What is the Charity Commission and what are its functions?

The Charity Commission

The Charity Commission is the agency which regulates and registers charities in England and Wales according to the Charities Act 2006.

The Charity Commission offers advice and provides a wide range of services and guidance to all Charities throughout England and Wales in order to help them run as effectively as possible.

Non-ministerial Government Department

The Charity Commission is part of the Civil Service and is a non-Ministerial Government department meaning that it is completely independent of Ministerial influence. The Charity Commission is also completely independent of the sector in which it regulates.

The Charity Commission undertakes a number of quasi-judicial functions it situations where it uses powers similar to those of the High Court.

Reporting to Parliament

The Charity Commission is required to report on its performance annually to Parliament.

Register of Charities

The Charity Commission operates the online register of charities which provides full information about all of the registered charities in England and Wales, including information concerning the distribution of funds.

Structure of the Charity Commission

The structure of the Charity Commission is made up of two distinct entities:

  1. The Board
  2. The Directors Group

The Board

The Board has a responsibility for the overall strategy and future direction of the Charity Commission. Board meetings are open for members of the general public to attend as the Charity Commission is an open and accountable organisation.

The Board is supported by an audit committee and a civil service pay committee.

The Directors Group

The Commission’s Directors Group takes decisions which are concerned with the daily running of the operation. The Group is chaired by the Chief Executive and includes the Directors and key senior staff.

Directors of the Charity Commission

The Charity Commission directors implement the programmes and policies which arise from the Board’s decisions ensuring that the Commission delivers effective services.

Each director will be supported by their own teams which will consist of senior staff and representatives from other key parts of the organisation.

Charities

What is a charity?

Charities are organisations that benefit the public in a way which the law agrees is charitable.

Who runs charities?

Charities are run by trustees who are the individual people who form the governing body or the board of the charity. Whether they are referred to as trustees, directors, governors or committee members the one thing remains the same – is that they are the people with the ultimate responsibility for directing the business of the charity.

Do charity trustees receive payment?

Most trustees of charities take their position on a voluntary basis and as a consequence do not receive any remuneration other than general expenses.

Registration of Charities

All charitable organisations that are based in England and Wales have to register with the Charities Commission if their income is over £5,000 a year. Although charities with an income of £5,000 or less do not have to register with the Charity Commission, they are still required to abide by the provisions of charity law prescribed by the Charities Act 2006 and in almost all cases are still regulated by the Charity Commission.

Accountable to the public

All charities in England and Wales are accountable to the public meaning that all charities which are registered with the Charity Commission must provide certain information about the way in which they operate and how their resources are used.

This information is then made available to the public through the Charity Commission. If you wish to view how various charities money is used you can access this information through the charity register on the Charity Commission’s website.

Functions of the Charity Commission

The Charity Commission helps charities to use their resources efficiently and encourages them to adopt best practice in order to improve their effectiveness but also to increase the public’s confidence and trust in them.

Resources and Guidance

The best way in which the Charity Commission achieves this above function is to produce resources and guidance for charities, their advisers and the general public.

Tailored advice to specific charities

The Charity Commission also provides tailored advice to specific charities and in certain cases even provides legal consents where necessary in order to help charities continue to operate effectively.

Deliberate wrongdoing

According to the Charity Commission the amount of deliberate fraud and dishonestly surrounding the money received by charities is extremely low with most mistakes simply being made honestly. If the mistake is an honest one this can simply be resolved with some help and guidance from the Charity Commission.

However, where the Charity Commission has serious cause for concern that a charity’s beneficiaries, assets or reputation are at risk they have strong legal powers under the Charities Act 2006 to investigate and intervene.

Can I make a complaint to the Charity Commission about a particular charity?

There are only certain kinds of complaints about charities that the Charity Commission can involve themselves in. For example if you have a complaint about the way in which a certain charity undertakes fundraising or apportions the funds as a consequence of that fundraising the complaint should be made directly to that charity.

There are certain situations however, where you can appeal a decision made by the Charity Commission.

Complaints about a decision made by the Charity Commission

Appeals can be made to the Charity Commission concerning decisions which have been made by the Charity Commission such as a decision made using their formal legal powers – for example removing a trustee or refusing to register a charity.

Appeals can also be made to the Charity Commission in a situation where they have decided not to use the legal powers available to them – for example where they have decided not to intervene in a particular situation or have followed a course of action which is disagreed with.