Charity Commission Annual Returns - a guide!

By Kevin Russell | 28 February 2014

Charity Commission

The information required by the Charity Commission on the new Annual Return Form for 2014 will include a number of new, compulsory questions. As the new information is largely going to be a matter of public record, now will be a good time to ensure that your charity has its house in good order!


Whilst some of the new questions include matters that are required to be included in a Trustees’ Annual Report, the Commission want to capture the same data for all charities that are required to submit an Annual Return, and not just those that are also required to submit their annual accounts and report.


The aim of the new questions is to serve both the Commission’s regulatory functions and the public interest.


The new questions are set out below and the responses will be available to the public, for the first time, via the charity’s register page on the Commission’s website (although it is not presently clear if this will include information on grant making activity):


  • If the report of the auditor or independent examiner on the charity’s accounts has been ‘qualified’;
  • Whether or not the charity pays one or more of their trustees for being a trustee. Note: this will not include reimbursement of expenses properly incurred by trustees, nor payment for properly authorised services provided to the charity by trustees;
  • Whether the charity has written policies for:


  1. Risk Management
  2. Investment
  3. Safeguarding vulnerable beneficiaries
  4. Conflicts of interest
  5. Volunteer management
  6. Complaints handling


  • Does the charity have a trading subsidiary?
  • Whether grant making is the main way that the charity carries out its purposes;
  • Whether or not the charity raises funds from the public?
  • Does the charity work with a ‘commercial participator’?
  • Does the charity have an agreement with the ‘commercial participator’?
  • Whether the charity is regulated by a regulator, or registered with a registrar other than the Commission.


The Commission will also encourage (but not require) charities to explain what they have achieved during the year in a free text box. They have undertaken to provide clear definitions and guidance on the information required.


The Commission will also publish the following information on the charity’s register page on the Commission’s website:


  • If the charity has become insolvent or is in administration;
  • If the charity is subject to enforcement action by the Commission for non-submission of accounts. This will apply to charities that have failed to submit their accounts after repeated reminders and remain in default six months after their filing deadline;
  • If the charity is a member of the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB);
  • Whether the charity was formed from a merger of two or more charities or whether a charitable company has been set up to receive the assets of an unincorporated charity.


They will obtain this information directly from the FRSB, or from their own records.


The requirement for large charities (with income over £1million) to complete a Summary Information Return (or, SIR) is removed, with effect from AR 2014.


The Annual Return for 2014 together with the detailed guidance is expected to be available on the Commission’s website shortly.

The award-winning 40acts is back for 2014!

By David Fribbins | 21 January 2014

40acts - do Lent generously in 2014 

The 40acts challenge is back! 40 days of Lent, 40 reflections, 40 simple acts of generosity.

Now in its fourth consecutive year, 40acts is the triple award-winning challenge from Christian charity Stewardship that invites people to do Lent differently. From March 5th to April 19th you will be offered the chance to give out rather than give something up. Over 15,400 people have already signed up to take part in 40acts 2014 and there is still plenty of room at the party!


Sign up for 40acts 2014


"40acts began as a simple idea that asked, "What if Lent could be about more than simply giving up chocolate? What if it was a preparation for a lifetime of big-heartedness?" says Debbie Wright, head of content at Stewardship.

"Traditionally we mark Lent by giving something up, but for the past three years we've seen people awaken to a new idea: that we can reflect something of God's incredible generosity on the cross by creating a daily habit of generosity throughout Lent."

It may be talking to strangers, hugging a friend or giving away your time but for each and every day of Lent participants will be assigned a fresh and exciting challenge that will bless the people around them as well as a daily Biblical reflections from an esteemed Christian contributor to chew on.

Those contributing to this year's 40acts campaign include: Shaun King (HopeMob), Rob Parsons (Care for the Family), Mike Pilavachi (Soul Survivor), Krish Kandiah (Evangelical Alliance), Luke Smith (Fusion UK), Dot Tyler (Tearfund), Jonty Langley (Huffington Post), Caleb Meakins (My 40 Days), Sam Gibb (Sorted Magazine), Charlie Blythe (A21 Campaign, Hillsong) and many more.


