October 28, 2022


In early October, the Charity Commission published the latest in their “5-minute guides” for Trustees – this time on political activity and campaigning by charities.

With many charities increasingly finding themselves supporting the most vulnerable in society, it can be very easy to stray into political commentary. This in itself is not problematic, but a line is drawn where a charity promotes a particular party or candidate. For example, a charity that supports homeless people are able to argue for changes in policy on social housing to support homeless individuals but cannot promote a particular political party who support their lobbying. The charity may feel that carrying out political activity in lobbying for change is the best way to support the charity’s purpose, but it must not become the reason for the charity’s existence, and the charity should ensure that they always seek to engage equally with all major political parties.

Orland Fraser KC said in his recent speech at the Charity Commission annual public meeting (see later for a fuller piece on this) that he anticipated “vigorous exchanges about what is needed from government at this time” and that he expected “charities to be part of this conversation”, although he also stressed the importance of the guidance that charities must avoid party political campaigning. At the event he urged “charitable kindness” saying “Charities can model a different kind of public discourse than the aggression we sometimes sadly see from the political party debate”. He went on to add that he believed charities should campaign with “vigour and energy” but “they should also do so with tolerance and kindness.”

The rules can be complex and it is easy for charities to inadvertently stray into political activity, but the guide is designed to make the situation more straightforward to understand – it is a quick read and I’d encourage Trustees of all charities to read the guidance. All of the Charity Commission’s 5-minute guides can be found here: 5-minute guides for charity trustees - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)


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