Guidance

Display of trustee legal names on the charity register

How to apply to remove a trustee’s legal name from public display on the charity register in England and Wales (known as a dispensation).

Changes to public display names on the register

From the 1 April 2019 the name of all charity trustees will be displayed to the public on the charity register, unless a dispensation has been granted.

In special circumstances, we can prevent a trustee’s name from being made public on the charity register. This is known as granting a dispensation.

We can grant a dispensation if displaying an individual’s name could put the relevant person or people in personal danger. Personal danger may include danger to mental as well as physical health.

Dispensations will not be granted automatically. Trustees or charities currently using public display names must apply for a dispensation by the 1 March 2019 for the application to be considered before the 1 April 2019.

If a trustee or charity has already been granted a dispensation for names not to be displayed to the public, this will remain in place. There is no need to apply for a dispensation again.

Dispensations are granted either to an individual trustee, or to a whole trustee board.

Why trustee names are displayed on the charity register

As part of keeping your charity information up to date on the register you must provide the legal name and other details for all your trustees. Only trustee names are displayed to the public on the register, no other personal details are displayed, unless their address is provided as the charity public address.

The Charity Commission must maintain a register of charities (under section 29 of the Charities Act 2011). We also make the register available to the public under section 38 of the same Act.

Displaying a trustee’s name to the public is compliant with the Charities Act 2011 and data protection law.

This is because charity trusteeship is a serious responsibility. Trustees have independent control over, and legal responsibility for, a charity’s management and administration. They must be accountable to the public.

Who can apply for a dispensation

We will accept a request for a dispensation from:

  • a charity (on behalf of an individual, or its whole trustee board)
  • a charity trustee

We accept applications for individual and whole board dispensations, though the latter is less common. For an individual trustee dispensation, it will be the individual’s circumstances that will need to be considered which may or may not relate to the charity itself.

For a whole board dispensation our considerations will relate to why or how being a trustee of that particular charity places any trustee of that charity in personal danger.

Dispensations cannot usually be granted where the information is public on the Companies House register, or where trustees themselves have not taken steps to protect their own anonymity.

How to apply for a dispensation

Please read the dispensation privacy notice before applying.

To apply for a dispensation email trusteedispensations@charitycommission.gsi.gov.uk and provide the following information:

  1. The name of the person(s) applying for a dispensation
  2. The name and registered number of the charity or charities the request relates to. If someone is a trustee of several charities, you need to list all the charities and registered numbers
  3. Reason(s) why displaying the persons legal name to the public could put people in personal danger
  4. Any further information or evidence to demonstrate the risk of personal danger

If the above information is not provided we cannot make a decision and the request will be rejected. We assess applications on a case-by-case basis.

We aim to respond to you within 30 working days, but this may not be the final decision. If your application requires urgent attention, you should clearly state this in your email.

An application for dispensation can be made at any time, including at registration of the charity. If you are registering a charity you can apply for a dispensation as part of your online application.

When an unincorporated charity with dispensations applies to incorporate, any dispensation held is subject to a new decision based on request from the applicants.

But, if Companies House displays the legal name of trustees as directors, the Charity Commission will not usually grant a dispensation.

Dispensation reviews

Once granted, individual dispensations are reviewed annually and dispensations granted to whole trustee boards are reviewed every 5 years. Any dispensation can be reviewed earlier if a complaint is received by the Charity Commission.

How we make a dispensation decision

The application must clearly explain why displaying a legal name to the public would put people in personal danger.

Example case 1

A trustee does not want to have their legal name displayed to the public. They want to remain anonymous online. They will not be put in personal danger if their name is displayed, and cannot provide evidence to support their application.

In this case a dispensation will not be approved.

Example case 2

A trustee who is also a police officer has received threats in the course of their work. They have an unusual name and are easily identifiable. The charity holds frequent fundraising events that the trustee attends, and there are concerns of being in personal danger from threats received.

In this case it is likely a dispensation will be approved.

Example case 3

A prevent domestic abuse charity which works with women seeking to escape domestic violence, has credible concerns that if their trustees names are put into the public domain their trustees will be at risk of physical harm.

In this case it is likely a dispensation will be approved.

Display of a charity contact addresses

Every charity needs to provide a contact address which is displayed to the public. A charity must consider which address would be suitable for display.

The address shown to the public does not need to be the physical location of the charity, but must be an address which is administered by the charity in respect of receiving communications in a timely manner.

As the address does not need to be the physical location of the charity, we do not as a general rule provide dispensations for charity addresses.

Names displayed in charity accounts and trustees’ annual reports

Your charity’s accounts and trustees’ annual report will be available to the public on the register. If any trustees have been granted a dispensation, you do not need to include the information to which the dispensation applies in your annual report and accounts.

When you submit your annual report and accounts you should show that there is information you have permission to withhold. For example, a trustee with a dispensation should be shown as:

XX - Trustee with a dispensation

It is your responsibility to do this. We will not remove information from your charity’s annual report and accounts before it is made available to the public online. You can read more about this in the annual return privacy notice.

Names displayed in governing documents

New charities

When you submit your governing document during the registration process, you must send it to us completed in full showing all relevant trustee data, even if you are requesting a dispensation.

Registered charities

Do not change and upload a governing document using our digital service until you have checked it will not show information that is covered by a dispensation.

If you are updating your governing document and it contains information to which a dispensation applies, contact us for advice first.

You should:

  • explain you have been told you cannot use the digital service to update your governing document
  • confirm who has a valid dispensation at your charity
  • provide a complete copy of the new governing document and a copy the governing document with the relevant details removed

We will make sure that the relevant names do not appear to the public. If you do not let us know, the governing document and any trustee names within it will be available to the public.

Published 2 September 2014
Last updated 8 November 2018 + show all updates
  1. Added information about changes to public display names on the charity register. The process for applying for a dispensation has also been updated.
  2. First published.