity in [place] whose aims include advancing education of persons under the age of 25 years by developing their mental, physical and moral capabilities through leisure time activities.
  3. The relief of unemployment for the benefit of the public in such ways as may be thought fit, including assistance to find employment.
  4. Promoting knowledge and mutual understanding and respect of the beliefs and practices of different religious faiths.
  5. The elimination of discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, disability , sexual orientation or religion.
  6. Advancing education and raising awareness in equality and diversity.
  7. To promote human rights (as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent United Nations conventions and declarations) throughout the world by research into human rights issues and obtaining redress for the victims of human rights abuse.
  8. The relief of the physical and mental sickness of persons in need by reason of addiction to [substance], in particular by the provision of counselling and support.
  9. To promote for the benefit of the public the conservation protection and improvement of the physical and natural environment [by promoting biological diversity]
  10. To promote social inclusion for the public benefit by preventing people from becoming socially excluded, relieving the needs of those people who are socially excluded and assisting them to integrate into society.

Edge Fund and charities

If an organisation is a registered charity or they only have charitable aims (ie the aims are similar to those listed above), then it can apply for funding to many foundations (see: other funders). There are thousands of charitable foundations in the UK. Organisations with more political aims only have a handful of options, such as Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, Andrew Wainwright Reform Trust, Network for Social Change, Lush and XminY. For this reason, we don’t often fund registered charities or other organisations that only have charitable aims. However, we do also recognise that whilst an organisation might be eligible for support elsewhere they might be unlikely to get that support due to other factors, such as discrimination, lack of fundraising experience or being a very new or informal group.

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