The Charity Commission of England and Wales has released an updated public benefit guidance. Canadian charities can find this material quite helpful in terms of the understanding the concept of public benefit and how a charity can show public benefit. While the law in Canada and England is not identical on public benefit it is very similar and the UK materials are really well laid out for directors to understand this important issue.
Here is a link and the text of the news release:
“Charity Commission publishes revised public benefit guidance
16 September 2013
The Charity Commission, the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales, has today published its revised public benefit guidance for all charities.
The guidance, which the Commission is required to produce under what is now the Charities Act 2011, is split into three short, high level guides available both in online and offline formats. Trustees must have regard to this guidance when administering their charity.
The three guides are:
•Public Benefit: the public benefit requirement
•Public Benefit: running a charity
•Public Benefit: reporting
In summary, the three guides explain what is required to show that an organisation is a charity (by having purposes that are for the public benefit), what trustees’ duties are in carrying out those purposes for the public benefit, and how trustees should report on the public benefit their charity provides in their Annual Report.
The guides also explain that the trustees of charities which charge fees for services or facilities that the poor cannot afford must make provision for the poor to benefit. It is for trustees - not the Commission or the courts - to decide how to do this, but they must act reasonably and make more than a minimal provision.
William Shawcross, Chairman of the Charity Commission said;
“Public benefit is an important part of what makes the work of charities so valuable to the community. Trustees therefore need to understand how their charity benefits the public, and work to deliver and report on those benefits.
Public benefit is a complex area of charity law to explain. But, for most charities, demonstrating that their purposes are for the public benefit, carrying them out for the public benefit and reporting on their public benefit, is straightforward.
We have worked hard to provide guidance that is accessible to trustees of all types of charity, while still accurately reflecting the law. We have accepted comments made during our consultation to keep the guidance short and clear. This means that the guidance certainly cannot answer every question.
There is no statutory definition of public benefit so its meaning will continue to develop through decisions made by the courts. As the law develops, we will keep our guidance under review.”
The Commission’s guidance is not the law on public benefit but it explains and reflects the law.
The guidance is available on the Charity Commission’s website alongside an analysis of the law relating to public benefit and an explanation of the ways in which the regulator has responded to comments made during the consultation.
- See more at: http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/news/new-public-benefit-guidance/#sthash.GJTicWUV.dpuf”
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Mark Blumberg is a partner at the law firm of Blumberg Segal LLP in Toronto and works almost exclusively in the areas of non-profit and charity law.