The road less traveled

Kathy Faulks, Support Worker (Group Development) at Voluntary Action Leeds explores alternatives to starting up a new charity.

Paths diverging

New charity?

Hello there, I have changed my job title! However, I am the same person doing the same job and today I want to talk to you about whether it is always the best thing to set up a new charity when you have a new idea or a new passion or a new issue of a charitable nature.

Sam Younger, the outgoing chief executive of the Charity Commission, has recently had this to say:

One of the great strengths of our society is the charitable instinct of its people. People identify a new need or a new way of addressing an existing need, and they use the vehicle of charity to do something about it. That has created the vibrant, diverse and dynamic charitable sector that touches the lives of all of us every day.


"But I would add a cautionary note. The Commission’s experience is that many people set up a new charity without making sure they have identified an unaddressed need or found an innovative solution; without making an honest effort to establish whether another charity is already doing similar work. The result is duplication, inefficiency, and, sadly, too many charities that are not managed well enough. As charities compete for resources and face ever greater scrutiny, I think we should be bolder in saying: not all of the charities the Commission registers end up making an impact.


"So I would urge anyone who wants to help others to ask: what difference will I really make by setting up a brand new organisation? In other words, to consider whether they might do a great deal more good by helping an existing charity."

The alternatives

Consider the alternatives to setting up a brand new charity:

  • Work with an existing charity
  • Set up a named fund instead of a charity
  • Set up a non charitable social enterprise

These alternatives are considered in more detail in guidance from the Charity Commission which includes lots of links if you want to explore the idea more.

The poem!

You may realise that this blog is inspired by the poem by Robert Frost “ The road not taken”. And here is the famous quote from that poem:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference."

My next blog will be about the new Charity Commission guidance on setting up and registering a charity...           

Comments (8)

  1. Richard Norton:
    Jun 12, 2014 at 11:16 AM

    Great blog Kathy, really valid points; setting up a new organisation (whether charity or not) involves a lot of work and many organisations struggle to find trustees and board members.

  2. Claire Welling:
    Jun 16, 2014 at 09:39 AM

    So Kathy, what is the easiest way to find out if there is already a group / charity offering similar services to those you have in mind? Is there a search on the Charity Commission or a resource at Voluntary Action Leeds which could help?

  3. kathy faulks:
    Jun 23, 2014 at 03:37 PM

    Hi Claire,
    Go to and check the directory.
    Go to and check the register
    Talk to VAL!
    Have a nice day and thank you for your question.

  4. Pip Goff:
    Oct 13, 2014 at 07:42 PM

    This is really interesting, Kathy. I've just happily stumbled upon it. Do you think advising people to be as social activists or sole traders could also be options to consider?

  5. kathy faulks:
    Oct 14, 2014 at 04:10 PM

    The best things in life are stumbled upon! Tell me more about what a social activist is!

  6. Dr. Loden Rogers:
    Jun 13, 2018 at 10:30 AM

    Very useful blog Kathy and serious informative points; setting up a new organisation (whether charity or not) involves a lot of work and many organisations struggle to find trustees and board members.thanks for sharing.

  7. mark:
    May 30, 2020 at 09:32 PM

    Awesome blog! I like it a lot! Thanks and keep up the great work!

  8. jack:
    May 30, 2020 at 09:34 PM

    I am genuinely thankful to the owner of this website who has shared this enormous article at at this time.

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