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Legal Advice for Charitable Organisations

Charities typically have a wide range of legal needs, including charity law compliance, property law, employment law, commercial law and more. Specialist legal advice for charities from those familiar with the sector can be highly valuable.

Glanvilles’ Corporate team have extensive experience advising a wide range of charitable and not-for-profit organisations. As a full-service law firm, we can support charities with all their legal needs, providing a one-stop shop for your organisation.

Your charity can rest safe in the knowledge that our solicitors specialising in charity law have the perfect blend of legal expertise and sector-specific experience to successfully support you at every stage of your journey.

Get in touch with our charity law solicitors

You can contact us for charity law advice in West Sussex and Hampshire at your local branch in ChichesterFarehamHavant or Petworth.

Alternatively, you can fill in our online enquiry form and a member of our team will be in touch shortly.

How our UK charity law experts can help

Our solicitors specialising in charity law can assist with matters including:

  • Setting up a charity
  • Charity structures and governance
  • Charities regulation
  • Charity fundraising
  • Mergers and restructuring
  • Closing down a charity
  • Dispute resolution
  • Philanthropy and ESG
  • Employment law
  • Property law
  • Commercial law including contracts and agreements

We can also offer legal advice for charities on a wide range of other matters, so please get in touch to discuss your specific needs.

What are charitable organisations?

In plain English, a charity is an organisation that is set up to benefit the public i.e. it carries out some kind of activity or activities that provide a benefit to the general public.

According to the government, a charity is specifically an organisation that is both “established for charitable purposes only” and “subject to the High Court’s charity law jurisdiction”. Those charitable purposes can cover a wide range of issues and activities with the intention to benefit the public as a whole or a specific section of the public, however, a charity cannot exist to benefit a single individual.

Knowing whether an organisation qualifies as a charity is not necessarily straightforward and it is important to be clear about this when setting up an organisation. It is also important to have ongoing expert legal advice for charitable organisations to ensure compliance with all aspects of charity law.

What are a charity's charitable purposes?

Charitable purposes relate to both the reason a charity is set up and any specific goals it is seeking to achieve. A registered charity must have a clear charitable purpose and this will normally be set out in the organisation’s governing documents.

In common usage, an organisation’s charitable purpose will often be referred to as its ‘mission’.

As covered above, a charitable purpose must involve helping the public. This can be in various ways, such as providing education, working to alleviate poverty, improving public health, saving lives, supporting the arts or amateur sports, protecting the environment or a wide range of other ways.

What legal issues do charitable organisations commonly face?

The legal issues that charities face broadly fall into two categories:

  • Charity-specific legal obligations, including those set out under the Charities Act 2022
  • General legal obligations, including issues such as employment law, property law and contract law

Charity-specific legal issues can include questions about matters such as charitable purposes, governance, endowments, charity names, trustees and mergers. These are often highly complicated matters, so it is important to seek support from legal experts with specific expertise in the charitable sector.

The more general legal issues that a charity might face are the same that any organisation may need to deal with. Charities are often employers, who own or lease property and are party to various legal contracts and agreements. Having support from a team with expertise across a wide range of legal matters can, therefore, be highly valuable.

At Glanvilles, we can help charities with all of their legal needs. In our experience, the right legal advice for charities at an early stage can help to head off potential problems, saving time, cost and energy later. If you need legal support for your charity, please get in touch and we will be happy to help.

What steps can charitable organisations take to protect assets and minimise legal risks?

Good governance and compliance with charity law are essential for any charitable organisation. Having the right governance structure and risk management processes in place is not something that should be overlooked. In many cases, charities lack the necessary expertise in-house, so seeking outside support can be a wise move.

Understanding the assets a charity needs to protect and what potential risks it faces is the first step. Many charities work with an external legal partner to carry out a compliance audit so they can get a clear picture of their current situation and any steps they need to take. It can also be useful to recruit trustees with relevant experience, such as lawyers and risk management professionals.

Having a documented governance structure and risk management framework can help to ensure everyone in the organisation understands their role in protecting assets and minimising legal risks.

There are also various other legal risks a charity can face, including in relation to issues such as breach of contract and property disputes. Specialist legal advice is recommended so charities can understand any specific areas of risk and what actions they may need to take to effectively manage those risks.

What are the legal obligations of a charity?

All charities have a legal obligation to comply with charity law, including ensuring that they have clear charitable purposes and that they are taking appropriate actions to support those purposes. A charity will also typically have various other legal obligations depending on its situation e.g. if there are employees, then the organisation must comply with employment law.

Specialist legal advice for charitable organisations should be sought when setting up a charity or reviewing its operations. This can help to ensure you understand the charity’s legal obligations and can maintain compliance.

How is a charity governed?

A charity must have a governance structure with a board of trustees (also referred to as a ‘governing body’). The board may either be elected or appointed. The board of trustees may sometimes be called other names, such as an ‘executive committee’ or ‘board of governors’.

A charity’s trustees are the people appointed by the charitable organisation to make decisions on its behalf. Their duties will be set out in the organisation's governing document or constitution.

A charity must have a governing document that sets out the rules for how the charity will be run. This document will detail the charity’s purpose, who the trustees are and their duties, how trustees will be appointed, rules for payments to trustees and their expenses, and how the charity may be closed.

Why choose Glanvilles for charity legal advice?

Glanvilles’ Corporate team have the expertise to help charities realise their goals in the most effective way while carefully managing any potential areas of risk. We work with clients throughout Hampshire, West Sussex and across South East England, offering a bespoke service carefully aligned with the needs of each individual client.

Our charity law advice fees are benchmarked against our competitors, allowing us to offer exceptional value that reflects the high-quality service we provide for our clients.

The Glanvilles’ client service promise

When you use our charity legal advice service, we promise:

  • Our staff will be friendly, respectful and attentive.
  • Your concerns will be listened to, your questions answered and your options explained in plain English.
  • The cost of dealing with your UK charity law requirements will be made clear to you from the outset.
  • We will answer your phone calls and emails promptly.
  • We will keep you regularly updated at all times.

Get in touch with our charity law solicitors

You can access specialist legal advice for charitable organisations in West Sussex and Hampshire at your local branch in ChichesterFarehamHavant or Petworth.

Alternatively, you can fill in our online enquiry form and a member of our team will be in touch shortly.