40acts Together - a new way for groups to do Lent generously


New for this year is 40acts Together. Whether you're a family, church, small group, workplace, school or youth group, 40acts Together - in partnership with fantastic organisations - will provide you with the online and printable resources to guide you through your generous journey as a community.

There will be downloadable studies, prayer guides, event planners, kid's wall charts and much more to help different kinds of groups do Lent generously alongside the individual 40acts challenge.

Join in the fun, pouring out love to your neighbours while learning more about our generous and compassionate God.

Sign up here and you'll receive the daily 40acts challenges when Lent begins, as well as a unique link to download 40acts Together resources for your group from February 10th 2014.



Download the official press pack here.

Beware your volunteers don't 'morph' into employees!

By Kevin Russell | 19 December 2013


The whole area of support for charity volunteers is fraught with difficulties and pitfalls. Paying an intern or volunteer a weekly allowance, for example, could mean that they are no longer a volunteer in law, but an employed worker entitled to the National Minimum Wage and employment rights. If such an arrangement goes unchecked for a number of years, a church or charity could find themselves with a significant bill in unpaid wages.

In collaboration with Anthony Collins, solicitors, we have produced a new Briefing Paper to help you avoid the pitfalls of having volunteers on your team, available here. A related resource is our Volunteer Agreement Pack. This includes a model ‘agreement’ for your volunteers together with suitable health & safety and expenses policies, explanatory notes and a frequently asked questions section here.


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WestJet Christmas Miracle: real-time giving

By Jo Ratnarajah | 19 December 2013

This video has been doing the rounds at work recently and has received mixed feedback. What do you think?




charity giving

Generous Children

By Charlie Osewalt | 10 December 2013

generous children blog

"Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3.

This past Tuesday, 3 December, was the second annual ‘Giving Tuesday.’ Bill and Melinda Gates sent out an e-mail that describes the day and their involvement: ‘Giving Tuesday, the idea is to take one day out of your holiday shopping and dedicate it to giving back.’  

The Giving Tuesday website lists lots of great organizations that need your support, and although Giving Tuesday falls on December 3, you can donate any time. Remarkably, the first campaign in 2012 demonstrated a spike in online giving of up to 53%. This year’s numbers are not in yet. Except for Charlotte.

Charlotte, a four year old in the UK, made her donation before Giving Tuesday. Like Bill and Melinda, Charlotte sent out an invitation to friends and family. But here’s the difference: Charlotte wanted to give on her birthday. She had never even heard of ‘Giving Tuesday.’ Charlotte invited her loved ones to come to her birthday party bringing not gifts for her, but donations to and her Mum’s favourite charity, charity: water .

How did she get so inspired to give to others? Charlotte watched a video with her mum, Claire. That’s how she started thinking about giving generously on her birthday to others. Together, mum and daughter made birthday party invitations with the request: ‘Instead of presents, please visit Charlotte’s charity’s page.’

Claire used to set up a fundraising page and asked people to donate in her name in lieu of birthday presents to charity: water. How did it turn out?

Her friends, classmates and family loved the idea and donated almost £200. (She also got some small personal presents, like a mermaid cup.)  Charlotte’s goal was £100. But the best bit: a little girl from her class brought an envelope with £10 in it to the party. Claire said to Charlotte, ‘Honey, you met your goal. Why don’t you keep this bit for yourself?’

‘No, mummy, those children need clean water. I want to help give it to them.’


How can you be like a generous child this season?

A resource: I have a friend who on Boxing Day-after the business, excesses, and joys of Christmas-sits down with his three children and plans what to give from a special Christmas present: stewardship vouchers. Each child gets a voucher and chooses to give the voucher to designated charity. Why? Part of understanding generosity is in being generous. How can your family give in a planned and thoughtful manner after Christmas? Here are some simple steps:

Order charity gift vouchers and pass on the gift of giving this Christmas...

To request your gift vouchers (available in £10s or £20s), gift cards and envelopes:

1. Login to your Stewardship account at (if you don’t have an account yet you can set one up at )

2. Click the Donate button and choose 'charity gift vouchers' from your recipient list

3. Enter the total amount

4. Enter your order details in the 'Reference' box (e.g. no. of vouchers & cards)

5. Orders will be posted to your account address within 2 working days.

Please order by 13th December to guarantee delivery before Christmas.


