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Home > Charitable fundraising > What is a charitable purpose?

What is a charitable purpose?

What is a charitable purpose?

There is no general statutory definition of "charitable purpose" and the meaning of this term is largely based upon the decisions of the Court over the years. These decisions have reflected changing perceptions of social needs and attitudes.


Categories of charitable purposes

Charitable purposes can be grouped under four broad headings:

Under the Act, a charitable purpose also includes any benevolent, philanthropic or patriotic purpose.

Generally, appeals to the public to assist members of the community or for causes of benefit to the community are to be regarded as charitable appeals that must be made in accordance with the Act.

The relief of financial hardship

Financial hardship is not defined by a specified amount of money which the beneficiaries have, although the person must be in genuine financial need. Relief of financial hardship also includes, for example, help to people who are suffering from the effects of old age, sickness or from a disability, where, in each case, there is also financial need. Most charities for the relief of sickness come within this category because sickness is often related to poverty or inability to pay for treatment.

Charities may relieve hardship in many different ways, for instance:

Charities may also provide support for other organisations which give help to people suffering hardship. The hardship being suffered does not have to be long-term. Temporary hardship caused by job loss or sickness, for example, may qualify for help.

The advancement of education

The advancement of education is not limited to formal education at schools, colleges or universities. It can also include:

Education in the charitable sense cannot include the study of subjects which have no educational value. If research is being done, it needs to be carried out in an objective and impartial way and the useful results must be made available, or accessible, to the public. Such groups, organisations or institutions cannot be conducted for personal gain.

The advancement of religion

In general, no distinction is made between one religion and another. There is a general assumption that the advancement of religion is for the public benefit. For the advancement of religion to be charitable, a religion (with a few exceptions), has to:

The advancement of religion can include the provision and upkeep of places of worship, paying ministers or priests, and holding services.

Other charitable purposes for the benefit of the community

Purposes which benefit the community and are considered to be charitable include: