A governing document is a legal document which represents the rule book for the way in which your charity will operate. We recommend it contains information about:
- what the charity is set up to achieve (purposes)
- how the charity goes about achieving its purposes (powers)
- who is involved in the strategic oversight of the charity
- what happens if changes to the administrative provisions or purposes need to be made
- what happens if the charity wishes to wind up.
It should also contain administrative provisions relating to:
- governance of the charity
- internal arrangements for meetings, voting and finance
- membership to the charity (where applicable)
- the appointment, retirement and removal of trustees.
- if and how trustees can benefit from the charity.
There are a number of different types of governing document including a constitution for an association, a trust deed for a trust, a will for a will trust, articles of association for a company andrules for an Industrial and Provident Society.
If you are setting up a new charity, or revising the governing document of an existing charity, you may find it helpful to refer to one of our model governing documents.
A model governing document is a template which your organisation can use and adapt to your needs by, for example, tailoring some clauses so they are specific to your organisation and adding your organisation’s purposes.
The Commission has produced four model governing documents, available below.
The model governing documents are available to download from our website in MS Word format by clicking on the links above. If you wish to make use of one of the documents, please copy and paste the text from the document to a blank MS Word document.
There is guidance within each document explaining how to use the model governing document, which model governing document would be best suited to your organisation and what clauses may need tailored. Additionally, the Commission has published the answers to some frequently asked questions (FAQs) relating to use of the model governing documents.
A charity’s governing document contains the organisation’s purposes. To be charitable, your organisation must have exclusively charitable purposes. This means that each purpose must fall within one or more of the 12 descriptions of purpose in the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008 and be for the public benefit.
When you are writing, or revising, the purposes of your organisation we recommend that you refer to The public benefit requirement statutory guidance and the relevant public benefit supporting documents.
For example, if your organisation is established generally for the advancement of education, it would be helpful to refer to the specific supporting document on the advancement of education for examples of purposes and the public benefit that flows from them.
Additionally, the Purposes and public benefit toolkit is a helpful resource providing practical guidance on the construction of charitable purposes and a checklist for reviewing your organisation’s purposes.