Club Focus: Spring 2011

The Advantages of Charitable Status

by Margaret Eddleston

In February 2011 Hitchin Bridge Club became the first bridge club in England to be awarded charitable status by the Charity Commission. Would charitable status be right for your club? Margaret Eddleston, the driving force behind Hitchin's application, explains why the club decided to register as a charity.

There were 2 main reasons why the Hitchin Bridge Club decided to apply for charitable status:

1. A wish to see bridge recognised as an activity which benefits the public at large by improving the mental health and wellbeing of participants. I could see no reason why a mind sport should be treated as inferior to a physical sport.

2. To be taken seriously by the local authority when community provision was discussed.

A bit of local background might be useful. The club meets in a local authority hall which was built in the early 1960s. It is energy inefficient, has inflexible accommodation, has been neglected and therefore is underused and has been the target of vandalism.

About 4 years ago one of the then users was a children's youth club which happened to be a charity. The local authority wanted to hand over the management of the hall, and the only user they consulted was the youth group. This was on the basis that, because of their charitable status, they would be the best and maybe the only organisation who could afford to run it. The bridge club was not consulted.

Because of the state and condition of the hall and the repair works needed to make it a viable proposition, the youth group decided to apply for lottery and other funding to build a new building, an idea which was supported by the bridge club. Regrettably, the proposals put forward by the youth group were too ambitious and too child rather than community focused, and funds could not be raised.

The hall staggers on but not for much longer.

The bridge club is now proposing to build a new community hall, and the fact that we have charitable status will be of considerable assistance. It gives a degree of respectability and assurance of competence (which was always there but unrecognised), has financial advantages and should (we have yet to try) make it easier to find funding for the project. More funding sources are available to charitable bodies.

There are quite a number of financial advantages to becoming a charity:-

  • for us the most important - a new building built by and for a charity pays no VAT on the build costs
  • the running costs are reduced, general rates are remitted by 80% and some local authorities also waive the other discretionary 20%
  • VAT is reduced on energy bills
  • gift aid is available on donations and subscriptions (note you can apply for this relief without charitable status if you are a community group - see the HMRC website)
  • if you operate in hired premises there is normally a lower hire charge for charity users
  • small grant money especially for a defined project (e.g. an after school Minibridge club) is easier to obtain
  • legacies to UK registered charities are exempt from inheritance tax

I would, however, not wish to see bridge clubs apply for charitable status simply to save money, as I do not think that satisfies the need for charities to act in a way that is for the public benefit. If saving money was the main objective, I would expect charitable status to be refused. Providing facilities to play and learn the game to improve the mental health and wellbeing of players and to prevent social isolation should be the primary motivation for any bridge club.

Further information can be found here

Margaret Eddleston, President of Hitchin Bridge Club