Charity law is changing. Click here to find out how the changes will affect your charity.

(f) the advancement of citizenship or community development

Published: 20/08/2015
Updated: 20/08/2015


This heading includes a number of purposes which focus on benefit to the community rather than the individual, by helping people to be active citizens, promoting voluntary organisations and networks, or by meeting the needs of particular communities or working to regenerate them.

These purposes include the promotion of civic responsibility, volunteering, the voluntary sector or the effectiveness or efficiency of charities, and rural or urban regeneration.

The advancement of citizenship or community development includes a number of different but connected purposes. Among these, the 2005 Act includes:

(i)  the promotion of civic responsibility, volunteering, the voluntary sector or the effectiveness or efficiency of charities, and

(ii)  rural or urban regeneration.

In practice it may not be easy to separate these different purposes and an organisation’s activities may further one or a number of them. 

Purpose F

What is the promotion of civic responsibility? 

This involves the development and teaching of civic values, for the good of a community or society as a whole. For example, promoting democracy and equality, and engagement with social and political processes.

Activities might aim to:

  • reduce anti-social behaviour
  • prevent individuals from becoming socially excluded
  • assist people to live better, safer or more fulfilled lives by encouraging social inclusion.

What is the promotion of volunteering? 

This includes promoting the concept of volunteering and the value and benefits that volunteering can bring, both for the volunteers and those who benefit from their activities.

 Simply engaging volunteers to carry out activities for a charity is unlikely to further this purpose. Nearly all charities need volunteers, but this does not mean that the promotion of volunteering is the reason that they are established:  a charity with environmental conservation purposes might attract volunteers to help build paths, but the aim is to conserve the environment, not to further volunteering.

What activities might provide public benefit when advancing this purpose?

In general, public benefit is the way that a charity makes a positive difference to the public. Activities might include:

  • linking potential volunteers to volunteering opportunities
  • encouraging best practice in organisations to improve volunteer retention and the volunteering experience
  • assisting volunteers who have additional support needs
  • holding awards for volunteering
  • helping establish new volunteering projects
  • encouraging organisations to improve their capacity to support and train volunteers.

What is the promotion of the voluntary sector?

This refers to organisations that provide services and assistance to voluntary organisations, whether charitable or not. Under this purpose, an organisation must promote the voluntary sector as a whole, or a sufficient section of it.

What activities might provide public benefit when advancing this purpose?

In general, public benefit is the way that a charity makes a positive difference to the public. Activities might include:

  • helping to create new voluntary organisations
  • extending the activities of voluntary organisations into new areas or to a wider range of beneficiaries
  • supporting networks that bring voluntary organisations together and facilitating partnerships with other sectors
  • representing the interests of the voluntary sector to planners and policy makers, to make sure that the sector’s activities are included in national and local strategies
  • extending participation in the voluntary sector to sections of the community who are under-represented.

What is the promotion of the effectiveness or efficiency of charities?

This refers to activities that make sure that charities are well run or allow charitable resources to be used more effectively. For example, providing support and advisory services to voluntary organisations to improve their management, administration and operations.

What activities might provide public benefit when advancing this purpose?

In general, public benefit is the way that a charity makes a positive difference to the public. Activities might include:

  • supporting the administration of charities (for example through provision of accountancy or secretarial services)
  • providing training to charity trustees, employees or volunteers
  • giving advice to charities (for example on fundraising or investments)
  • helping charities to promote their activities (for example by designing a common website facility or organising a charity fair)
  • providing equipment, facilities or accommodation to charities.


The advancement of community development

Organisations set up to advance community development will seek to support people and community groups to identify and articulate their needs, then take practical action to address those needs.

 Services do not always need to target groups or areas that are categorised as deprived or disadvantaged. Community development activities can seek to address issues of inequality and social justice, bringing about changes that improve the quality of life for the whole community.

Communities vary in size and nature and can be defined by factors such as locality, interest or identity (for example, ethnic origin or sexual orientation). While there is no minimum size, the openness and inclusiveness of communities to new members will be factors in deciding if organisations provide public benefit.

What activities might provide public benefit when advancing this purpose?

