What are Objects?
Any charity or charitable company (more about that later) needs objects. These define why the charity exists and what it is hoping to achieve. In this respect it differs significantly from the stated objects of the church, which may include such phrases as ‘promoting the Christian gospel through teaching and outreach’. For a social charity we need to emphasise the benefits to those who are poor or disadvantaged.
To illustrate, the first object of my local church’s trust document states that we are to ‘Advance the Christian faith’. This is not attractive to many secular donors. In contrast, the first object of one of our social charitable trusts is ‘the prevention or relief of poverty’. There is also an object in our church trust document that relates to poverty but it is not high on the list of objects.
Although our Christian stance should not be hidden (indeed, it is our ‘secret ingredient’ which contributes significantly to our success) it is important to ensure that the trust exists for reasons other than advancing our Christian faith. This is not to be devious but to ensure that we are there to do a good job in the context of our faith.
Keep them general
In writing objects the temptation is to write them in very specific terms to ensure that our passion and vision are fulfilled and kept focussed. This is an unwise move. Over time, needs and vision are likely to change so it is wise to couch the objects, benefits (more below) and geographical area of operation as widely as possible so that at a later stage you do not find yourself restricted. Remember this trust may exist for a hundred years or more!
In order to be a charity in the UK there has to be clear and conspicuous public benefit. This may be both to individuals and to the public in general. A lawyer will guide you with appropriate wording but it may include such benefits as: ‘practical assistance to people who face social challenges’, ‘offered free of charge’ and ‘available to anyone without discrimination’. Once again, it is good to keep these as wide as possible to avoid restricting yourself at a later stage.
An umbrella charity
In CCK we are registering a charitable company with very wide objects and an internationally defined geographical area. This will allow us to start other ‘social’ ministries, which need some form of charitable structure for fund raising, without having to create a new legal structure for each. It can even be used to help overseas’ church plants we are involved in to start social ministries.
Further, my experience working with the Newfrontiers churches in India over many years, who have the Stepping Stone Charitable Society (the Indian equivalent of a charitable trust) which provides an umbrella for several social ministries across the churches, has shown me that to have several ministries under one structure can be mutually supportive. The reputation of one ministry can strengthen the profile and credibility of another, particularly when seeking funding. ‘Good practice’ can be demonstrated in management, financial integrity etc. across all the ministries and this gives confidence to a potential donor.
Next time we will consider how a social charity relates to the local church.