Charities & Philanthropy
Wedlake Bell has extensive experience in acting for charities and their founders. Our clients range from philanthropists and small charities to university colleges, livery companies, religious organisations, social care and housing providers, art associations and general grant-making charities.
Several members of Wedlake Bell are charity trustees themselves, and thereby able to provide invaluable first hand insight into the concerns and aspirations of voluntary sector organisations.
We have an established history of advising individuals and business clients on how best to approach philanthropic giving, be it through setting up their own charity or corporate foundation, structuring their philanthropy through a donor-advised fund or charitable giving under their Will on death.
Charity set up and registration
Our team regularly advises on founding new charities and English and Welsh arms of existing international charities, including those with complex structures or more novel purposes.
We provide guidance on the most suitable structure (including charitable trusts, charitable incorporated organisations (“CIOs”) and charitable limited companies), drafting the charitable objects and dealing with both Charity Commission and HMRC registration.
In the event of a change in circumstances, we can help with restructuring, including mergers and partnering along with CIO incorporations. We also advise on the winding up or dissolution of charities.
Governance and operations
We assist charities with their governance reviews where modernisation in current arrangements might be needed. This can include updating governing documents, changing charitable objects and/or the charity name and drafting or updating charity policies.
We advise on charity law compliance in respect of important steps to be taken by charities, ranging from charity property disposals to investing charity funds and assets, and managing Charity Commission applications for any required approvals.
We can also help with routine operational activities such as grant-making, arranging and facilitating board and trustee meetings and changes in the trustee body.
Our charity work is not limited to the Private Client team. As a firm, we work closely across all departments to provide comprehensive and holistic advice to charity and philanthropy clients. Our banking, insolvency, property, pensions, corporate and financial services, data protection, intellectual property and employment teams all regularly advise charities on a wide range of matters. We also coordinate advice with foreign lawyers where an international element is involved.
Recent Work Highlights
- Dealing with the charity registration application for Concerts for Carers (CfC) – a charity focused on improving the mental health and wellbeing of NHS workers through music after all they have been through as a result of Covid.
- Advising a faith charity on the charity law aspects of the sale and leaseback of a strategic portfolio of 26 London sites.
- Re-structuring various faith / religious charities into charitable incorporated organisations (CIOs).
- Advising on a dual qualified UK – US charity and on donations of significant multi-jurisdictional assets including cash, real estate, intellectual property and personal possessions.
Mergers and acquisitions of schools
Victoria Mahon de Palacios has written a piece on the responsibilities of trustees when considering and preparing for a school merger or acquisition, published in Charities Management. To read the… Read more →
Charitable gifts and cy-près
The recent case of Attorney General vs Zedra Fiduciary Services (UK) Limited and others  EWHC 102 (Ch) has brought the concept of cy-près into the spotlight. Victoria Mahon de… Read more →
Making Charitable Aspirations a Reality
The unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic has impacted us all in so many ways – for some of us this extends to influencing new philanthropic ideas or even spurring some into finally… Read more →
Guarding against divorce when married couples are on charity boards
Following the divorce of Bill and Melinda Gates, Victoria Mahon de Palacios considered how trustees should respond to the risk of a divorce situation when married founding benefactors sit on… Read more →
There is no question that the Covid-19 crisis has hit the charity sector hard and as the country emerges from “lockdown” restrictions, it will be interesting to see how the… Read more →
Keeping to the rules when borrowing from a trustee
Funding is key to any charity meeting its charitable objects. As part of raising funds, borrowing will inevitably be one of the options for a charity to consider where other… Read more →
Part 1- The Resurgence of the Benevolent Society
The Covid-19 pandemic has sparked a tremendous amount of interest in employee benevolent societies or hardship funds. Sometimes described as one of the charitable sector’s best kept secrets these occupational… Read more →
How to choose the right legal structure for your charity
If you are planning on starting up a charity, or changing your charity’s structure, then it is important to give consideration to the type of structure you choose, as this… Read more →
Wedlake Bell – Charity Services
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Emily Minett explores common issues that COVID-19 poses for grant-making charities.
Can we use video or telephone conferencing to hold trustee meetings? The first step is to review your charity’s governing document to see if it contains any express provisions enabling… Read more →