What are the rules for charities that want to support, or oppose, a change in government policy or the law?
The Charity Commission has issued a new five-minute guide on political activity and campaigning for charities.
Many charities want to get involved in campaigning for change to support their purpose. It is the trustees who are responsible for making sure their charity follows the rules on political activity and campaigning.
The Charity Commission uses the term ‘political activity’ to describe activities or campaigning to change or influence policies or decisions taken by:
- national, devolved, local or overseas government
- public bodies including international organisations such as the UN and World Bank, and national or local organisations such as regulators or NHS Trusts
The Commission says that Charities can take part in political activity that supports their purpose and is in their best interests:
‘There may be situations where carrying out political activity is the best way for trustees to support their charity’s purpose. However, political activity must not become the reason for the charity’s existence.
Charities must remain independent and must not give their support to a political party.
Some charities have a power in their governing document explaining how they can take part in political activity. You do not need a specific power but it can help if political activity is a key part of your work, for example for certain human rights charities.
Some charities have restrictions in their governing document preventing political activity. Check your governing document for any such restrictions.’
It’s also important to make sure that any staff and volunteers working on campaigns for your charity understand the rules. Remember, even if the trustees delegate these activities, the responsibility remains theirs.
THE GUIDANCE COVERS
- What the Commission’s means by ‘political activity’
- The rules on political activity
- Engaging in political activity
- Working with politicians
- Other campaigning
We would recommend that trustees read this guidance before undertaking campaigning or political activity.
You can find the full guidance (CC9) here: Campaigning and political activity guidance for charities (CC9)
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