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Your charity's constitution – a new guide

Happy person proudly holding a big piece of paper. They are 'owning' their constitution!

Do you know your charity’s objects? What about its legal form? Do you know the minimum number of trustees who need to attend your meetings for a decision to be valid? Do you have the power to remove a trustee?

The answers to these questions and many more are contained in your constitution. Knowing this stuff matters, because it keeps you on the right side of the law. If you fail to observe your charity’s own rules then your actions, decisions or appointments could be found to be invalid.

You may know your constitution by another name such as your governing document, rules or articles. Whatever you call it, it is one of your most important documents as it sets the framework for your charity's governance. It is second only to charity law and other applicable laws in determining how things are done.

Everyone involved in the charity needs to follow it – that includes trustees, any honorary officers and other key volunteers assisting in the management of the charity, as well as any paid staff.

How the constitution helps you as Chair

As the Chair, understanding the constitution helps you to lead the board confidently and effectively. It guides you on how some key tasks need to be done, especially those relating to how the board functions such as board meetings and trustee decision-making.

For example, the constitution specifies how the board makes valid decisions. If trustee decisions are not taken properly, there may be serious legal implications for the charity and its trustees. In the most serious situation, the trustees may potentially incur personal liability.

Download our new guide

Our new guide helps you understand different sections of a constitution and explains commonly-used legal terms. It looks at practical ways you can use your constitution as Chair and the process of reviewing and updating your constitution if it is no longer fit for purpose.

The guide is available for AoC members and for people who have joined our Beacon Programme for Chairs and Vice Chairs of smaller charities in England (with an income under £1m).

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