step 1 - get startedstep 2 - make a planstep 3 - decide on membershipstep 4 - decide on charitable statusstep 5 - consider the risksstep 6 - decide on a structurestep 7 - write your constitutionstep 8 - next steps

Check with SCVO, OSCR, Companies House and also your local Third Sector Interface whether there is some other organisation which operates under a similar name. In terms of general legal principles, the other organisation could, in those circumstances, raise a court action against the new organisation on the grounds of ‘passing-off’, ie on the basis that the public were being misled.

If there is an organisation with a similar name, but you think that they are unlikely to object, then it’s best to get a letter from them to that effect, just in case a different view is taken in the future if new people come onto the board of that other body.

Under charity law, OSCR will refuse to register a charity if it considers that the name is:

  • the same as or too similar to another charity
  • likely to mislead the public as to the true nature of the organisation
  • likely to give the impression that the organisation is connected to Scottish or UK government or local authorities, when in fact it is not
  • offensive

You should not use the word ‘Limited’ in the name of a voluntary association or trust – doing so, if the body does not have limited liability, is a criminal offence.

There are certain important considerations when choosing a suitable name for a voluntary sector company. For more information on this see Company limited by guarantee.