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Gift Aid Small Donations Banana Skins

By Kevin Russell | 1 December 2013

banana skins

Some GASDS banana skins when converting from charitable trust to CIO.

As churches and charities get accustomed to claiming top up payments under the new Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme (GASDS), some banana skins are emerging where the church or charity converts from a charitable trust to a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) or other form of incorporated charity, such as a charitable company limited by guarantee. At the time of writing, these banana skins are not apparent within HMRC Guidance and can only be found by studying the finer print of the Small Charitable Donations Act and the regulations supporting the Act.

The key traps to avoid are:

- Very specific and short time limits for applying for an HMRC certificate to enable the new charity to continue to claim under the GASDS;

- Getting the application for a certificate right, first time;

- Ensuring that the application conditions are fully complied with;

- Planning to maximise the GASDS claims in the tax year of the conversion.

Our new Briefing Note “Beware! GASDS banana skins when converting from charitable trust to CIO” is available from our website here.


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Consumerism: Do we need to repent?

By Jo Ratnarajah | 28 November 2013

Consumerisn blog

Yes. It’s that time of the year again! The weeks (now months) during which we are bombarded by the media with images of the ‘perfect Christmas’. As we inevitably give in to pressure, we empty out our already light wallets. Personally, I’m trying to turn a blind eye to it all this Christmas. With our wedding coming up in April, I can’t really stretch to buying extravagant Christmas presents for anyone this time around.

But maybe I’m not the only one cutting back…

According to, shoppers are planning to spend an average of £488 on Christmas this year. That’s 7% down on 2012's figure of £526, according to research from HSBC.

Are many of us feeling the pinch with this current economic climate? Are we tired of being sold the idea that in order to enjoy Christmas, we have to spend a bucket load of money?  The inevitable result is that many get into debt, followed by the January blues and months of trying to pay it all back.

This weekend marks the significant time for retail in the U.S.A. ‘Black Friday’ as it’s known, is when shoppers go crazy over big reductions in stores across the country (‘Walmart massacres’ as described by my American colleague, Charlie). This is followed by a relatively new event called ‘Cyber Monday’ where the same applies for consumers at a range of online shopping sites. This shopping frenzy is known to bring many retailers ‘back into the black’ before the end of the year.

I must hold my hands up and say I’m guilty of having been quite extravagant with Christmas presents in the past (especially for my family), and with the UK seemingly adopting the Cyber Monday craze, it is tempting to spend. I really do get a buzz out of seeing a loved one unwrap something I’ve thoughtfully splashed out on and spent ages planning to get them.

However, do I need to repent of this form of generosity? Wouldn’t my money have gone further by being given to Salvation Army to help the homeless, or to Samaritan’s Purse for their Operation Christmas Child campaign? There are so many options out there to be generous in a different way.

On the flip side of Black Friday and Cyber Monday is Giving Tuesday. This is a campaign in its second year, which advocates a national day of giving. People are encouraged give to support non-profit organisations and the United Nations Foundation is one of the major partners. In its first year, it is reported that some organisations processing donations in the U.S. saw the numbers rise by as much as 50% compared to the previous year.*

Jesus tells the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Does my sacrifice of generosity involve the revelation that my family and friends could probably live without that iTunes voucher or bottle of fancy perfume and that actually, would they be that bothered without it? And does it also involve the realisation that there is a real world out there full of people in need and crying out for someone to help them?

Could my generosity extend to those people instead? Instead of splashing out on presents, could I invite a struggling family for Christmas lunch? Could I volunteer in a soup kitchen for a couple of hours instead of spending five hours trawling the internet for deals on Cyber Monday?

In the end, as they say, actions speak louder than words.  Maybe we could appreciate the loved ones in our lives all year round, without getting caught up in the tangled web of consumerism this Christmas.

In the end, it is what our Lord has told us to do.






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File your charity's accounts on time... or there may be consequences!

