The Charity Commission has updated its COVID-19 guidance to include information for charities considering whether they need to change their objects to help in the effort to tackle the pandemic.
Charities should first consider the terms of their existing charitable objects as set out in their governing document. Objects that might already allow a charity to offer support, include:
- the relief of poverty
- the relief of need hardship or distress
- the relief of the elderly
- the advancement of education or advancement in life of young people
- the advancement of health
The Commission says that charities with other objects may also be able to adapt and respond to COVID-19 either directly or indirectly.
‘For example, a charity with an object to advance religion may be able to offer support as part of its pastoral work. An arts charity might help relieve isolation through its online work. Your charity may also have a general object that allows you to act for any charitable purposes, or an object that allows you to support the general benefit of a local area.
In considering what you can do under your existing objects you will need to check whether your objects have restrictions, for example, to benefit a particular local area or class of beneficiaries.’
If the existing objects do not allow your charity to help, you may be able to amend your governing document to change them, but you should consider:
- whether there are other charities that may be better placed to respond than yours. You can find contact details for relevant local charities on our register
- the wider and longer-term impacts of changing your charity’s objects including on your existing beneficiaries
If you want to change your charitable objects, check to see whether your trustees have the powers to amend them, for example using an express power in your governing document. If not, you may need permission from the Charity Commission.
‘Any changes proposed should be reasonable, consistent with what your charity does, and not undermine your existing objects. We will prioritise requests required urgently because of COVID-19.’
For more detailed guidance see alterations to governing documents for unincorporated charities and charitable companies and governing document guidance for CIOs.