The Constitution of the Friends of the Ipswich Museums

The Friends of the Ipswich Museums is a charitable unincorporated organisation. It has a written constitution covering four sides of A4 paper and it was registered as a charity in April 1978.

An unincorporated organisation is not a legal entity, which means it cannot own property, enter into contracts, lend or borrow money etc. “So, what!” I hear you cry. The downside of an unincorporated organisation is that it has no corporate responsibility, so the trustees are personally responsible for any contracts or orders that they sign. Any financial loss by FoIM or legal claim against FoIM would be borne initially by the trustees personally and secondly by the individual members. This is not a desirable situation for anyone. Especially in the light of the larger cash balances that we have and an increase in business activity in which we are becoming involved. 

The committee has looked at the various structures open to organisations that wish to register as a charity. There are numerous small charitable unincorporated organisations like ours, so in 2013 the Charity Commission introduced a new structure called a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO). A CIO would give us legal status for no set up or annual cost and without the additional work and administration demanded by other types of structure. 

The committee has decided to seek the approval of the membership to apply to the Charity Commission for FoIM to become a CIO. To set this in motion we have drafted a new constitution. This is of necessity a much more complex document than our existing constitution. It is legal document and follows closely the model provided by the Charity Commission. It contains all the “whys” and “wherefores” of all the things, which as a CIO we would be allowed to do, whether or not we wish to do them. It contains all our aims and rules of conduct that are written into our existing constitution. It gives FoIM greater powers, should it wish to use them, while not changing what we do or how we do it. Most importantly, it protects the trustees and members personally against financial or legal claims.

The committee will ask for approval from FoIM members, to adopt the new constitution at the next AGM on 10th April 2019. If it is approved, we shall then apply to the Charity Commission to change our status. In the meantime, the draft constitution is available for inspection on our website (www.foim.org.uk). Anyone who does not have access to on-line facilities may view a printed copy (some 20 pages) at either the Museum, High Street or at Christchurch Mansion.   

Gary Butler

FoIM Secretary