A constitution is simply a document laying out and explaining the governing rules and aims of an organisation. It also explains the form of the organisation and the limts of its power.

This is a list of the most common things that are covered in a constitution.

  • Name of the group
  • Objects of the group, which can be called aims, objectives, or purposes. These are generally a few brief, overall statements.
  • Powers – this is a description of how the group may achieve its objectives or purposes.
  • Committee – a description of how the management committee (people who run the organisation) is elected or appointed.
  • Membership – if the group has a membership, a description of how people can join. NB – if the group is set up for the benefit of members the membership must be available to all those who could reasonably benefit, not just the people you want to join.
  • Payment or benefits – if expenses or other costs are made to members or the management committee, this should be explained.
  • Closing down – a description of what will be done with any surplus funds or assets if the group is wound up; this is sometimes called dissolution.  Some organistaions set up for a socil purpose – like a Community Interest Company or Charity – may have what’s known as an ‘asset lock’ to prevent individuals benefitting from the organisation’s dissolution.  An asset lock is designed to ensure that all the revenues for specific social benefot organisations stay with the commuinity.

The constitution must be signed and dated as agreed and adopted by your committee. Model constitutions, and detailed guidelines for writing them, can be found on the Charity Commission website.

This article is from the Artlaw Archive of Henry Lydiate's columns published in Art Monthly since 1976, and may contain out of date material. The article is for information only, and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Readers should consult a solicitor for legal advice on specific matters. Artists can get free online legal information from Artquest.