How to Set Up a Charity or Non-Profit Organisation in the UK

How to Set Up a Charity or Non-Profit Organisation in the UK

Read Time: 3 Minutes


27 Nov 2020

Updated: 17 May 2023

If you’re passionate about a good cause, you might be thinking about setting up a charity or non-profit. As well as working towards something you believe in, these kinds of organisations better the community – or even the world at large – by addressing their needs and concerns.

To help you on your way, we’ve created this guide to setting up a UK non-profit organisation in 8 easy steps.


What is a Non-Profit Organisation?

A non-profit organisation, also known as a non-business entity, is formed to provide programmes, services and funds to help further cultural, educational, religious or professional objectives or support a particular point of view. As the name suggests, a non-profit or charity organisation doesn’t make a profit. Instead, any extra profits are cycled back into the organisation to help achieve the mission.

A non-profit’s funds can be donated by members of the public or provided by its founders or trustees.

Non-profit organisations can be charities, associations, cooperatives or voluntary organisations that benefit a particular community.


How to Set Up a Non-Profit Organisation

Just like any other business, setting up a charity carries risks for everyone involved, which is why it’s important to follow all the correct steps and get your research done. We’ll be expanding on the six steps set out by the Government on how to start a charity and adding in a few extra steps along the way. Here’s everything you need to know. 

Step 1: Research

With approximately 169,000 charities in England and Wales alone, how are you going to make sure your idea is unique (or at least better than the current organisation for your chosen cause)? So you’re not treading on anyone’s toes, be sure to research existing non-profit organisations to decide if there is a need for you in the community.


Step 2: Define your mission

To successfully secure funds for your non-profit organisation, you’ll need to be able to convince funders that you are different – so this step is a little bit like finding your unique selling point. To do this, you’ll need to define exactly who you are and what you aim to do. 

One strategy for standing out is to find a geographical niche; go hyper-local to a specific community. By learning local knowledge, you’ll be able to appeal and help them far more effectively than a broader charity. 

This helps define exactly what your mission is – ‘helping people in X location’, as opposed to just ‘helping people’.


Step 3: Find trustees

Charity trustees are ultimately responsible for running, managing and governing the charity or non-profit organisation. You usually need to recruit a minimum of three trustees for your organisation. Finding someone with the right skills and experience combined with a passion for your cause is key here. Make sure your role description is clear about your needs and interesting to find the best candidates. 

Of course, if you know someone who’d be the perfect fit for the job, feel free to use your network of connections to fill the role. Alternatively, broaden the search using online job boards, social media and recruitment services.

Step 4: Name your organisation

When setting up a charity it’s important to pick a unique name that gets across who you are and what your cause is, without being similar to an existing non-profit organisation’s name. Search the charities register to check the names of registered charities.

Note: if you want to include the word ‘charity’ in your name, you’ll need approval from the Charity Commission


Step 5: Settle on a structure

Choosing a structure for your charity or non-profit organisation affects several things, including:

  • Who runs the organisation
  • How it’s run
  • What it can do (e.g. employ people, own property)

Here is a full list of legal structures to consider for your organisation, ranging from an unincorporated organisation to a charitable trust or community benefit society.


Step 6: Create a ‘governing document’

When setting up a charity, a governing document, or rulebook, sets out how your charity is run and the information included is dependent on the structure you choose. It will generally cover the following topics and let interested parties find out more about your non-profit organisation:

  • Your purpose
  • Who runs your organisation and how they run it
  • How trustees will be appointed
  • Rules about trustees’ expenses
  • Rules about payments to trustees
  • How to close the charity or organisation


Step 7: Register 

Once you’re set up with your trustees and a governing document, you’re nearly ready to go! If you’re setting up a charity with an annual income of over £5,000 or if you set up as a charitable incorporated organisation (CIO), you’ll need to register with the Charity Commission

Find more advice on registration and setting up a social enterprise here.


Step 8: Start Fundraising for Your Cause

You’re ready to go! Now all that’s left to do is spread awareness for your cause and make a difference, starting with your first big fundraising campaign. Check out these 10 virtual fundraising ideas to make money at home for an idea of where to start.


Need More Guidance?

We hope this guide has improved your knowledge on how to start a charity so you can help others by launching a successful non-profit organisation.

To help you on the next leg of your journey, why not join the instantprint Charity programme? You’ll receive a whole host of benefits including exclusive content and discounts on your printed materials?

If you need more information or would like to speak about a member of our friendly team, contact us

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About the Author

Hi, I'm Yasmin, the Sales Manager at instantprint. My main aim is to support businesses to create the best print possible by offering tailored advice and quotes.