Setting up a new Group or Charity

Setting up a new group can seem a complicated process, particularly if you have not had previous experience in this field. 

It is important to ask yourself some questions before starting a new group:

  • Why are you setting up?
  • What is your overall goal? Your Vision and Mission?. 
  • Who will be your beneficiaries? Who are you aiming the offer at?
  • What evidence have you got that your approach/ model works and is the right one?
  • How do you know it is needed?
  • What do you need to get your idea of the ground? E.g venue, money, equipment, people?
  • Is anyone else doing the same thing in the same area?

Choosing the right legal structure for your group

If you’re setting up a new community voluntary group/ organisation you’ll need to consider which legal structure will be most appropriate for the group and its activities.

For example, will an informal unincorporated group be sufficient? Or will you need something more formal, such as an unincorporated group with detailed written rules, or an incorporated society, or a trust?

There are a number of different legal structures that may be open to your group, each with different advantages and disadvantages.

Your charity structure is defined by its ‘governing document’ (the legal document that creates the charity and says how it should be run).

The type of structure you choose affects how your charity will operate, such as:

  • who will run it and whether it will have a wider membership
  • whether it can enter into contracts or employ staff in its own name
  • whether the trustees will be personally liable for what the charity does

There are 4 main types of charity structure:

  • Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO)

A CIO is an incorporated structure designed for charities. You create a CIO by registering with the Charity Commission. You don’t need to register with Companies House.

Trustees have limited or no liability for CIO debts or liabilities.

  • Charitable Company (Limited By Guarantee)

Your charitable companies will have to be limited by guarantees rather than shares when you register. Select ‘private company limited by guarantee’ on the form.

Trustees have limited or no liability for a charitable company’s debts or liabilities.

  • Unincorporated Association

An ‘unincorporated charitable association’ is a simple way for a group of volunteers to run a charity for a common purpose.

Unincorporated charitable associations can’t employ staff or own premises.

  • Charitable Trust

A ‘charitable trust’ is a way for a group of people (‘trustees’) to manage assets such as money, investments, land or buildings.

You may also consider:

  • Community Interest Company

A CIC is a special type of limited company which exists to benefit the community rather than private shareholders.

You can find more information on choosing the right structure for you at:

If you would like advice and support throughout any stage of your organisations development please get in touch by emailing