In general, public benefit is the way that a charity makes a positive difference to the public. Some activities might focus on local decision making and infrastructure:

  • encouraging and supporting public involvement in the planning and development process
  • helping the development of a community plan to identify local needs and set out a programme for addressing them
  • building and maintaining partnerships between community groups, voluntary organisations and public sector bodies that contribute to local decision making
  • delivering specific projects or targets that are part of an agreed community plan
  • upgrading village streetscapes, other public areas and open spaces (but not work to shop fronts or commercial buildings).

Giving grants or financial support to other community bodies may also advance community development but only where the grants would address an identifiable community need, or would result in identifiable benefits to the community as a whole. Whether this activity advances community development will depend on the type of organisations being supported, the reason for the financial support and what intended outcome of the support.

Other community development activities may include:

  • developing and operating community newspapers, local radio stations and community websites
  • operating neighbourhood schemes with a view to improving the lives of those living there (for example, community safety projects)
  • providing buildings, vehicles or equipment which benefits the community in a number of ways. This may include a centre providing facilities, activities and services that help promote people’s ability to participate in community life.

Such facilities or services may be available to defined groups such as young people, retired people or disabled people, or they may be open to the entire community.

Rural or urban regeneration

Regeneration is the process of reversing the economic, physical and social decline of places where market forces alone are not enough.

Organisations set up for regeneration must have an overall goal of improving the social, economic and/or physical quality of life of the whole community in areas where the need for improvement can clearly be demonstrated (for example, by indicators of social or economic deprivation).

Charities registered under this purpose are often led by the community in identifying the issues and opportunities in their area. They make the decisions and are responsible for delivering the economic, social and environmental change.

To be charitable, a regeneration organisation will normally need to demonstrate that an area is in need of regeneration, and that its activities will cover a broad spectrum of regeneration work.

 Evidence of deprivation can be taken from the local Community Plan or the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation. It could include information about levels of vacant and derelict property, out of work statistics, health and education outcomes.

What activities might provide public benefit when advancing this purpose?

In general, public benefit is the way that a charity makes a positive difference to the public. Activities might include:

  • providing financial or other assistance to people who are living in poverty
  • providing housing for those in need and to help improve housing standards generally in those parts of an area of deprivation where poor housing is a problem
  • helping unemployed people to find employment
  • providing education, training and re-training opportunities and work experience, especially for unemployed people
  • providing financial or technical assistance or advice to new businesses or existing businesses where it would lead to training and employment opportunities for unemployed people
  • providing land and buildings on favourable terms to businesses in order to create training and employment opportunities for the unemployed
  • providing, maintaining and improving roads and accessibility to main transport routes
  • providing, maintaining and improving recreational facilities
  • preserving buildings in the area which are of historic or architectural importance
  • improving digital connectivity, particularly in rural areas
  • providing amenities and facilities for use by the public, with or without charge.

Case 1: an organisation’s structure gave sufficient reassurance about private benefit when advancing community development

An organisation based in a small village applied for charitable status, with purposes including advancing community development in the area.

The organisation had a broad range of activities, based on a consultation within the community. These included developing a community garden, establishing an annual community festival, and operating a farmers’ market.  We looked particularly at issues such as the ownership of the garden and possible benefit to individuals from the market, but the evidence suggested that any private benefit was incidental to the benefit to the community.  The organisation also intended to establish a project generating electricity from renewable sources.  This activity did not directly further its community development purpose. 

However, the project was to be set up as a separate subsidiary company paying any profits to the organisation to finance community development grants.  Our view was that such payments would be likely to provide public benefit when advancing this purpose.

Taking into account the whole picture of the organisation’s intended activities and its proposed structure, we found that it passed the charity test. The application to become a charity was successful.

Case 2: an organisation showed how promoting the voluntary sector provided public benefit

We received an application to become a charity from an organisation whose purposes were to promote citizenship and community development by promoting the third sector in Scotland.

The organisation intended to explore new funding mechanisms for charities and voluntary bodies in Scotland (‘the third sector’), helping them to achieve their own objectives. In response to our questions, the applicant was able to reassure us that the organisations benefiting from its activities would either be charities or other organisations set up for the benefit of the community which did not allow profits to be distributed for other purposes.

We were satisfied that the organisation intended to provide public benefit by promoting the voluntary sector. The application to become a charity was successful.

The Development Trusts Association Scotland is the national body for development trusts in Scotland, and can provide support and advice.