The Charity Commission has added information about changing charitable objects to its guidance for charities operating during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The guidance states: “Naturally, lots of charities are considering whether they can help the effort to tackle Covid-19 and its severe impact on people right across the country. You should first consider the terms of your charity’s existing charitable objects.”
However, it adds that trustees of charities with certain objects may be able to adapt and respond to coronavirus 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. Or 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,” it adds.
‘You may be able to amend your governing document’
The new guidance states: “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 your existing objects do not allow you to help, you may be able to amend your governing document to change them.”
But trustees must consider whether there are other charities that may be better placed to respond, as well as the wider and longer-term impacts of using charity money for purposes other than those for which it was raised.
“Your existing beneficiaries - whose needs may be less pressing but no less deserving - may also lose out,” the guidance states.
“If you want to change your charitable objects, you should 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 us. For example, if your organisation is a company or a CIO, a change to the objects is a ‘regulated amendment’ which would require our consent.
“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,” it adds.