How to choose a charity name

Choose a unique name that people will remember when they want to make a donation or to volunteer.

Applies to England and Wales

Charity names

Your charity’s main name is its official name. Your charity may also have a working name, which is a name used to identify your charity and under which the activities of your charity are carried out. For example:

  • Comic Relief is the working name for the charity, Charity Projects
  • The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children is known as the NSPCC

Not all charities have working names.

Where this guidance refers to your charity’s name, we mean both main and working name.

Requirements for all charity names

Your charity’s name must not:

  • be the same as or too similar to an existing charity’s main or working name
  • use words you do not have permission to use, for example famous names
  • use offensive words or acronyms
  • be misleading, for example suggesting the charity does something that it does not
  • break intellectual property rules (this includes the use of trade marks or trade names)

Search the register of charities to check whether your proposed name is the same as or too similar to the name of a registered charity.

Unregistered charities won’t appear in the register so you should also search the internet or make other reasonable inquiries to check for similarity with the names of other charities and organisations.

The Charity Commission may direct you to change a main name or stop using a working name that is not suitable because it is too similar to another charity’s name, or because it is offensive or misleading.

If we make a direction requiring your charity to choose a different main name, we can delay registration of your charity and, if necessary, take regulatory action.

Words all charities need permission to use in a name

You need evidence that you have permission to use:

  • the name of a famous person or character
  • the name of a famous or copyrighted work, such as a book or a piece of music
  • trade marks, such as Olympic or Paralympic
  • ‘Royal’ words, such as King, Queen, Prince, Her or His Majesty, or Windsor

Applying to register your charity

Include any working names your charity uses, or will use.

Include translations of any non-English words in any main or working name.

We cannot guarantee, reserve or suggest a name.

Additional requirements for names of charitable incorporated organisations (CIOs)

All CIOs must get Companies House approval to use certain sensitive words in their main or working name. For a list of sensitive words, read Companies House guidance.

You will also need Companies House approval if you are planning to change the main or working name of your CIO to include a sensitive word.

You do not need Companies House approval if the only sensitive words in your CIO name are:

  • charity
  • charitable
  • association
  • foundation
  • trust

If you need approval from Companies House to use a sensitive word or you are not sure whether a word you want to use is sensitive, email Use ‘CIO’ in the subject line and explain why you want to use the sensitive word.

Some sensitive words will also require a Statement of Non-Objection from another government department. Read the guidance from Companies House to check if this applies to you. For example, if you want to use the word ‘Assurance’ in your name, you will need a Statement of Non-Objection from the Financial Conduct Authority. Send this statement to Companies House when you ask for approval of your CIO name.

Additional requirements for names of charitable companies

You can use the words ‘charity’, ‘charities’ or ‘charitable’ in your charitable company’s main or working name but you will need approval from the Charity Commission before you can register with Companies House.

To request Charity Commission approval, when you apply to register as a charity let the Charity Commission know that you require a Statement of Non-Objection confirming that you are allowed to use these words in your main or working name. You will need to provide this statement when you register with Companies House.

If your charitable company is already registered with the Charity Commission, you do not need a Statement of Non-Objection if you want to change your name to include a sensitive word.

Disputes over a main or working name

You should resolve any disputes, between trustees or with a different charity, over the proposal to adopt or change your charity’s name before you adopt a name, apply to register your charity, or change a name.

We will only get involved if:

  • we consider that a charity’s name does not comply with the ‘Requirements for all charity names’ section above, and
  • there is a risk that the name will cause confusion, detriment or harm, such as an impact on donations to an existing charity with a similar name

Supporting information

If your charity is an existing charity and you are considering changing your main or working name, additional guidance is available:

Published 23 May 2013
Last updated 14 June 2023 + show all updates
  1. Guidance updated to reflect changes introduced by the Charities Act 2022.

  2. We have added information on rules on sensitive words in the names of charitable incorporated organisations (CIOs)

  3. First published.