Charitable Purposes and the Covid-19 Situation

Many charities have had to adapt the delivery of their purposes in view of the Covid-19 restrictions - particularly those that help vulnerable people.

Some charities may find that their current purposes cannot be fulfilled either in whole or in part, but they might have devised alternative methods of pursuing these. However, the Charity Commission advises charity trustees to consider whether other charities may be better placed to respond, and the wider and longer-term impacts if the charity uses funds for purposes other than those for which they were raised - particularly if existing beneficiaries may lose out. For example, some charities may wish to work collaboratively with other charities and voluntary organisations or make donations to these if they are providing support to the charity’s service-users.

In considering how to respond to the situation charity trustees should pause and have regard to the charity’s governing document. This is to ensure that their proposed action is within the charity’s purposes and the trustees’ powers in the charity’s governing document. Charity trustees must also be aware of any restrictions specified in their charity’s purposes (e.g. geography/area of benefit or to assist a particular type of beneficiaries). It may be necessary to seek consent from The Charity Commission to change the charity’s purposes or amend the charity’s governing document if the charity is proposing to deliver its purposes in a different manner.

The Charity Commission's guidance for charities that are considering whether they can assist with the impact of the Covid-19 crisis is that charities should consider the wording of the charitable purposes in their governing documents. 

Charities with objects that already include the following may be able to provide support:

  • the relief of poverty;
  • the relief of need, hardship or distress;
  • the relief of the elderly;
  • the advancement of education or the advancement in life of young people; or
  • the advancement of health;
  • general charitable purposes
  • Charities with other objects may be able to adapt and assist with the Covid-19 crisis directly or indirectly (e.g. a charity for the advancement of religion might be able to offer support as part of its pastoral work).

For further advice please contact Gerry Morrison at

Posted on: 23/04/2020

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

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