; Legal Structures

Deciding on a Legal Structure

Voluntary groups are not required by law to adopt a formal legal structure. Many youth groups will be happy just to set up a management committee, develop a constitution and then continue as a voluntary association ( sometimes called an unicorporated association ). Taking these simple steps will enable most youth groups to set up a bank account, apply for funding and get on with running their project.

If you are a small youth group who has limited funding, doesn't employ staff or own a property, then you may be happy to operate as an unicorporated association.

However, some youth groups may also want to consider other options such as :

  • Becoming Incorporated
  • Becoming a Charity

Becoming Incorporated 

Becoming incorporated means  giving the organisation a legal identiity in its own right. The main advantage of a youth group becoming incorporated is the increased protection it gives to the individual members of the management committee.

In the event of a legal action, the organisation would be the target  rather than the indivdual committee members. However, becoming incorporated also brings other legally binding duties and obligations which committee members have to take very seriously. 

There are different ways that a youth group can become incorporated and SCVO has detailed information about how to choose the most appropriate legal structure for your group. Visit SCVO's Choosing a Legal Structure section for more information.

For many youth groups, the simplest way to become incorporated will be to become a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation ( SCIO ). Visit our  Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation ( SCIO ) page for more info.

Becoming a Charity

Both unincorporated and incorporated voluntary organisations can become charities. To become a charity, an organisation must prove that  it meets the charity test, meaning it must have only charitable purposes as defined in charity law and it must provide public benefit.

Once registered, charities must meet a number of legal responsibilities set out in charity law. This  includes reporting to OSCR ( Office of the Scottish Charity Register )  on an annual basis.  Charities also have to comply with other relevant legislation, for example charitable companies must also comply with company law.

For more about becoming a charity, visit Charitable Status




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