The Charities Act 2009 – more problems for Community Volunteers?

The Charities Act 2009 – activated 16th October 2014

As is well known , the Social obligations accepted by Ireland as a modern democracy to help those needy and dependent members of our population, are met in huge part by the contributions of a vast army of Volunteers across the country.

As we say in the Lions Club here in Thurles , they are Ordinary people doing Extraordinary things……

The Charities Act 2009 aims to provide for the better regulation of charitable organisations (charities). Its main provisions are in effect since 16 October 2014. The Charities Regulatory Authority was formally established on that day. Its temporary website is Charities will be required to register with the Authority. Those charities which already have tax exemption will be deemed to be registered.


This will be the first time that there are registered charities in Ireland. In order to become and remain registered charities, charities will have to abide by various rules in relation to how they operate. The Act provides for the statutory definition of a charity, based on the current law ( and which dates originally from 1601 !) and does not involve any major change.

Among other things, the Act sets out the duties and responsibilities of the Trustees of charities and provides extensive powers to the Charities Regulatory Authority to ensure compliance with the law.

The Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Bequests for Ireland, which performed specific functions in relation to charities but was not the regulator of charities, has ceased to exist from 16 October 2014.


A charitable organization is a group of people ( not being a Company), or people who are the trustees of a formal charitable trust or a Company:

  • That promotes a charitable purpose only
  • That is required under its constitution to apply all of its property to further that purpose except for money used in its operation and maintenance (for example, payments to staff) and, in the case of religious organisations or communities, money used for the accommodation and care of the members of the organisation or community, and
  • None of whose property is payable to the members of that body except in specific circumstances

A Charitable Trust is a Trust that is established for charitable purposes only and is established under a Deed of Trust that requires the Trustees of the Trust to apply all of the property of the Trust to further the purposes of the Trust except for money used in its management, and where none of the property is payable to the trustees except in specific circumstances.

There is an excellent document produced by the Citizens Information Board that provides more information – view it here.

While the intent is improved regulation to minimize fraud, excessive unmanaged spending and so on, I feel it will also add a heavy administrative burden to many Groups. That burden will come with cost , too , which in many cases has to be met from fundraising , which in turn has seen a significant drop in the past few years. Insofar as any funds are made available by Grant from the State, it’s clear that only those Organisations that are compliant with this new structure will continue to receive those funds.

In my experience in being a Board Member of a Voluntary Housing Company, these changes show clearly the value in becoming affiliated with an umbrella Organisation that has expertise and resources to support local Community Volunteers . I offer the example of the Irish Council for Social Housing of which the Housing Company that I am involved with, is a member.

Some of the legal requirements now demamded by the new Regime , require a clear understanding of this Sector.

I have gained such an understanding and indeed valuable personal network connections, in my years with one of our local Voluntary Housing Companies. Please contact me if you need advice on these issues.

Neil J. Butler


By Neil Butler