You should first consider the terms of your charity’s existing charitable objects. These are set out in your governing document. Objects that might already allow you to offer support include:
- the relief of poverty
- the relief of need hardship or distress
- the relief of the elderly
- the advancement of education or advancement in life of young people
- the advancement of health
Trustees of charities with other objects may also be able to adapt and respond to COVID-19 either directly or indirectly.
For example, a charity with an object to advance religion may be able to offer support as part of its pastoral work.
An arts charity might help relieve isolation through its online work.
Your charity may also have a general object that allows you to act for any charitable purposes, or an object that allows you to support the general benefit of a local area.
In considering what you can do under your existing objects you will need to check whether your objects have restrictions, for example, to benefit a particular local area or class of beneficiaries.
If your existing objects do not allow you to help, you may be able to amend your governing document to change them. But consider carefully:
- whether there are other charities that may be better placed to respond than yours. You can find contact details for relevant local charities on the public register https://www.gov.uk/find-charity-information
- the wider and longer-term impacts if you use your charity’s money for purposes other than those for which it was raised. Your existing beneficiaries – whose needs may be less pressing but no less deserving – may also lose out
If you want to change your charitable objects, you should check to see whether your trustees have the powers to amend them, for example using an express power in your governing document. If not, you may need permission from the charity commission. For example if your organisation is a company or a CIO, a change to the objects is a ‘regulated amendment’ which would require our consent.
Any changes proposed should be reasonable, consistent with what your charity does, and not undermine your existing objects. They will prioritise requests required urgently because of COVID-19.