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Charitable Purposes

Relief of Financial Hardship

To be classed as charitable, financial assistance may only be given to people in genuine financial need. Financial need may arise for a variety of reasons, which include old age, illness, disability, unemployment, accident, family problems. The need may be long-term and ongoing, or temporary.

In this category, it is permissible for a charity to restrict benefits to a smaller group of beneficiaries, for example, to help ex-employees of one employer.

Benefits may include financial help, food, clothing, assistance with or provision of housing, advice, or help to other organisations providing help directly to people suffering financial hardship.

The Advancement of Education

Education is a charitable purpose, whatever the financial status of the beneficiaries, and whether fees are or are not charged. Thus, schools, colleges and universities may be charitable as long as they are not run for profit.

Other educational purposes include:

  • Provision of playgroup facilities

  • Provision of facilities for physical education, ie sports facilities (Note that the promotion of sport itself is not a charitable purpose.)

  • Provision of facilities for recreational education, including hobbies (to be charitable they must have educational value)

  • The arts, eg museums, art galleries, concert halls, libraries, arts festivals (There must be public educational benefit, recognisable standards of artistic merit, and they must not be run for profit)

  • Conservation, where education is a significant part of the organisation’s activities - this can include zoos and other animal charities, eg rare breed societies; preservation of endangered species of animals and plants; industrial museums; steam railways; collections of various artefacts eg toys, musical instruments, vintage farm machinery, etc (To qualify as an educational charity, there must be educational benefits to the public)

  • Research, as long as there is public benefit

The Advancement of Religion

  1. The religion must be founded in a belief in a supreme being or beings. However, Buddhism is also regarded as a religion, even though there is no belief in a supreme being

  2. The belief must be expressed through worship of the supreme being or beings

  3. There must be a benefit to the public. Thus, enclosed orders may not be registered as charities, unless their activities include practical benefits to the community, for example, where members are involved in good works and/or advancement of religion in the community; parts of the building in which they live are open to the public for religious and other charitable purposes

  4. It must not undermine accepted bases of religion and morality, and must not be in any other way against the public interest. Thus, for example, organisations involved in Satanism or black magic could not obtain charitable status

Other Purposes Beneficial to the Community

This is a very wide heading, and covers many different activities, as long as they can be shown to provide a public benefit.

Examples of charitable purposes under this heading include:

  • Provision of recreational facilities which are open to everyone

  • Provision of recreational facilities for particular groups, such people with disabilities, elderly, etc

  • Protection of heritage, where the public has reasonable access to the property

  • Protection of the environment, including prevention of pollution, promotion of better methods of dealing with waste

  • Animal charities, eg organisations aiding animals, providing homes for stray animals, promoting better standards of care towards animals etc. (Note that anti-vivisection groups cannot be charitable because achieving their objects could result in disbenefits to human beings)

  • Mental and moral improvement of the public

  • Promotion of racial harmony

  • Promotion of industry, commerce, agriculture and art, as long as the purposes are for the general benefit of the public, not for the benefit of individuals

  • Improvement of standards of craftsmanship and design

  • Relief of problems brought about by old age, sickness, disability, where there is no financial need

  • Resettlement and rehabilitation of offenders and drug abusers

  • Help for disaster victims, where help is given on the basis of proven need

Non-Charitable Purposes

Purposes which are not considered to be charitable

  • Where they are for the benefit of one named person or a group of specified individuals

  • Where the beneficiaries have a personal relationship, eg a family trust

  • Where the beneficiaries have a contractual relationship, eg employees or members of a professional institute - except where there is financial hardship when beneficiaries can come from a more restricted group an employer can set up a charitable trust to help former employees in times of need or a professional institute can set up a benevolent fund

  • Purposes which are illegal or could assist or aid illegal purposes

  • Political or propagandist activities

  • Any purpose which is against the public interest
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