Guidance

How to choose a charity name

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

Main charity name

This is your official charity name.

Your charity name must not:

  • be the same as or similar to another charity
  • use words you do not have permission to use, such as trademarks or famous names
  • contain anything offensive
  • be misleading, for example suggesting the charity does something that it does not
  • break intellectual property rules

Check the names of registered charities for words you want to use. Search the internet to check other charities and organisations.

The Charity Commission will make you change a name that is not suitable.

We cannot guarantee, reserve or suggest a name.

Working or alternative charity name

As well as your main charity name, you can use:

  • abbreviations or acronyms, for example the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children uses NSPCC
  • alternative names, for example Comic Relief is a working name for Charity Projects

You must tell us about any working or alternative name your charity uses.

Names with non-English words

You must tell us the meaning of any non-English words in your charity name if you apply to register.

Words you need permission to use

You need evidence that you have permission to use:

  • any name of a famous person or character
  • the name of a famous or copyrighted work, such as a book or a piece of music
  • trademarks, such as Olympic or Paralympic
  • ‘Royal’ words, such as King, Queen, Prince, her or his Majesty, Windsor

Sensitive words in names of charitable incorporated organisations (CIOs)

If your organisation is a CIO, you need Companies House to approve the use of certain words in your name.

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

  • charity
  • charitable
  • association
  • foundation
  • trust

Read Companies House guidance on sensitive words

If you’re not sure about a word (such as using ‘bank’ in the name of a food bank), contact Companies House.

Get approval for sensitive words

Email enquiries@companieshouse.gov.uk. Use ‘CIO’ in the subject line and explain why you want to use the word.

If you have sensitive words in your name, you cannot register with the Charity Commission as a CIO without Companies House approval. You also need approval to change a CIO name to include a sensitive word.

You may need another government department or other body to confirm they do not object to your name. If you do, send that to Companies House when you ask for approval for your name.

Charitable company names

‘Charity’, ‘charity’s’, ‘charities’ and ‘charitable’ are sensitive words.

You can use these in the name of a charitable company but need approval from the Charity Commission before you can also register with Companies House.

When you apply to register as a charity let us know that you want a ‘statement of non-objection’.

If your company can be a charity we will give you the statement saying you can use the sensitive words.

Charitable companies that are already registered charities

You do not need a ‘statement of non-objection’ from the Charity Commission to change your name to include a sensitive word.

Guidance on changing name to include a sensitive word

Companies that do not want to register as charities

Using sensitive words where your company will not be a charity

Disputes

You should resolve disputes you have over charity names. We will only get involved if:

  • we can change the disputed main name
  • there is evidence that the name will cause confusion, detriment or harm, such as an impact on donations to a charity with a similar name
Published 23 May 2013
Last updated 18 December 2018 + show all updates
  1. We have added information on rules on sensitive words in the names of charitable incorporated organisations (CIOs)
  2. First published.