J. Can your organisation trade and what structure should you use?



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You may now have an interest in exploring trading as an option for your group or organisation.

Check your structure and powers

Before you go any further check to see if your organisation’s structure and the detail of your constitution allow you to trade.

Most structures should allow you to trade to some extent, including charities (see Charities and Trading). Some structures may restrict the amount that you can trade or the details of your constitution may include some restriction on trading activities. Just check.

Before you review if your structure is right…

Before you review if your structure is right you should decide what type of trading you will be undertaking and how big the enterprise will be.

Legal structures

There are a range of structures that you can use. You may need to adopt more than one structure to allow you to do what you want to, for example, setting up a trading arm of a charity or having a holding company with several trading subsidiaries. Some structures allow you to access different forms of finance and funding.


The main structures are:

  1. Trust
  2. Unincorporated association
  3. Partnership/limited liability partnership
  4. Company limited by guarantee
  5. Company limited by shares
  6. Industrial & Provident Society (co-operative)
  7. Industrial & Provident Society (society for the benefit of the community)
  8. Limited liability partnership
  9. Community Interest Companies
  10. CASCs

There is a lot of information available on different structures


Links and Tools - Legal structures
Website IconIntermediate Icon 'Get Legal' a website designed to help you to find  the most appropriate legal form and governance structure for delivering your goals
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‘Simply legal' a guide to the legal forms that social enterprises and other third sector organisations can adopt, some of which enable or restrict trading or financing.  (Co-operatives UK)

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Governance and organisational structures’ Good basic guide to the characteristics of different structures. (Know How Not for Profit)

Website IconGuide IconIntermediate Icon

Choosing a structure for your social enterprise’.(Enterprise Solutions Northamptonshire)

Website IconGuide IconIntermediate Icon

Start a co-operative’ Information on different co-operative models and model governing documents. (Co-operatives UK)

Website IconGuide IconBasic Icon

A brief outline of the law relating to Community Amateur Sports Clubs and Charitable Sports Clubs’. (Bates Wells & Braithwaite)

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Select a Structure’ tool – an interactive tool asking questions to help you to determine the best structure. (Co-operatives UK)

Case studies
Guide IconBasic Icon Community Enterprise Derby
Guide IconBasic Icon High Peak CVS - Digital Umbrella
Guide IconBasic Icon Unique Social Enterprise
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Guide Icon  See Charities, Community Interest Companies, community land trusts, company limited by guarantee, company limited by shares, constitutions, co-operatives, development trusts, incorporated, industrial & Provident Society, Legal Structures, memorandum and articles of association, mutuals

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Useful Websites


Website Icon Companies House
Website Icon Community Interest Company Regulator
Website Icon Charity Commission
Website Icon Co-operatives UK
Website Icon Bates Wells & Braithwaite solicitors