Policy paper

How we approve changes to charities

How the Charity Commission gives charities legal consent to change the way they work so they can continue to operate effectively.

Applies to England and Wales



About schemes and orders

A ‘scheme’ or ‘order’ is how the Charity Commission gives its legal consent to a charity making a change that its trustees can’t make themselves. This is usually because:

  • the proposed change is to the charity’s aims (its ‘objects’)
  • the governing document itself doesn’t allow the proposed change to be made

In these circumstances the commission needs to become involved to make sure the charity can continue to operate within an effective legal, accounting and governance framework. Normally it can make an order to give trustees the powers they need.

In some situations where the governing document doesn’t allow such a change the commission can do this through a ‘scheme’ - a legal document which gives formal consent to amend, replace or amplify a charity’s governing document.

When the commission makes schemes

Usually, the commission makes schemes for one or more of the following reasons:

  • to modernise or widen a charity’s objects
  • to merge two or more charities
  • to replace a governing document that is inadequate or out of date with modern administrative methods
  • to give the trustees new powers or authorise specific transactions (eg sale of land) which are in the best interests of the charity

Trustees should discuss their needs with the commission and only request a scheme once it’s agreed that this is the best approach. Formal applications for schemes are normally made by trustees acting as a body. The commission will decide on the terms of the scheme in consultation with the trustees and, where appropriate, other people who may be affected by it.

Read more information on schemes, including a guide to the process of applying for a scheme and how schemes come into effect.

Changing your charity’s governing document (CC36)

Where the commission publicises proposed schemes

In some cases the commission might decide that a proposed scheme needs to be publicised before it makes the scheme. The commission does this in certain circumstances where it thinks it is necessary to invite comments or representations from the public. Where the commission gives public notice, it will also post a copy of the draft scheme on the website.

Whether or not public notice is given before the commission makes a scheme, all schemes that have been made (‘sealed’) in the last three months will be available to view.

How to make a comment or representation about a scheme

Published 23 May 2013