By Kevin Russell | 20 November 2013


Since September 2013, the Charity Commission has been opening statutory inquiries into charities that are late in filing their accounts for two or more years. There were three Christian charities named in the first twelve enquiries and a church PCC in the second list.

Not only is it a criminal offence to file a charity’s accounts late but the Commission regard it as a signal of mismanagement / misconduct in administration and governance, often associated with the misapplication or abuse of charitable funds.

Being subject to a very public Charity Commission inquiry can have a major negative impact, especially if the local press pick up on the matter. Therefore, charities should make sure that they have procedures in place to file your accounts on time. This includes making a timely start to gathering the information needed to prepare the accounts, as well as giving time for the drafting of the accounts and trustees report, for the independent examination or audit of those accounts and for dealing with any queries arising. Most charities accounts need to be filed with the Charity Commission within ten months of the charity’s financial year end.

If you would like to discuss any particular concerns with us, please contact Stephen Mathews, Head of our Independent Examinations Team on 020 8502 8588.


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No man is an island

By Charlie Osewalt | 20 November 2013

Typhoon Haiyan - photo by Ssoosay

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent…’

On Friday 15 November, Mr. Richard Pulga, 27, died — essentially of a broken leg.  He was alone on an island. He lived in the Philippines.

Just a week before, his piece of the continent was ripped apart by the strongest typhoon in the world this year, and now thought to be the most powerful ever to hit land. 

The inhabitants of the Philippines are no strangers to typhoons, in fact this was the 25th tropical storm to hit the islands this year, but this one was like no other and its designation as a ’super typhoon’ only hints at the catastrophic results of its visit. Super Typhoon Haiyan brought heavy torrential rains to 33 provinces in Visayas, Bicol and northern Mindanao. Meteorologists had predicted that it was capable of causing the greatest wind damage from a tropical storm endured by any place on Earth in the past century. Millions indeed fell victim to it.  Mr. Pulga’s story is one of theirs and should be part of ours. His leg was shattered by a coconut which the storm-force winds hurled at him like a cannonball. The father of two small children was taken to a local hospital, Eastern Visayas Regional. He lay there for days. The New York Times reported the details of his treatment from interviews with doctors at the two hospitals, Eastern Visayas Regional and St. Paul’s. Left unattended at Eastern Visayas Regional, his transfer to St. Paul’s for emergency care came too late to save him.

By the time Dr. Rodel Flores, a surgeon with a team of visiting doctors, found Mr. Pulga on Thursday, he had received no antibiotics or antiseptic and his leg was badly infected. The doctor ordered an emergency amputation to try to save his life. But the surgery was too late, and death soon followed. “In short,” Dr. Flores said, “it was preventable.”

Richard Pulga died at St. Paul’s Hospital. His wife, Marycris, was told by a security guard that her husband’s body would have to be buried in a mass grave if she could not remove it. She had no vehicle in which to transport it and sobbed for more than an hour, refusing to make a decision.


Mr Pulga’s story, and that of his surviving wife and family, is one of so many deeply affecting  stories.  Others’ stories will sadly remain unknown to us, but not to God. Each story, known or unknown,  serves to remind us that we are all connected through our faith and through our humanity and we can all stand together in prayer.


Pray for the Philippines; pray for relief efforts and doctors and nurses and people on the ground as they labour in extremely difficult circumstances; pray for the governments and the peoples of our world to understand that all our actions and choices affect others. Pray for Mr. Pulga’s family; for his wife and two children. Pray for those who are in desperate need that they will experience God in the midst of their sufferings. 


…Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.’   John Donne



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Missed the R68(i) deadline?

By Kevin Russell | 18 October 2013

Missed the R68(i) deadline? Stewardship is on hand to advise.

Have you tried to submit an R68(i) Gift Aid form since 30 September 2013?  Have you had your claim rejected?  Are you wondering what to do next? 

It is true that HMRC are no longer accepting form R68(i) as a valid way to claim Gift Aid and are now returning claims made in that way.  However, don’t despair, there are other ways in which claims can now be submitted and our briefing note is a practical guide to help you decide what you need to do now.

We know that for many churches Gift Aid recovery is a vital part of their operational cash flow, and we would therefore urge you to read this note and to act as soon as possible.

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