Our Charities and Social Enterprises Group comprises specialist lawyers from across the firm who have developed a particular expertise in dealing with charities, social enterprises and other third sector organisations, and acts for over 100 charities and not-for-profit client organisations.
Many of our lawyers sit on the boards of large regional charities or have been retained on the management committees of local sports or arts organisations, giving them first-hand experience of the types of issues you may face, including funding for social enterprises ,and charity law.
We are also acutely aware of the financial and legal constraints under which you operate, as well as the commercial challenges you face in the highly challenging not-for-profit marketplace. That is why we've invested heavily in our team to ensure you can call on a wide range of expertise.
As a result, you won't pay for advisors to spend time acquainting themselves with the relevant areas of the law; we already have an in-depth knowledge of current regulation and maintain close working relationships with the Charity Commission, regulators, and key government departments.
We also appreciate that charity work goes beyond conventional working hours and pride ourselves on being accessible and approachable at all times.
In short, we're able to offer you competitive fee levels without sacrificing the quality of either the service or the expertise you receive.
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Find out more about the help we can give those setting up charities or social enterprises by calling our York, Sheffield or Leeds offices today. Our contact details are here.
Frequently asked questions
I have been asked to be a charity trustee, what must I do? What are my responsibilities?
This is a very big question. In part it will depend upon the nature of the organisation of which it is proposed you are to be a trustee.
Under the Charities Act 1993 you will be a trustee if you have “the general control and management of the administration of the charity” along with your co-trustees.
Your primary responsibilities are to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries of the charity and in furtherance of the objects of the charity. Before you take on the role you should obtain a copy of the constitution of the charity and study its objects – are you confident that the charity is currently carrying these out? You should also get a copy of the annual accounts and find out what the main assets of the charity are – as a trustee you will have a responsibility to preserve these assets.
You must not delegate your responsibilities to others unless permitted by the constitution and you must not profit from being a trustee. Investment of the trusts assets is an example of a matter which would certainly be delegated.
Reviewing the constitution and accounts before you become a trustee should provide you with the appropriate background to ensure you carry out your trustee duties appropriately. You should also take advantage of the excellent publications available from the Charity Commission including the introductory booklets “The Duties and Responsibilities of the Trustees” and “The Essential Trustee”. These are downloadable fro the Charity Commission website. However, in the event you have a specific query, it would be advisable to supplement this with legal advice.
What are the benefits of seeking charitable status?
For the majority of organisations this will mean becoming registered with the Charity Commission.
Charitable status provides tax advantages both for the charity and for the donor tax payers. However, charities are not wholly exempt from tax (as it is sometimes thought) and advice should be taken in specific cases.
Registration with the Charity Commission puts beyond doubt the fact that an organisation is charitable and this may assist an organisation in obtaining funds both from the general public and when applying for grants or securing UK government or EU funding.
There are however some disadvantages to being registered as a charity, though these are mainly administrative. There are strict accounting and reporting requirements. Once registered, an organisation becomes subject to the jurisdiction of the Charity Commission which can investigate the actions of the trustees. Charities are also restricted to carrying out actions which support their objects and accordingly must take care when carrying out certain activities such as trading, fundraising or in some circumstances campaigning.
Are charities obliged to invest their funds ethically?
You must be very careful in relation to investment of a charity’s assets. The Trustee Act 2000 sets out the duties and obligations of trustees in relation to a number of matters including investment. These apply as much to charity trustees as to trustees of private trusts.
In general terms investment should be carried out in such a manner as to maximise the capital and income of the charity. This does not automatically mean that one cannot invest unethically. However, it is important that any decisions concerning investment do not simply reflect a trustees own views on how the charity ought to invest but that they accord with the objects of the charity. Accordingly, if a charity was, for example, an animal welfare charity then it might be appropriate to regard certain types of investment in companies carrying out animal research as demonstrably undermining the objects of the charity. Similarly, certain religious charities may decide not to invest in alcohol, tobacco or gambling. Trustees may, however choose to make use of ethical funds which are now widely available and which may be appropriate for the charity’s circumstances.
In general terms it is important that appropriate investment advice is being taken at all times by the trustee.
Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.
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