Decision Tool: Get Started
The Get Legal decision tool is the starting point of a journey to find the form that best fits your mission and vision. Following a short series of questions, the tool provides an indicator of an appropriate legal form, before signposting you to other resources to help you make your decision. It should be used in the context of the rest of the Help for New Organisations section of this site. It does not replace the need for thorough research, and where appropriate formal advice.
Although the Get Legal decision tool leads you through to one ‘indicator’ for your legal form, often a number of different legal forms could feasibly fit. The decision tool asks you to make some fundamental judgements and decisions to shape its recommendation. However, as with many important decisions your answers to these questions will be informed by what you are trying to achieve and how you approach the choices.
Before you use the decision tool you should consider some key factors which may shape how you approach the decision:
What’s your motivation?
Your personal motivations and how you want to take forward your mission may fundamentally change what decisions you make about your legal form. Are you particularly keen on your organisation having a business ethos? Do you think it is important to have charitable status? Are you inspired by co-operative values? All these elements may affect the way you approach the decision and the judgements you make about setting up your organisation .
How do you approach risk?
Are you a natural risk taker? How much personal financial risk are you willing to accept? Certain approaches may mean that you are taking on more personal and financial risks than others. Some people are willing to take on risks, whilst others need the security of limiting financial risks in order to take the project forward.
Do you want to go it alone?
Are you a budding social entrepreneur who wants to go it alone? An individual needs to consider how much control they are willing to sacrifice as certain legal structures mean that you may lose the directing control of the organisation . This needs to be considered carefully at the outset.
What do you bring to the table?
How much time, energy and money can you dedicate to the organisation? Do you already have skills and experience, or do you need the help of others to take the idea off the ground or to the next level?
Profits can be an alien term for those who want to set up an organisation purely for what they see as a good cause or social mission. However, what you plan to do with the money you receive fundamentally affects the way you will need to set up. Is the money you receive going to be used for the public benefit? (please see the Charity Commission guidance on public benefit). Do you want to pay money to investors? Do you want to distribute profits exclusively to the members of your organisation?
Think about the future
Over time, organisations change in ways not easy to predict. Circumstances around trading activities, buying property, employing staff or paying board members might also change according to the enterprising ways in which an organisation decides to support and deliver its social mission. It is important always to bear in mind the need for flexibility in legal structures and consider allowing for growth and development. This may be hard to visualise but is often fundamental to ensuring that you organisation is fit for purpose.
Once you have considered these issues and established a vision for how you want to take things forward, it is also often useful to talk to people who have been through a similar process in the past. You should also read the case studies which provide a practical insight to the decision making process. By sharing with others in the same boat, you may understand how they came to make their decision may and avoid some of the most common pitfalls.
Good luck and we hope Get Legal will help you to find the form that fits.