Charity in Spain

To follow on from my post HERE about charitable giving, and another HERE about foodbanks, I’ve now set up a page HERE (under the Useful Stuff tab) for easy reference to the information. I’ve also added the following for the sake of fullness and clarity.

Something frequently overlooked when we talk about charities in Spain is the actual word “charity”, in the sense of an organization. Despite constant use of the word in fund raising activities, there is actually no direct equivalent in Spain to that which we understand as a charity in the UK. Rather, there are two types of charitable organizations: a fundación (foundation) and an asociación (association). There is a large difference between the two, since a fundación must have an asset base of €30,000 and a board of trustees as basic legal requirements, whereas an asociación is far simpler and virtually free to set up.

Even though there is no central charity commission in Spain as there is in the UK, there are strict administrative, fiscal and legal controls over the fundraising activities and expenditure of fundaciones, in addition to the requirement for them to have significant assets and a board of trustees. It is, too, only fundaciónes whose names are legally required to be registered, and only they benefit from tax relief on donations (law HERE).  An asociación can only gain such fiscal benefits if they have a declaration of “utilidad pública” (public usefulness) from the Ministerio del Interior, for which they must already have been in existence, and acting effectively, for at least two years.

From the foregoing, it will be clear that only fundaciones really equate to what we recognize as charities. This is not to say that asociaciones don’t often do sterling work, but it is also fair to say that Spain has known scandal after scandal concerning bogus “charities”. At the very least, I hope the above has helped provide some information for readers to begin to check that they are donating to genuine causes, rather than putting them off donating at all, because there is increasing need for, and reliance on, charitable giving in Spain at present.




  1. How can I check on a charity in Spain and that the monies are being used for the reason that the charity is being set up for.

    Ray Robinson

  2. Author

    There’s no central charity commission in Spain, and as I say on the main Charity in Spain page (third link in the first paragraph above), only a fundación really qualifies as what we would recognize as a charity. You can ask for the details of an organization’s registration as an asociación or fundación, and if it’s the latter, then their details are a matter of public record; you will also know that their management is subject to stringent fiscal, administrative and legal controls. If it’s an asociación, however, then there’s not the same control, nor is it a matter of the same public record, but it will at least have been set up as a formal organization, and be required by law to submit annual reports … and having been involved in one myself, I can confirm that it’s not something you do unless you mean it! If it is neither, however, then the safest course is to treat it as an unconfirmed fund-raising matter with no surety as to where the money is going at all.

  3. I am probably too late to comment in the above link but just in case somebody is looking, here goes! I work as a volunteer at a dog shelter for what is almost certainly an asociacion. Their accounts do not add up and many of us know of serious misuse of funds but they refuse to show the members their books, in spite of several individual requests. We now have a petition of 50 members to see the accounts. What course if any is open to us when they inevitably refuse?

  4. Author

    Legal action. You need to consult a lawyer.

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