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If you are thinking of establishing a new charity, or other not for profit organisation, one of the first decisions you will face is which vehicle to use. See our formation page. This will dictate the type of governing document you have. A trust or unincorporated association is inexpensive to create and escapes the reporting requirements of the Companies House. If, however, the charity is intending to own property, employ people or enter into significant contractual obligations, personal liability will be a serious concern for the trustees and a company limited by guarantee or an Industrial and Provident Society for the benefit of the community may be a better model to adopt.
You may have just become a trustee of a well established charity. You will, hopefully, have been given an induction pack including the governing document of the charity. It is worth checking whether the objects described in that document accurately reflect your understanding of what the charity is about. The powers of a charity also merit regular review to be sure that they are sufficiently wide to allow the activities of the charity in pursuit of its objects.
The role of a charity trustee is not to be taken lightly. To the traditional obligations to protect the property and reputation of the charity, you must add responsibility for health and safety, employment, data protection and other issues. Nevertheless, with relevant training, the personal satisfaction of doing something you feel to be worthwhile should more than justify the time and trouble involved in doing the job properly.