Structures

You must choose a structure for your charity, which will affect things like:

  • who runs the charity
  • how the charity is run
  • what the charity can do, for example employ people or own property

There are 4 common charity structures.

Charitable company

Your charitable companies will have to be limited by guarantees rather than shares when you register. Select ‘private company limited by guarantee’ on the form.

It will cost £40 to register.

Trustees have limited or no liability for a charitable company’s debts or liabilities.

How to apply

Fill in the form to register a charitable company with Companies House.

You may also need:

Charitable incorporated organisation (CIO)

A CIO is an incorporated structure designed for charities. You create a CIO by registering with the Charity Commission. You don’t need to register with Companies House.

Trustees have limited or no liability for CIO debts or liabilities.

Charitable trust

A ‘charitable trust’ is a way for a group of people (‘trustees’) to manage assets such as money, investments, land or buildings.

Unincorporated charitable association

An ‘unincorporated charitable association’ is a simple way for a group of volunteers to run a charity for a common purpose.

Unincorporated charitable associations can’t employ staff or own premises.

  1. Step 1 Check if setting up a charity is right for you

  2. and Check you're eligible

  3. Step 2 Find trustees

    Trustees are responsible for the operation of your charity. They must show they understand their legal requirements.

    1. Check who's eligible to be a trustee and what skills they need to have
    2. Find and appoint trustees
    3. Read about your trustees' legal responsibilities
  4. Step 3 Find out how to choose a charity structure

  5. and Choose a name for your charity

    There are rules on what words you can use in your name.

    1. Check what you can call your charity

    You cannot register a name that's the same as or similar to another charity.

    1. Check the names of registered charities
  6. and Decide and write your charity's purposes

    Your ‘purposes’ describe what your charity is set up to achieve.

    1. Find out how to write your charity's purposes
  7. Step 4 Create a governing document

    The governing document is a set of rules that explains how your charity is run. It needs to include your charity's structure, name and purposes.

    1. Find out how to write your governing document
  8. Step 5 Make sure you meet the 'public benefit requirement'

    Your organisation must be able to show that it benefits the public.

    1. Check how your organisation must benefit the public
  9. Step 6 Register your charity

    You must apply to register your charity with the Charity Commission if either:

    • its income will be at least £5,000 per year
    • it’s a charitable incorporated organisation (CIO)
    1. Register with the Charity Commission

    You can register your charity’s details with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to get tax back on things like Gift Aid donations.

    1. Register with HMRC