Overview of organisational structures for cultural organisations

A brief run through of trusts, unincorporated associations, company limited by guarantee and charitable incorporated organisations.

Trust – the governing document is a trust deed or a will. There is no protection from liability for the trustees.

Unincorporated association – the governing document is a constitution or rules and there is usually a membership. The trustees are often referred to as the management committee. Again, there is no protection from liability for the trustees.

Company limited by guarantee – the governing document is a memorandum and articles of association for a company formed before September 2009 and articles of association for a company formed since then. The trustees (or directors) are protected in most circumstances against contractual liabilities. Charitable companies must register with Companies House and, usually, with the Charity Commission.

Charitable incorporated organisation – the governing document will be a constitution. The trustees will be protected in most circumstances against contractual liabilities. CIOs only register with the Charity Commission. See more.

CIO is the newest structure - A charitable incorporated organisation, or CIO, is a new legal form for a charity.

A CIO:

  • is an incorporated form of charity which is not a company
  • only has to register with the Charity Commission and not Companies House
  • is only created once it is registered by the Commission
  • can enter into contracts in its own right and its trustees will normally have limited or no liability for the debts of the CIO

The CIO was created in response to requests from charities for a new structure which could provide some of the benefits of being a company, but without some of the burdens.