The Charity Commission has issued a warning to charitable think tanks regarding their legal obligations and duties.
The commission said think tanks have an important role in society helping to educate the public, however, think tanks which are charitable must “operate and behave as charities”.
Charitable status places important limits on charities to ensure that they are operating in furtherance of their purposes, and for the public benefit. The commission said it must “ensure that trustees of charitable think tanks are clear on their legal duties and are operating in line with them”.
CEO, Helen Stephenson issued a letter to charitable think tanks, which said any research published or other activity undertaken must:
- Have sufficient value in educational terms
- Further the charity’s purposes
- Be available (either directly or indirectly) to the public, or a sufficient section of the public
- Present the public with information that permits them to form their own opinions
be educational in the way understood by charity law
The letter added that “education does not have to be entirely neutral; it can start from a generally accepted position that something is beneficial”. This means charities are able to promote uncontroversial views and perspectives.