New research exploring the volunteering experiences and perspectives of people from the global majorityy. Find out more
Use this page to understand what social enterprises are and their associated legal structures.
A social enterprise is not a legal structure but a way of doing business. The exact definition can vary, but in general they:
For more information on the definition of a social enterprise, read Social Enterprise Mark’s explanation of a social enterprise.
Find further information on governing documents.
Social enterprises can take on many different legal structures. Some charities operate as social enterprises, so social enterprises can have a charity legal structure.
GOV.UK has more guidance on setting up a social enterprise.
A common legal structure for a non-charitable social enterprise is a Community Interest Company (CIC). A CIC is a special type of limited company which exists to benefit the community. It is not a charity.
The CIC regulator has guidance on setting up a CIC and a webinar to help you determine if this if the right model for you.
Other legal structures for a social enterprise include:
Learn about what to consider when choosing a legal structure.
There is a wide variety of social enterprises operating in the UK, with different legal structures. Below are a few examples taken from Social Enterprise UK.
We suggest getting more information and seeking professional advice when setting up a social enterprise and choosing the right legal structure. Below are a few options for further guidance and affordable professional advice.
Last reviewed: 03 June 2021Help us improve this content
These suppliers can provide free help and advice with your organisation’s property queries and energy bills
Learn about the practical steps you need to take to set up your own organisation
Access our guidance to help you decide if you should set up a new charity, voluntary organisation or community group
What you need to consider when choosing your legal structure and the main characteristics of different legal structures
Find out what charity status is and if you need to register as a charity
Find out what information should be included in your charity's governing document
Guidance and tools to help you run your charity or voluntary organisation
Get regular updates on NCVO's help, support and services