What are charities
Charities are organisations set up for the benefit of the community. They enjoy some tax advantages from the government. While they can in certain circumstances trade for profit, they must use any such profit for the purposes of the charity. To qualify as a charity, an organisation has to meet strict conditions about its overall purposes, also referred to as its objects. The organisation also has to be set up with a constitution or rules which meet certain conditions. These rules are usually referred to as a charity’s governing document.
Some charities are set up to give direct help, advice, grants or support to people in various kinds of need, for instance older people, or those with a particular medical condition. Charities are also set up to carry out research, provide training or education, or to focus on meeting the wider needs of a particular deprived area. And some charities exist mainly to support other charities, by giving grants and other assistance to them.
Several kinds of organisation can qualify as a charity. For instance, some charities are also registered companies, while others are trusts. Some charities are also set up by special legislation. All are subject to the general principles of charity law.
Charities receive their money in various ways, such as donations from the public, payment for services provided, government grants and legacies.
Role of the Charity Commission
The Charity Commission is the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales. Their job as regulator is to work closely with charities to ensure that they are accountable, well run and meet their legal obligations in order to promote public trust and confidence. Most charities must register with the Commission, although some special types of charity do not have to register.
The Commission provides a wide range of advice and guidance to charities and their Trustees, and can often help with problems. Registered charities with an annual income or expenditure over £10,000 must provide annual information and accounts to the Commission. The Commission has wide powers to intervene in the affairs of a charity where things have gone wrong.
More information about the Commission together with a range of guidance for charities can be found on their website www.charitycommission.gov.uk.
As a Trustee, your skills and energy will help to make a difference to your chosen cause and charity. You will become responsible for the charity’s mission, for its property, finances and the employment of any staff or volunteers. Without good and committed Trustees, no charity can hope to succeed.
Being a Trustee of the PPEF can be hard work and is unpaid, except for expenses. But by contributing you should also gain. Trusteeship should be rewarding, providing many opportunities for personal development. As you give your skills to the running of the charity, you will at the same time gather new skills and experience.
For instance, you will need to plan the strategic future of the PPEF and its work. You will need to take the lead in developing and managing staff and volunteers – for most charities, their most important resource. You may also need to become involved in policy decisions within the PPEF. Innovation, problem solving and representing the charity in public may also be needed.
You will of course be joining a team of Trustees. To be effective, the team will need a range of people with a good mix of skills. It will also be diverse, with people who understand the needs to be served, and others with business and management experience. This should also be positive – you will be meeting and working with new people with different backgrounds, and from different walks of life. The Trustees usually meet four times a year.
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