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Are your Charitable Objects fit for Purpose?

Photo of Rachel Steeden Rachel Steeden
2 min

What are our charitable objects?

Your church or charity’s governing document will include a statement of its charitable purposes, known as its objects. These objects describe the charitable purposes for which your charity has been set up, such as advancing the Christian faith, promoting education or relieving poverty.

Why do our charitable objects matter?

Your objects define the scope of what your charity can do; all of your charity’s activities must further its charitable purposes. For example, if your charity’s purpose is to promote the Christian faith, you could run a Christian youth club but not an animal sanctuary.

All trustees should be aware of their charity’s objects and should ensure that their charity only acts within its objects. If a charity uses its funds for purposes beyond its charitable objects, the trustees can be held personally liable to reimburse the charity.

When should we review our charitable objects?

Your charity’s vision and activities are likely to develop over time, so you should review your charity’s objects on a regular basis to ensure that they still encompass what you’re doing. You should also review your objects whenever you decide to change your charity’s strategy. Many charities adopted new ways of working during the Covid-19 pandemic and some found that they needed to amend their objects in order to permit them to pivot in this way.

It is particularly important to review your objects if they are drafted in narrow or more specific terms. For example, your objects may provide that you can promote the Christian faith ‘through any or all of the following means...’ and then go on to list specific ways of sharing your faith. As society evolves, you will want to develop new ways to share your faith, and these may not be within the scope of your objects as originally drafted.

How do we change our charitable objects?

Most charities will need to obtain permission from their regulator before changing their charitable objects. 

For charities registered in England & Wales, see: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/how-to-make-changes-to-your-charitys-governing-document

For charities registered in Scotland, see: https://www.oscr.org.uk/managing-a-charity/making-changes-and-reorganising/making-changes-to-your-charity/making-changes-to-your-charity/change-your-charity-s-purpose-s/

For charities registered in Northern Ireland, see: https://www.charitycommissionni.org.uk/manage-your-charity/changing-your-charitys-governing-document/

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Written by

Rachel Steeden

Rachel is a solicitor with 15 years’ experience advising private clients and charities. She enjoys working closely with clients and their advisors to help donors make complex gifts effectively and tax-efficiently.

She is a member of the Charity Law Association, STEP Special Interest Group for Philanthropy, Lawyers in Charities and Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship.

Rachel and her husband Derek lead a Bible study group for internationals at their church in central London.

They’re passionate about Church Planting in the UK and overseas, Bible translation and The Local Church.