Charities and non profit

Across the world, the charity and voluntary sectors are under huge pressure. With, austerity measures squeezing, income inequality on the rise and the global economy shifting, non-profit organizations are being asked to do more with less.

As someone working in the charitable and non-profit sector, in addition to fighting for funds and resources, you are also striving to demonstrate your charitable impact and working hard to keep up with legal developments and stay ahead of the curve in the way that benefits your beneficiaries.

Complex organizations

We advise some of the largest operating charities in the world, for example we act for over 50% of the Top 50 charities in the UK. We help with the full range of issues for organizations of all shapes and sizes, from restructuring to compliance. We are particularly well placed to add value on governance, mergers, and major commercial projects. In today’s pressured environment, this is where we can have the greatest impact on the success of your operation.

Thinking internationally

Several years ago we started thinking about how we could best support those of you working on a global basis, whether in a federation or network of partners, or with affiliates tied to a home institution. For some this is about global delivery of charitable outcomes and for others, all about raising funds globally. Being able to work with the maximum pool of donors available to you globally is clearly vital and so we have developed a real specialism for charities and philanthropists who want to fundraise or invest internationally. We pioneered the use of ‘dual-qualified’ charitable structures in the US, UK and Hong Kong and are the only firm able to establish and service those structures entirely in-house. Our team of US lawyers in London can also provide timely assistance on a range of US issues for non-US organizations. We have also successfully obtained European cross-border recognition.

Supporting the sector

Our client base includes 35% of The Sunday Times Giving List and we think our work with some of the world’s foremost philanthropists gives us insight and connections of benefit to our charity clients. We have the largest team of lawyers in the world that focus on the process of creating, defending and receiving charitable legacies, and regularly help with complex charity disputes. We get actively involved in sector advocacy to try and ensure legislation and regulatory guidance reflects your needs and have built up useful connections at key regulators and sector bodies.

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2022 Ranked in Chambers UK - Charities (Band 1)

2022 Legal 500 Top Tier Firm for Charities and Not-for-Profit

2020 Times Best Law Firm Of The Year

2021 STEP Winner: Charity Team Of The Year

2021 Ranked in Chambers UK - Charities (Band 2)

2021 Legal 500, Leading firm for charities and not-for-profit

2021 The Times Best Law Firm

2020 Ranked in Chambers UK - Charities (Band 2)

Finalist for STEP Philanthropy Team of the Year 2020

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Withers has given us expert guidance on a wide range of issues, and always looks to the bigger picture of our work when formulating their advice. The firm’s lawyers are consistently helpful and responsive when dealing with us.

Julie Maxton, Executive Director - Royal Society

I have always found their style and approach to be responsive, effective and efficient with the expertise and experience to provide the highest level of legal service allowing us to make informed decisions.

Miss Mojdeh Zand, Head of Legacy Administration - RSPB

Goodwill Industries of the Greater East Bay recommends Withers Bergman’s real estate group to other companies needing strategic, high quality real estate support.

Virginia Robbins, COO - Goodwill Industries of the Greater East Bay

Withers has helped the Novak Djokovic Foundation grow and expand our work, including advising us on our worldwide activities across Europe and the United States.  As a result, the firm has played a major part in helping us achieve our objectives.

Novak Djokovic Foundation

Withers – and in particular Michelle Chow “The Charity Doctor“ – have proved an integral part of assisting us with the set up of The Loke Foundation. Michelle popped onto our radar just at the right time and guided us through the process of setting up the foundation, streamlining what can be a very complicated process in a timely and efficient manner. Her vast experience and expert knowledge has been invaluable to us and she continues to advise us to this day.

Amanda Loke, Loke Foundation

As one of the largest charities in the UK, we have complex and varied needs for legal advice. The scale and experience of the Withers’ team means that they understand the culture of our organisation and their approach is ethical, commercial and pragmatic, with impressive service delivery

Cancer Research UK

The entire Wither’s team have been an invaluable resource to Global Lyme Alliance providing knowledgeable direction, insight and guidance across a broad range of legal areas. We are grateful and appreciative of their expertise and personal commitment to GLA’s mission.

Global Lyme Alliance - CEO Scott Santarella

Withers has represented Macmillan for over two decades and acts as a natural extension to our internal team. The firm’s advice is informed by its comprehensive knowledge of how we work and what we do, which lets us focus on our essential objective of helping those living with cancer and their families.

Macmillan Cancer Support

From both its London and Hong Kong offices Withers has been key in providing SharedImpact with the legal structures for our international network of charities to enable tax-efficient global philanthropy. Withers stands out with its consistent and timely advice, and is the authoritative voice in this sector.


