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Farrer & Co | Charity Commission announcement on the Presidents Club – refusing or returning donations

In the wake of the furore surrounding the Presidents Club annual dinner, the Commission has issued advice to charities that have received donations from the Presidents Club Charitable Trust and are unsure whether to accept or retain them.

The Commission distinguishes between (1) refusing donations and (2) returning donations that have already been accepted. In the former case, trustees are advised that they must decide whether or not to accept a donation on the basis of the charity's best interests. The advice offers basic guidance on making this decision, saying that it will include weighing up the potential reputational impact of accepting a Presidents Club donation against the financial impact of turning it down. The Commission acknowledges that different boards may legitimately reach different conclusions.

Where a donation has already been accepted, the advice says that whether or not the charity can return it without the Commission's authorisation will depend on the terms of the donation and how the funds were raised. It also says that "trustees should think carefully about, and be able to demonstrate, what is in the best interest of their charities".

The advice recommends that trustees contact the Commission (or seek independent legal advice) and provides an email address for this purpose. Given that the Commission says that charities should put "The Presidents Club" in the subject line of their emails, it is clear that this is not an invitation for charities to ask whether or not they need authorisation to return donations from other organisations or individuals.

We will be happy to advise any charity on the legalities of refusing or returning donations – whether from the Presidents Club Charitable Trust or elsewhere.

If you require further information on anything covered in this briefing please contact rachel.holmes@farrer.co.uk or your usual contact at the firm on 020 3375 7000.

This publication is a general summary of the law. It should not replace legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances. © Farrer & Co LLP, February 2018.

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