23 November 2009

Good things come in small packages — new model constitution for small charities

The Charity Commission has long been keen to encourage more people to get involved in small charities and it has identified that one way of making that possible is to provide a clear and straightforward framework that gives individuals the confidence to get involved. The model constitution is designed to be easy to understand and short whilst meeting the needs of small charities.

The Charity Commission worked with 9 umbrella organisations to write and promote the constitution:

  1. Acre
  2. Bassac
  3. Community Matters
  4. CTN – The Trustee Network
  5. Directory of Social Change
  6. Navca
  7. National Council for Voluntary Organisations
  8. The Small Charities Coalition
  9. Wales Council for Voluntary Action

Once a model had been produced it was piloted in Wales through Wales Council for Voluntary Action and having received positive feedback it was recently published on the Charity Commission website.  

The model document is aimed at charities which do not:

  • own property
  • employ staff
  • have an income of more than £5,000
  • intend to register with the Charity Commission

The model constitution, which is only 700 words long, allows those forming the charity to provide the name and purposes of the charity and then provides standard wording in relation to the charity’s powers, membership, annual general meetings, money and property and procedures at general meetings. The signatories of the constitution are its initial members and the model provides that they shall also act as the trustees of the charity until the first AGM where they may be changed.

The Charity Commission are quick to point out that adopting the model constitution does not necessarily make the organisation a charity and those setting it up must be careful to ensure that the purposes of the organisation are exclusively charitable and it is established for the public benefit.

If a charity is established using this model and subsequently grows so that its income exceeds £5,000 a year it will be necessary for it to register with the Charity Commission and will require a more comprehensive governing document.

For more information about small charities or the model constitution please contact Chris Priestley.

Category: Article