Our parish in England is fundraising to support improvements for the local park.

As the park is owned by the council, and they are not a charity, there is no gift aid.

However; Clearly this is very much a charitable giving. Is there any way we can encourage donations by making this project gift-aid compatible?

  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because about running a not-for-profit operation, not personal finance. – NL - Apologize to Monica Nov 8 '17 at 16:17
  • @NathanL the question is really about claiming back the tax for charitable works; in the UK you have to choose to allow the charity to claim the tax back on donations (gift aid) so it affects personal finances in that you have to give the most money to charity. In that light I think it is on topic. – MD-Tech Nov 8 '17 at 17:24
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    Is the question about how individuals arrange their taxes or about how to fund-raise for improvements to a park? It looks like the latter to me, which is why I voted to close. If it is the former, a few edits might be in order to clarify that. – NL - Apologize to Monica Nov 8 '17 at 17:45

Are there any local charities that could fund the work, and thus take Gift-Aided donations for it?

Depending on the details, a School PTA or the Parish Church could justify sponsoring some improvements to the local park as part of their remit. You then give donations to them and they claim the Gift Aid and pay for the improvements with the total.

Setting up a whole new charity is the other option, but unless the improvements are very expensive, that feels like overkill.

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Note: I have no experience of attempting what is described below (neither am I a lawyer nor an accountant). The process may range from a "small bureaucratic hurdle" to a "complex legal nightmare". If it seems a plausible approach, you would probably be well-advised to reach out to others that have established CASCs for help and guidance.

According to this HMRC page the two ways a body can claim Gift Aid is if either it is a recognised charity or if it is a Community Amateur Sports Club (CASC). So one option may be to try and establish a CASC. I suspect that this is unlikely to be an easy process, but may be a more likely approach than trying to get the council to establish a charity.

The Register as a community amateur sports club (CASC) page on the HMRC site (very) briefly describes the steps; as you can see from their eligibility criteria, to register as a CASC, you would first have to create a "Sports Club" of some form that:

  • has a formal constitution

  • is open to the whole community and has affordable membership fees

  • is on an amateur basis

  • provides facilities in the UK

  • is managed by "fit and proper persons"

You would probably need the co-operation of the local council to allow the proposed sports club the use of the local park. One of the (several) requirements of becoming a CASC is that it must:

  • not make a profit, unless this is reinvested in the club and spent only on promoting participation and providing facilities for eligible sports

So it could, in theory, be possible to spend money raised (through both membership fees and Gift-Aid-qualifying donations) on the improving the facilities of the park (tennis courts, bowling green etc.).

However, note that How to Register page mentions (among many other requirements) the need to provide "accounts from the last 12 months" and "bank statements from the last 3 months". It doesn't (as far as I can see) explicitly state that the club must have been in existence for 12 months before applying for CASC status (it might be possible to send only what you have), but be aware that you may need to establish the club – and let it operate under its own steam – for a period before applying.

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The usual approach is to set up a "Friends of X Park" charity. The charity raises money and then donates it towards work done in the park. Here's an example that's local to me: Friends of Hastings Country Park.

There will be quite a bit of work needed to set up a new charity, so it will only be worth it if there's enough money likely to be raised.

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