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Charitable Purposes and the Countryside Alliance

Charitable Purposes and the Countryside Alliance

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The Charity Commission refused last month to register the Countryside Alliance as a charity on the basis “it is not established for exclusively charitable purposes for public benefit”.

The reasoning behind the Commission’s decision (click here) highlights a number of important points about charitable status:

Charitable purpose

  • All purposes must be charitable

In reviewing the Countryside Alliance’s proposed purposes, the Commission stressed that if even one of the stated purposes of an organisation applying for charitable status is not exclusively charitable, then the organisation is not established for exclusively charitable purposes and will be refused entry onto the register.

  • Purposes must be drafted clearly and unambiguously

The Commission highlighted the lack of clarity in the drafting of one the Alliance’s purposes, namely To preserve, protect and promote the heritage and practice of activities relating to wildlife, the countryside, wildlife management including hunting, shooting and fishing together with the management of the natural environment”.

According to the Commission, the word “including” suggests that other unlisted activities could fall within the scope of this purpose. In addition the phrase “together with” implies that any activities undertaken must relate to the ‘management of the natural environment’ but again this is not certain. The overall conclusion on this drafting was that it was uncertain in scope and too broad to be exclusively charitable.

  • Educational for the public benefit

One of the Alliance’s proposed purposes related to education. The Commission clarified that to be educational for the public benefit in the charity law sense, educational material must be on a proper subject of study, must be balanced and must not be promoting a particular point of view.

The Commission considered that the research material produced for the Alliance in particular on the matters of hunting and shooting appeared to amount to promotion of these activities rather than balanced educational material.

Public benefit

  • The private benefit flowing from an organisation’s activities cannot be more than incidental to the public benefit flowing from it.

In the case of the Countryside Alliance, one of their stated purposes was to “Promote agriculture, game and food production for the public benefit“. Whilst the Commission accepted this as a potentially charitable purpose it did not consider that it was for the public benefit.

This was due to the fact that methods adopted by the Alliance to promote the consumption of game products, in particular, appeared to primarily benefit those commercially involved in the production of game for eating rather than the public at large.

The Commission’s decision (in respect of which the Alliance says it is currently considering an appeal) does underline the fact that registering as a charity is by no means an automatic process, and that great care needs to be taken with the drafting of charitable purposes.

If you would like to learn more about applying for registration as a charity, please contact our charity law solicitors on 01895 207862 or email charities@ibblaw.co.uk.