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Two or more organisations that are closely related and have similar charitable purposes may choose to apply to register together under the Charities Act as a group. Each member of that group must qualify for registration under the Charities Act in its own right.
The Act refers to a group as a "single entity" but in this information sheet, we use the term "group". Once registered under the Charities Act, a group has its own name and registration number. Each group member is treated as a registered charitable entity.
Before you decide to register as part of a group, you need to be sure that it is the right option for your organisation
How does a group apply for registration?
Applying to register as a group is a two-stage process.
The parent must collect and present the information needed to show that we should treat the group as a "single entity". This includes:
- information showing that each group member qualifies for registration in its own right
- the rules of each group member (this may be one common set of rules)
- Officer Certification Forms for each officer of each group member.
The parent should use a Group Member Information Form to collect this information and include these forms with its submission. The Registration Checklist shows you what information is needed to complete a Group Member Information Form. We suggest that the parent keeps copies of these forms to help with the second stage of the process.
Make a submission : The parent must make a written request to us, asking for the group of organisations to be treated as a "single entity". This must be signed by an officer of the parent.
Below is a list of items that the submission must, or should, include.
To differentiate the name of the group from any of its member organisations, the submission must include:
- the proposed name of the group (it is important that this name does not belong to any other organisation, including the parent)
It should also include:
- details of how the group members are affiliated or related to the parent organisation - this could include, for example, governance arrangements
- Group Member Information Forms and accompanying documents for each group member
- details about the similarities of the group members' charitable purposes
- the reasons for any similarities or differences between group members' names
- proposed terms and conditions about how changes will be notified and Annual Returns filed
- a statement that: "this submission and associated papers are a request for to be treated as a single entity under section 44(1) of the Charities Act. (Name of the proposed parent organisation) is one of those organisations listed above and has been asked to make this request on behalf of the others"
- any other details that will help us decide why it is appropriate to treat your organisations as a group.
The submission may also include if you wish
- a statement that: "if any of the organisations listed above qualifies to be registered, but it is not appropriate for them to be part of the single entity, they wish to proceed with registration individually."
Once we decide to treat the organisations as a group, we will write to the parent to outline the proposed terms and conditions. These will be set on a case-by-case basis and will vary from one group to another.
The terms and conditions may relate to
- the application to register
- the name of the group
- how changes will be notified
- what information will be shown on the Charities Register.
Once the terms and conditions have been agreed between the Commission and the parent, the parent can proceed to stage two of the application process.
Apply : The parent makes an application to register the group by requesting form 5 — Application by a group for registration as a single charitable entity.
The parent will need to complete Form 5 showing the terms and conditions agreed, and the terms and conditions set for the group will help the parent complete Form 5 as will copies of the Group Member Information Forms for each member organisation.
Does your organisation meet the criteria to register as part of a group?
Two or more organisations may register together as a group if they
- each qualify to register as a charity in their own right
- agree to register together as a group
- have similar charitable purposes
- can nominate an organisation from the group to lead the application process and act on the group's behalf (we call this organisation the "parent")
- are affiliated or closely related to the parent organisation.
Does your organisation qualify for registration under the Charities Act?
It can apply for registration if
- it is established and maintained for charitable purposes (see our information sheet Charitable Purpose)
- it is not for the private profit of any individual or group (see our information sheet Your rules and the Charities Act)
- it has a name that complies with the Charities Act (see our information sheet The name of your organisation)
- all of the officers of the organisation are qualified to be officers under the Charities Act (see our information sheet Officer certification).
Does your organisation agree to be part of the group?
All organisations must agree to register as part of a group, so you should make sure you know who the other organisations in your proposed group are.
Does your organisation have similar charitable purposes to the others in the proposed group?
You must have similar charitable purposes to the other organisations in the group. The Commission will be looking for similarity of charitable purposes between group members.
Which organisation will act as parent for the proposed group?
The parent leads the application process on behalf of the group and must understand and accept its ongoing responsibilities. We explain more about this below under the headings Who will lead your group? and What are their responsibilities? All organisations in the group must agree on which one will be the parent and take these responsibilities.
Does your organisation have a close relationship with the group parent?
You must have an affiliation or close relationship with the parent organisation of the proposed group.
How does your organisation manage its finances?
You should think about how you will provide financial information for Annual Returns. You should also work with the other members of the group to decide how to file Annual Returns and how the parent will report financial information for the group.
What happens once the group is registered?
The following information relating to each group member will usually be publicly available on the Charities Register:
- the name, address and registration number
- names of the current officers and of all officers since registration
- a copy of the rules
- each document filed under the Act.
The following information relating to the group will usually be publicly available on the Charities Register
- the name and registration number
- the application for registration
- each document filed under the Act.
However, the group's terms and conditions might allow some of this information to be restricted from public access on the Register.
Notifying changes and filing Annual Returns
Obligations under the Charities Act, such as notifying changes to the information held on the Register and filing Annual Returns, will be met either by the parent, or by each group member. This will depend on the terms and conditions set for the group.
Before sending us information about changes, the parent must first check to see if any of the changes impact on the information held on the Register for the group. If they do, the parent must notify us of the changes as set out in the group's terms and conditions.
Our information sheet – Annual Returns under the Charities Act explains more about filing Annual Returns.
Annual Return fees will vary from group to group, depending on how the group files them. This will be set out in the terms and conditions for the group.
Parent's powers and responsibilities
We will usually work with the parent on any matters relating to the group or any of its members. The parent should, subject to terms and conditions
- ensure that all Annual Returns are filed as set out in the group's terms and conditions
- ensure that any fees for filing Annual Returns are paid
- ensure changes are notified as set out in the group's terms and conditions
- receive and administer information from us on behalf of the group
- request the removal of organisations from the group if appropriate
- deal with other matters on behalf of the group as required.
Group member's responsibilities
The terms and conditions will determine how the group will communicate issues relating to membership of the group to us.
The group member should (subject to terms and conditions):
- provide the parent with information relating to key changes to the organisation
- provide the parent with information relating to Annual Returns
- send Annual Return fees (if any) to the parent so they can forward them to us.
Removal of a group member from the group
We can remove a group member from a group if we are no longer satisfied that:
- the group member is affiliated or closely related to the parent organisation
- the group member qualifies for registration as a charitable entity
- it is appropriate to treat the group member as forming part of the group.
We can also remove a group member from a group if:
- the group member has failed to comply with a term or condition imposed on it
- the parent asks us to remove the group member
- the group member asks to be removed.
When we consider removal, we must allow both the group member affected and the parent the opportunity to have their say on the matter.
What are the responsibilities and powers of the parent?
When two or more organisations wish to register together as a group, they must first agree on which one of them will become the parent. The parent may be any one of the organisations that is part of the group. For example, it may be the head office, national body or one of the local offices. The parent is not an organisation set up especially to act as parent.
As well as leading the application process, the parent has responsibilities and powers after we have registered the group. Its responsibilities and powers are to
- make a submission to us asking for the group to "be treated as a single entity"
- work with us during the submission process, including setting the terms and conditions for the group
- ensure we have all the information we need, including information about each organisation
- request, if they wish, that Annual Returns are filed by either the parent or by each organisation in the group
- request, if they wish, that changes are notified by either the parent or by each organisation in the group
- receive and administer information from us, subject to the terms and conditions set with us, once the group is registered
- deal with other matters on behalf of the group, as required by the terms and conditions
- request the removal of group members from the group (when considering this request, we will give the group member concerned a reasonable opportunity to have their say on the matter).