Charity Commission advice on returning donations to Presidents Club

The Charity Commission has clarified the position for charity trustees of registered charities who are considering returning donations received from the discredited Presidents Club Charitable Trust

The current charity framework around donations is complicated and the Commission stresses that in certain instances there may be restrictions on whether a donation can be returned.

‘It is up to a charity’s trustees to make the difficult decision as to whether they should refuse a donation. They must make this decision on the basis of the best interests of the charity. That will include weighing up any issues around how the funds were raised, which may include reputational concerns, against the financial impact on the charity of turning the donation down,’ the Charity Commission guidance states.

It stresses that there is no single position on returning donations, adding that ‘different charities may legitimately come to different decisions, and trustees can approach the Commission for advice if they are unsure about their approach’.

Depending on the terms of the donations and how the funds were raised, there may be restrictions on whether a donation can be returned and the Commission may need to authorise such returns.

Charities should contact the Commission to confirm whether its authorisation is required in their specific case. Trustees may wish to seek their own legal advice.

The Commission does not expect trustees to return funds raised for charitable purposes in the circumstances but understands if they wish to consider doing so.

Keeping or returning donations already accepted

As with accepting or refusing future donations, when deciding whether to keep or return donations that have already been accepted, trustees should think carefully about, and be able to demonstrate, what is in the best interest of their charities.

Trustees should remember their duty to report any serious incidents which could harm their charity’s reputation to the Commission. See our guidance on How to report a serious incident in your charity.

Following the shocking revelations about the men-only Presidents Club charity dinner at The Dorchester hotel in London on 18 January, where hostesses were hired to entertain 360 business leaders, a number of major charities including Great Ormond Street Hospital announced that they would be returning all donations received from the Presidents Club.

To seek the Commission’s advice on this matter please contact with The President’s Club in the subject line

Charity Commission guidance: Returning money to charities - Advice to charities that have received donations from The Presidents Club Charitable Trust.

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