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At Farrer & Co, we have been providing cutting edge charity law advice to charities and not-for-profit organisations for nearly as long as we have existed. We anticipate regulation, help charities contend with the repercussions of ongoing political change, manage reputations in the hostile media environment and provide clear direction in a crisis. We support them through this challenging landscape and help maximise their greatest opportunities.

Our advice is commercial and to the point, assisting senior leadership teams and trustees in decision-making. Our values mean we gain our clients' trust, always strive to do the right thing, and aim for the best results for them.

How our charity lawyers can help you

We can help with transformational projects and all aspects of a charities’ operations including:

  • Major governance reviews
  • Challenging regulatory and compliance issues
  • Innovative financing initiatives, financial difficulties and insolvency
  • Mergers and restructuring of multi-layered charitable organisations
  • Setting up a new charity
  • Legal support for the rebalancing of investment portfolios
  • Property advice including major infrastructure projects
  • Employment tribunals, workplace investigations and TUPE
  • Disputes, including legacy disputes
  • Serious incident reports/crisis management
  • Safeguarding and child protection concerns: policies and procedures, managing audits and reviews, and in dealings with the Charity Commission and other regulators
  • Protecting personal data/managing data breaches
  • Trading subsidiaries/fundraising (including through commercial partnerships and professional fundraising arrangements)/commercial contracts
  • Tax and social investment
  • Reputation management of the charity brand/commercially exploiting the charity brand
  • Restructuring of unincorporated charities, including historic endowment funds
  • Setting up a corporate foundation

Our charity law experience

Our team includes some of the UK’s leading experts on charity law, with experience supporting national and international organisations through major growth and complex change, as well as in their day to day charitable work.

Our work with the Charity Commission and Fundraising Regulator

We regularly work closely with key sector bodies, regulators and legislators. We have worked closely with the Charity Commission on the further development of the Charity Authorised Investment Fund (a major development in charity financing) and with the Fundraising Regulator to update the Code of Fundraising Practice.

At the forefront of the biggest charity sector developments for more than two decades

We were instructed in the first case on the charities exception in the Equality Act 2010 to reach the Supreme Court, providing cutting edge advice in relation to charity law.  We are also the only law firm to have acted as lead advisers in all three Charity Tribunal cases dealing with public benefit in the context of educational charities, benevolent funds and religious charities.

Where our clients’ operations extend into other jurisdictions, we work with a trusted network of lawyers around the world.

Constitutional & Structural

All charities need a constitution and an organisational structure which works for them and enables them to deliver their objectives effectively.   

We have helped to set up new charities and social enterprises for many years, advising trusts, companies, charitable incorporated organisations (CIOs), Royal Charter bodies and others on a range of constitutional matters. This could mean interpreting and amending existing constitutions, adopting new governing documents, or implementing a wholly new legal structure. We work to identify where constitutions may be holding organisations back and manage relationships with stakeholders and regulators if change is needed.

We are widely regarded as market leaders for our expertise on charitable structuring and re-structuring, particularly involving charities with extensive group arrangements and more complex constitutions. We advise on charity mergers, de-mergers, joint ventures, spinouts, and managing relationships with charitable and non-charitable partners.

The governance associated with significant structural change is often critical to the effective and sensitive delivery of a project, and we work closely with trustees and senior staff to identify the most practical and cost-effective solution for our charity clients.

Governance & Regulatory

Charities are encouraged to undertake regular governance reviews and we are well-placed to assist in these whether in a supporting role or with a more active remit, depending on clients’ needs.

As well as identifying legal and regulatory issues, we can help to communicate the outcomes of any review to the board and staff and to implement any changes that are approved.

We help charities engage regulators for support and guidance, and we maintain strong working relationships with the Charity Commission, HM Revenue & Customs, the Information Commissioner's Office, the Privy Council Office and the Fundraising Regulator. Where dealings with regulators become confrontational, we provide robust support.

When governance disputes arise, it is important that they are dealt with sensitively and as quickly as possible. Many trustees have little or no experience of the difficult issues they may face as trustees (such as handling difficult meetings, elections and disputes, where relationships or arrangements break down). We have a great deal of experience helping in these situations and of working to tight deadlines, often at short notice, to help bring matters to a swift and satisfactory conclusion.


Our charity and not-for-profit clients come to us for advice on all aspects of their operational activities: from routine grant-making and trading to major capital projects, sponsorships, transformative financing, and cross-border matters.

Our lawyers advise on the full spectrum of operational issues, including:

  • Establishing and administering grant programmes,
  • Grant-funding non-charities and working with overseas partners,
  • The tax implications of charitable and non-charitable trading, and
  • The use of trading subsidiaries.

We provide guidance on how best to manage and dispose of property assets (whether owned or leased, heritage or new build), or on endowment funds or other investments. We guide clients through the relevant legal and regulatory considerations and support them in decision-making. We also advise on the commercial exploitation of other assets, such as intellectual property and brand.

We regularly advise charities considering social investment or expanding the scope of their existing activities in this area, helping them develop more innovative funding models. 

We are recognised leaders in transformative finance and regularly assist charities wishing to secure substantial funding to support their objectives, as well as advising on major donor and sponsor relationships. We understand the fundraising landscape, including sponsored events, legacy campaigns, lotteries and managing relationships with professional fundraisers and commercial participators, as well as the increased focus on fundraising regulation and governance.

Crisis Management

Recent years have seen the media take an increasingly hostile approach to the sector, and the risk of reputational damage is now one that charities cannot afford to ignore. Regulatory interventions, disputes within a charity or with third parties, serious safeguarding or data security incidents, corporate insolvency and attendant reputational damage can place enormous strain on an organisation and severely test its governance.

When a crisis arises, we act quickly to provide support, guidance and reassurance to trustees and senior staff at a time when they are likely to feel particularly under pressure or exposed. 

Our charity lawyers have extensive experience of assisting charities in difficulties to provide measured, sensitive and timely advice on how, crucially, to handle the issue at hand, and how to work with regulators to secure the best possible outcome for the charity. Where disputes escalate unavoidably, our experienced team of litigators are familiar with the particular concerns that charities have in such situations.

Once an immediate crisis has been resolved, we work with clients (whether as required by regulators or otherwise) to review their governance and, where appropriate, identify any steps which might be taken to mitigate the risk of similar incidents happening again.

Philanthropy & Corporate Foundations

We regularly work with private and corporate philanthropists who wish to fund or establish their own foundations, charities and social enterprises.

We advise clients on how best to structure the relationship between their company and their foundation to ensure that the foundation can operate sufficiently independently while remaining aligned to the objectives of its parent. We can also help to manage the relationship between the two as the foundation matures, including handling any disagreements which may arise.

In addition to working with businesses, we have considerable experience working with individuals and families to set up their own philanthropic vehicle or foundation. We work with clients from the initial set up through to advice on governance and cross-border tax, as well as project monitoring and the making of social investments. We can also advise on the alternatives to a free-standing foundation, should clients prefer to structure their philanthropy through a donor-advised fund or other giving vehicle, whether in the UK or internationally.


Where clients wish to relocate a foundation to another jurisdiction, we can advise on whether and how this might be achieved. We have a good working knowledge of the not-for-profit environment in other jurisdictions, together with a strong network of professional contacts around the world.

How can we help?

Contact the team about charity law services:

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