What are the considerations when preparing to set-up a charity?

If you want your organisation to become a charity, there are a number of points to consider carefully before applying.

You should:

  • Decide what kind of organisation you would like to be. We call this the charity's 'legal form'.  For example, your charity could be a charitable company, a trust, a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) or an Unincorporated Association. For further information of which legal form is appropriate for your organisation, see our Legal Forms Factsheet.
  • Decide who will run your charity. Read our Charity Trustee Duties page and our Guidance for Charity Trustees for further information.
  • Prepare a governing document, such as a constitution, setting out the charity's purposes and how it will be run.
  • Decide what your charity's name will be. We cannot register a charity with a name that is: the same as or too similar to an existing one; that misleads the public about what your organisation is going to be doing; that gives the impression that you are connected with another organisation (unless you are connected with them); or that is offensive. Check the Register before deciding. More information is available in our Changing Your Charity's Name guidance and in our FAQs: SCIO’s on the Index of Company Names.
  • We recommend that you consider taking advice before taking steps to set up a charity - so that you can be confident that it's the right option for your organisation. You can find out more information on our Help Setting Up Your Charity page.
  • Certain people are disqualified from acting as charity trustees. However, we have the power to waive a disqualification if a person applies to us and meets the relevant criteria. Those who are disqualified are:
    • someone with an unspent conviction for dishonesty or an offence under the 2005 Act
    • someone who is an undischarged bankrupt or has a Protected Trust Deed to pay off debts with creditors
    • someone who has been removed under either Scottish or English Law from being a charity trustee
    • someone who is disqualified from being a company director