Organisational purpose

Your organisation’s purpose (or aims) is what it sets out to achieve. The purposes that your charity sets out must be for the public benefit.

There are13 charitable purposes laid down in law (although the last one does encompass a variety of different areas). Organisations can have more than one purpose, but in those cases each purpose must be charitable.

The 13 descriptions of purposes listed in the Charities Act 2011 are:

  • the prevention or relief of poverty
  • the advancement of education
  • the advancement of religion
  • the advancement of health or the saving of lives
  • the advancement of citizenship or community development
  • the advancement of the arts, culture, heritage or science
  • the advancement of amateur sport
  • the advancement of human rights, conflict resolution or reconciliation or the promotion of religious or racial harmony or equality and diversity
  • the advancement of environmental protection or improvement
  • the relief of those in need, by reason of youth, age, ill-health, disability, financial hardship or other disadvantage
  • the advancement of animal welfare
  • the promotion of the efficiency of the armed forces of the Crown, or of the efficiency of the police, fire and rescue services or ambulance services
  • any other purposes currently recognised as charitable, or which can be recognised as charitable by analogy to, or within the spirit of, purposes falling within the above 12 or any other purposes recognised as charitable under the law of England and Wales

Why your purpose is important?

Charities must state what their Charitable Purposes are for the Charity Commission to decide if your organisation is a charity and for HMRC to decide if your organisation qualifies for tax relief.

Your purposes are also what your supporters and beneficiaries use to determine who you are, what you do, who you help and how you work.

Your purposes also set out what your charity can do, and leadership team and your trustees must make decisions and run the charity in a way that is consistent with its purposes, so its important that you get them right!

For more guidance, read the Charity Commission Guidance “How to Write a Charitable purpose.”

Public Benefit

In general, public benefit is the way that a charity makes a positive difference to the public.

To become a charity, you must:

  • Be of benefit – your charity must carry out positive work and any
  • negatives should be outweighed by your positive, beneficial work
  • Benefit the public – this does not necessarily mean the population of the general public. It could mean a certain geographical area or with targeted members of the public.

It is up to the Charity Commission to decide whether your organisation passes the public benefit test. It does this based on its guidance, and by looking at case law.

You can find out more here:  The Charity Commission: Public benefit: running a charity

Image courtesy of Wheelpower