What Charities need to Consider during the General Election, Spring/Summer 2024

The Charity Commission have issued guidance for charities, political activity and campaigning, to help make sure a charities’ efforts are both lawful and effective.

In the midst of the General Election season, some charities will be stepping up their campaigning and political activity to reflect this.

In that respect, charities should be reminded of their responsibilities and of any published guidance to help with decision making around political activity and campaigning.

Trustees and Charity Leaders can see this period as an essential moment to speak up for the cause they serve, and that is right and fitting in the interest of the services and products they deliver in their local community and further.

Charity campaigning plays an important role in society, and the law is clear about the right of charities to campaign in support of their purposes.

However, as reported previously, it is important that charities campaign in a way that abides with the legal framework. This in turn would maintain public confidence in their political campaigning, and more importantly continue the trust in that given charity.

What a Charity could do to Shape the Debate
Within reason, a Charity could give support to or raise concerns about specific policies advocated by political parties.

But Trustees and Leaders of charities have an important responsibility to make sure that everything they do - and every decision they make - helps them further their group’s purposes and is in the best interest of their organisation.

In terms of public trust, charities are required to be independent and cannot have political purposes:

As a result, a charity must NEVER stray into party politics, and they must never promote (or be seen to promote) a political party or candidate.

Trustees and Charity Leaders must protect their charity’s reputation and not allow their organisation to be used as a platform to express the party-political views of any individual trustee, any employee, political party, or candidate.

Where it looks like we are starting to live in a gradually divided society, where public discourse is becoming ever more polarised, personal attacks undermining the intentions of opponents are starting to become common place.

This is not just in party politics, but in wider public debate. And all too often the work of charities is starting to be at the forefront of the most sensitive and the most divisive of these debates.

But charities are in a unique position where they are above all this, both in law and in the public mind.

In this respect, charities should be seen to engage in public discourse in a way that promotes respect, displays tolerance and shows consideration for others.

They should also be seen to engage in a tone that reflects their trusted standing as a charity – all the while steering away from negative or unnecessarily harmful speech.

It doesn’t mean they have to avoid criticism of political parties’ policies, or ignore any passionate, emotive or direct messaging.

But charities can ultimately show maturity and diplomacy in how they remain focused on the issues that are relevant to them and avoid character attacks.

Guidance for charities, political activity and campaigning has recently been published by the UK Government’s Charity Commission amid this year’s General Election.

Covering in more detail what has been explained above, as well as important aspects of Electoral Law, they outline key guidance to help guide charities during the election season.

To read the guidance, visit the Charity Commission website.