Withers is a trusted source of legal advice on a wide range of matters, including charity law, governance and commercial issues. The team has provided us with excellent support, allied with a sound understanding of our business and expertise of our sector. The team has proven its worth numerous times and instils confidence at all levels of our organisation with the way it handles our matters.


Track record

Macmillan Cancer Support

Acting for charities is an important part of our practice, and we act for non-profit organisations on a range of legal matters. In one recent instance we were called on by one of the UK's largest cancer support charities to assist in the acquisition of new headquarters in London.

The Royal Society v Robinson

An eminent physicist, Michael Crowley-Milling who made English and Swiss wills bequeathed our client the Royal Society “all my assets in the United Kingdom”. The technical definition of United Kingdom excluded almost £1 million in bank accounts in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. We successfully argued that the scientific genius had made a geographical error, and had intended to give these assets to the charity as well.

SSAFA, the armed forces charity

Withers has had a long and very successful relationship with the armed forces charity SSAFA and we have acted for them on many issues over the years. We are immensely proud of our continued association with this worthwhile organization. Our team was on hand to advise when the charity went through a redundancy exercise and TUPE transfer in Germany. We successfully negotiated when two senior executive roles were terminated, alongside more junior members of staff, one of whom brought a disability discrimination claim. In another notable instance, we advised an Employment Tribunal in the UK over whether the charity could be held liable for an allegedly discriminatory decision taken by the MOD. We secured a ruling in our client's favour.

Hawksford Executors

Paul Hewitt and Phineas Hirsch worked with Jersey advocates for the RSPCA, Cancer Research UK and RAF Benevolent Fund in securing an order that Mrs Ivelaw had retained her English domicile of origin after many years living in Belgium and that she had not intended to revoke an earlier Jersey will benefitting the three charities when she made a later Belgian will.

Landmark stamp duty decision on in the High Court of Singapore

We successfully represented our client in Zhao Hui Fang and another in a case that challenged the application of stamp duty to a residential purchase by a charity. The High Court of Singapore ruled that the additional buyer’s stamp duties regime does not apply to residential property purchased by a charity. The landmark decision had wide-ranging impact on charities and the non-profit sector in Singapore.

Dr. Lui Che Woo

Dr. Lui Che Woo is one of Hong Kong's most successful businessmen, and a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Withers was given the opportunity to advise Dr. Lui Che Woo on the creation of his aptly named LUI Che Woo Prize - the 'Prize for World Civilisation'.

Football Foundation's framework agreement

Developing a framework agreement and call-off-contract documents in respect of three procurement exercises undertaken on behalf of the Football Foundation, UK's largest sports charity, and related parties.

Sport England's framework agreement

Developing a framework agreement and call-off-contract documents for Sport England's specialist design consultancy panel.

Philanthropy for an order of Roman Catholic nuns

Represented an order of Roman Catholic nuns wishing to use their real estate, a five acre, 100+ year old legacy garden, for philanthropic purposes and in accordance with the charism of their order. We arranged for the garden to be owned by an independent nonprofit corporation qualified under the IRC as a private operating foundation, with directors appointed from the community and a permanent supporting endowment. The garden will be used for contemplative and meditative exercise.

The giving pledge

Assisted a client with her estate plan to meet her goal to ensure more than half of her estate goes to giving back to her community and charitable organizations.

Association of NHS Charities

The Association of NHS Charities is the voice of NHS Charities through England and Wales, and works to represent and support the interests of these organisations as well as offering a network of support. Withers acted on the Association's behalf in preparing the Department of Health's guidance for the deregulation of NHS Charities.

Prominent New York historical museum

Provided ongoing pro-bono work for a prominent New York historical museum.

Non-grantor charitable lead annuity trust

Assisted an ultra high net worth individual with his charitable endeavors and continued support of research at an elite education institution.  We worked with the individual to establish a non-grantor charitable lead annuity trust, a technique that also incorporated beneficial tax planning for our client.

Well-known UK charities

Advising several large, well-known, UK charities in relation to their pension obligations, including in the context on a transfer of former public sector employees under a business sale, and in another case, how a regional branch office might manage its risks and liabilities in relation to a final salary pension scheme in which it participated for non-associated employers in the voluntary sector.

Charity trust pension

Advised a large charity-sector master trust pension trustee on ways in which it could adapt and improve its business model in light of changes in the pensions legal and regulatory arenas, as well as changes in the requirements of, and challenges faced by, charitable employers.

Charity of international sportsman

Assisted a well-known international sportsman with the creation of an Italian charity to support philanthropic projects and fundraising events in Italy.

Charitable and non-profit entities

Creation and ongoing representation of charitable and non-profit entities, including public charities, private foundations, and charitable trusts (charitable remainder trusts and charitable lead trusts).

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