NCVO and Social Enterprise UK
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Safeguarding the mission

Organisations that are set up with objectives aimed at improving the lives of people, either socially or economically or both, can be said to have a 'social mission'. These organisations will often seek to protect this social mission by registering as a charity or by adopting a legal form that allows them to be externally regulated (for example, community interest companies and community benefit societies).

External regulation allows an organisation to identify itself clearly so that the public can see it is ‘value-driven’ without having to give a complicated explanation of the mechanism by which its social mission is protected. The assurance of external regulation provides a high level of trust and transparency.

Other organisations choose to protect their social mission by writing such protection into the organisation’s constitution. In effect, this is a form of self-regulation and is ideal for some organisations because it allows them to create a form of regulation specifically designed for them. The disadvantages are that these protections are costly to put in place and, in most cases, they can be altered or removed at any time.

There is a spectrum of organisations which have a social mission, from traditional charities to businesses that trade to make profits, but who recycle their profits to deliver social and/or environmental goals, and everything in between. Having a choice of legal forms and the option of charitable status through which to demonstrate social mission means organisations can chose exactly the right legal solution for them.