Setting up a charitable trust

Charitable trusts hold and protect assets in perpetuity for charitable purposes. They can be set up to aid in the relief of poverty, the advancement of education or religion, or any other matter for public benefit.

In most cases you will need the help of a lawyer or accountant to set up a charitable trust. They can also help you administer the trust or you can choose to have it administered by a trustee administration company.

The three largest trustee administration companies are:

Types of charitable trusts

A charitable trust can either be trust-based or society-based. Both must be registered under the Charitable Trusts Act 1957 through the Companies Office.

Trust-based trust

A trust-based trust is useful if the initial trustees want to retain control over the organisation, including appointing further trustees. A trust-based trust must have:

  • a board of at least two trustees
  • a trust deed under which it operates.

Society-based trust

In this model an established group (or a minimum of five people) can register a society as a charitable trust board. On incorporation the members of the society become members of the board. A society-based trust must have:

  • at least five members
  • a set of rules or constitution under which it operates.

Find out more about how to set up a registered charitable trust.