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Deciding set up a new charitable organisation

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Do your research now

Use this page to help you decide if you should set up a new charity, voluntary organisation or community group.

To understand the need for your new organisation and what others are already doing, you can do the following.

You may find that there are organisations already doing the work you’d like to do. You don’t want to duplicate effort unnecessarily. If this is the case, you may want to consider working with these organisations or setting up a donor-advised fund rather than creating a new organisation so that you:

  • make the best use of available resources
  • combine your skills and efforts for maximum impact
  • avoid unnecessary competition and administration.

Be clear about your motivations

It’s important to make sure you're setting up an organisation for the right reasons.

Here are some helpful questions to consider. If your answer to these questions is yes, then you can be more certain that you have the right motivations to set up your organisation.

  • Are you aiming to meet a genuine need of a significant group of people?
  • Are you aiming to address a gap in the services voluntary organisations provide?
  • Do you feel like you bring a unique experience or understanding of the issue you want to address?

Consider whether this is the right step to take

You need to make sure that setting up a charity is the right step for you to take. Here are a few things you should think about:

  • You can’t set up a charity which benefits only one person
  • You must have clear aims (charitable purposes) to set up a charity
  • You can’t receive any personal benefit from being a trustee
  • There might already be another charity doing exactly what you plan to do
  • There are laws and rules that you will have to follow when you register as a charity
  • Political purposes are not charitable
  • You can’t do anything that is unlawful

For further information read the Charity Commission's guidance on checking if a new charity is the best option.

Find out what's involved

Make sure you have the time and commitment needed to set up a new organisation. You’ll need to meet certain regulatory and legal requirements depending on the type of organisation you set up. These can be difficult to learn about and you’ll need time to understand new information and processes.

You're unlikely to have all the skills and knowledge needed to run an organisation. It's important to be clear about what skills and knowledge you have, what you'll need and how you'll address any gaps. Here are a few actions you can take.

Develop a business plan

A business plan is a formal, written document that sets out the goals of your organisation, how you're going to achieve them and a time frame for doing this. Having a detailed business plan at the start of setting up an organisation will help you:

  • think about what you need to do
  • be clear about what you want to achieve
  • consider the sustainability of your plans (such as how you'll continue to fund your work in the future)
  • consider who you might need to involve.

NCVO members can download our editable business plan template and read our step-by-step guidance on writing a business plan.

Once you’ve developed your business plan, it may be useful to carry out a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis of your proposed organisation. This can help you plan for the future and address any issues that come up.

Consider your external environment

The external environment will affect your organisation. By looking outside of your organisation as you set up, you can make sure that you:

  • maximise potential opportunities
  • minimise threats.

A political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal (PESTLE) analysis can help you look at the external environment and spot opportunities and threats. Once you have set up your organisation, as an NCVO member you can access this PESTLE analysis template to begin thinking about how this applies to your situation.

For further information read the Charity Commission's guidance on checking if a new charity is the best option.

Last reviewed: 03 June 2021

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 03 June 2021

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