Criteria for Registration as a Charity
- Charitable Purposes
- Legal Structure
- Registration Conditions
- Governing Board Members
To be registered as a charity, your organisation’s purposes must be exclusively charitable. Your organisation’s “purposes” are what your organisation is set up to achieve. We recognise the following as charitable purpose as defined under the common law:
- Relief of poverty;
- Advancement of education;
- Advancement of religion; or
- Other purposes beneficial to the community, which include commonly recognised ones such as:
- Promotion of health;
- Advancement of citizenship or community development;
- Advancement of arts, heritage or science;
- Advancement of environmental protection or improvement;
- Relief of those in need by reason of youth, age, ill-health, disability, financial hardship or other disadvantages;
- Advancement of animal welfare; and
- Advancement of sport, where the sport promotes health through physical skill and exertion.
An organisation with exclusively charitable purposes should only have the purposes as described above. Your organisation may conduct incidental activities if it supports the advancement of its charitable purpose. For example, fund-raising itself is not a charitable purpose, but your organisation can conduct fund-raising appeals to raise funds for its programmes.
Examples of incidental activities include:
- A church operating a book store within its premises to promote and support the advancement of Christianity;
- A museum operating a café at its premises, to provide convenience for museum-goers and enhance the museum experience; or
- An animal welfare group conducting obedience training for animals, where the profits earned are used to fund its rescue efforts.
Charity is a status accorded to the organisation, and not a legal structure. Hence, your organisation must be set up as any of the following 3 legal structures before registering as a charity:
At times, an organisation or individuals may also set-up charitable trusts. The type of legal structure your organisation chooses affects how it will operate. You should consider the various requirements and obligations under the respective set-up when deciding how your organisation is to be established.
To register as a charity, your organisation will need to meet the following basic conditions set out in the Charities (Registration of Charities) Regulations:
- The governing instruments provide for the purposes of your organisation and the purposes must be
- Your organisation has at least 3 governing board members, of whom 2 must be Singaporeans or permanent residents; and
- Purposes of your organisation must be beneficial wholly or substantially to the community in Singapore.
For self-funded grantmaker that is unable to meet the above registration conditions, it may apply to be registered as a charity under the Grantmakers Scheme where some of the registration conditions may be waived on a case-by-case basis.
Click here to download a copy of the Guidance on Regulation of Grantmakers
- An organisation is set up in Singapore to manage an overseas orphanage and does not have plans to conduct any activities in Singapore. It is unlikely that the organisation will meet the basic charity registration conditions given that the purposes of the organisation predominantly benefits the overseas community.
- A family-run business, ABC Company Ltd, sets up ABC Foundation Ltd to provide scholarships to deserving students to further their tertiary education. To qualify for the scholarships, the applicant’s parent must be an employee of ABC Company Ltd. While the purpose of ABC Foundation Ltd is exclusively charitable, the provision of the scholarship to employees’ children is restrictive and does not benefit the general public. It is therefore unlikely ABC Foundation Ltd will meet the basic charity registration conditions.
Other Considerations for Application for Registration as a Charity
In addition to the basic charity registration conditions, the Commissioner of Charities will consider the following, amongst other factors, during the assessment of the Application for Registration as a Charity:
- Whether the governing board members will be able to exercise proper administration of your organisation;
- Whether your organisation's policies and plans are sufficient to ensure its proper administration; and
- Whether the activities planned by your organisation are sufficient to further its charitable purposes.
Governing board members form the body which has general control and management of your organisation. The governing board is collectively responsible to ensure compliance with your organisation’s governing instrument and all relevant laws and regulations. The governing board also makes sure that your organisation is well-governed and operates responsibly, so that your organisation would continue to be effective, credible and sustainable.
The governing board must ensure that the individuals appointed to the governing board are eligible to act as governing board members, such as:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Not convicted of an offence involving dishonesty or terrorism, terrorism financing or money laundering and the conviction is not spent*;
- Not an undischarged bankrupt;
- Not disqualified from being a company director; or
- Has not been removed by the Commissioner of Charities from any capacity following an Inquiry.
Registration of Criminals Act , to qualify for a record to be spent, the person must not have been sentenced to an imprisonment term exceeding 3 months or to a fine not exceeding $2,000. The person must also satisfy a 5-year crime-free period, amongst other criteria. An individual may check the spent status of his/her criminal record via the
Singapore Police Force's e-Services Portal.