How to report on public benefit for your charity

Public benefit is an integral part of what every charity does and so the Charity Commission sees it as something to be integrated into any overall report of the charity’s activities and performance during the year. The report simply needs to be styled in such a way that the reader can ascertain how, through the activities and achievements of the charity, the aims of the charity are carried out for the public benefit.

For members of Making Music this need not seem like a daunting task. For smaller charities – determined by the Charity Commission to be those beneath the audit threshold, i.e. with an annual income of less than £500,000 – the requirement is to include a brief summary in their Trustees’ Annual Report of the main activities undertaken in order to carry out the charity’s aims for the public benefit.

The summary itself need not be detailed and, for most charities, it should not significantly affect the existing structure of their Trustees’ Annual Report.  Trustees of smaller registered charities (those with a turnover of between £5,000 and £10,000) simply need to continue to explain their charity’s activities and achievements during the year, but set them in the context of the charity’s aims to explain how they have been carried out for the public benefit.

Charities with an annual turnover of over £10,000 must also make a clear statement about complying with public benefit guidance provided by the Charity Commission, for example:

The trustees have complied with the duty in section 4 of the Charities Act 2006 to have due regard to public benefit guidance published by the Charity Commission.

Many charity trustees already produce detailed Trustees’ Annual Reports on what they have done in the year to carry out their charity’s aims, and the impact of that work on their beneficiaries and the wider public. For them very little additional work is likely to be needed to re-focus those reports in the context of public benefit.

The Charity Commission publishes a template for a Trustees’ Annual Report which is available to download from its website.

What is public benefit?

There are two key principles of public benefit, and within each principle there are some important factors that must be considered in all cases. These are:

Principle 1: There must be an identifiable benefit or benefits

  • Principle 1a: It must be clear what the benefits are

  • Principle 1b: The benefits must be related to the aims

  • Principle 1c: Benefits must be balanced against any detriment or harm

Questions to help you think about this principle

  • What are the benefits that arise from your organisation’s aims?

  • Is there any detriment or harm that, in your view, might arise from carrying out your organisation’s aims?  Are you aware of any widespread views among others that such detriment or harm might arise?

Principle 2: Benefit must be to the public, or section of the public

  • Principle 2a The beneficiaries must be appropriate to the aims

  • Principle 2b Where benefit is to a section of the public, the opportunity to benefit must not be unreasonably restricted:

    • by geographical or other restrictions; or

    • by ability to pay any fees charged

  • Principle 2c People in poverty must not be excluded from the opportunity to benefit

  • Principle 2d Any private benefits must be incidental

Questions to help you think about this principle

  1. Whom do your organisation’s aims intend to benefit?
  2. If the benefit is to a section of the public, how are the beneficiaries defined or what restrictions are there on who can have the opportunity to benefit?
    • For geographical restrictions: what is the geographical area that defines who can benefit?
    • For restrictions based on charitable need: what is the charitable need shared by the beneficiaries that is being relieved or addressed?
    • For restrictions based on personal characteristics: what defining characteristics are used to decide who benefits? How do those characteristics relate to the charitable aims?
    • For restrictions based on access to facilities: are there restrictions on what is available for access, or on who can have access, or limited opening times?
    • For restrictions based on eligibility for membership: does someone have to be a member to benefit? If so, is it open to anyone interested to join? If not, who can join and how?
    • For restrictions based on trustees’ discretion: what criteria will the trustees use to decide who can benefit? What is the justification for that restriction?
    • For restrictions based on ability to pay any fees charged: what does your organisation charge for its services or facilities? How are charges set? Is everyone charged the full rate or do you offer concessions on subscriptions and/or tickets? What opportunities do people who cannot afford to pay those fees have to benefit from your organisation’s aims? How do people in poverty have the opportunity to benefit?
  1. Does anyone receive any private benefits from your organisation, other than as a beneficiary? If so, what benefits do they receive? Are those benefits incidental to your main activities and objects?

How do these principles apply to music groups?

Clearly most music groups will be benefitting the public by putting on enjoyable events and/or by offering members of the public the opportunity to participate in such events. It should not really be difficult therefore for a music group to demonstrate such benefit (Principle One) in its report.

Principle Two might need a little more care in its wording. If you are a membership group, you might need to be clear that there are no unreasonable restrictions in your membership (i.e. those of a non-musical nature). It is reasonable that your membership is restricted to those who are able to perform, for example, but it might not be reasonable to restrict it to people with red hair, for example. Clearly this has a relationship with the overall Equal Opportunities agenda. You might also want to explain how you offer concessionary rates for membership and tickets to make your activities affordable.

Examples of public benefit statements

We offer two examples of public benefit to demonstrate how this might be applied in practice.

The following is Making Music’s own statement of public benefit:

The Directors of Making Music have complied with the duty in section 4 of the Charities Act 2006 to have due regard to public benefit guidance published by the Charity Commission.

The Directors believe that the organisation conforms readily to the new public benefit requirements of the Charity Commission. The reasons for this belief are:

  • The Charity has charitable objectives (as noted above) which quite clearly demonstrate public benefit in promoting the art and practice and public performance of music.
  • All individuals in group have the potential to benefit from the activities of Making Music and its members
  • The lobbying and advocacy work that Making Music does is of potential benefit to all individuals, whether or not they are directly involved in music, by helping to create an environment in which live music making can flourish and be available to participants and audiences in local communities across the UK
  • There are no restrictions on membership of Making Music – everyone and all groups can become Associate Members, although Full Membership is restricted to charitable music groups
  • Financial assistance in joining Making Music and participating in its activities is considered in cases of individual hardship

Harlow Chorus has also kindly offered its own statement for reference:

The trustees have complied with the duty in section 4 of the Charities Act 2006 to have due regard to public benefit guidance published by the Charity Commission.

In pursuing our aims for the public benefit, the choir believes it impacts on people's lives in two ways. First, for participants (young and old), we involve more people in a creative, enjoyable and fulfilling educational activity, providing them with opportunity to develop vocal technique and musical repertoire. Second, for audiences, we present exciting, innovative and high quality performances which should always be a pleasurable cultural experience, but will sometimes challenge them and educate them by extending their musical knowledge.

In addition to the public educational benefits to participants and audiences mentioned above, the Committee is conscious that its activities must be affordable, so concessionary rates are available for both membership subscriptions and audience tickets. We continue to offer free membership to the under 25s, and any other member with financial difficulties can privately discuss a special reduced subscription arrangement with the Treasurer.

For further information visit the Charity Commission website.

We hope you find this Making Music document useful - it is intended to give a reasonable summary of the position at the time of writing. If you are aware of any changes to the situation described or have suggestions for further information to be included please contact the Membership Services Team at Making Music 020 7939 6030 or

Please note that no responsibility for loss occasioned to any person or group acting or refraining from action as a result of any of the contents of this information sheet can be accepted by any of the authors or by Making Music, the National Federation of Music Societies. 

We hope you find this Making Music resource useful. If you have any comments or suggestions about the guidance please contact us. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the content of this guidance is accurate and up to date, Making Music do not warrant, nor accept any liability or responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the content, or for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in it.