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Charities, elections and political parties
In election years, charities should take special care to ensure their independence from political parties and candidates.
Charities add a valuable and trusted voice on issues that affect their communities. Charities can speak up, including in election time, and it’s important that they do.
The important thing for charities is ensuring that any activity they carry out is in support of their charitable purpose, and in the best interests of their charity. This is because an organisation set up to be a political party or support a political party cannot be a charity.
If your charity is considering engaging with a political party or candidate(s), you should also think carefully about how this might look to the public.
It’s ok for a charity to express support for a particular policy of a political party that is important to their charitable purpose (for example: a soup kitchen supporting a party’s policy on homelessness).
However, a charity must not support or oppose a political party or candidate. This could include:
This is because all political parties and candidates have policies on a wide range of issues (for example: defence, taxation, foreign policy). As not all of these policies will be relevant to a charity’s charitable purpose, it’s not ok to support or oppose a political party or candidate generally.
There are lots of ways a charity can speak up in election time without supporting or opposing a political party or candidate. This could include:
Officers of a charity should be as open and transparent as possible about any engagement their charity has with a political party.
It is good practice to record any interactions your charity has with political parties or candidates in your meeting minutes, as well as how your charity decided this was in your charity’s best interests.
If someone in your charity is personally involved with a political party or candidate, this should be recorded in your interest register(external link).
Where employees of charities stand for election, they should discuss with the charity how their candidacy will impact on their workplace. Officers of a charity must ensure charitable resources are not supporting their employee’s candidacy or political party.
If you want more information about the ways a charity can speak up during election time, you can read our previous blog - Upcoming election things to think about as a charity(external link)
For more information about advocacy purposes see our guidance(external link) on this topic.
If you have any questions about a particular situation with your charity, please contact us(external link). We’re happy to talk you through our position and what your options are.
You can also seek independent legal advice, and some Community Law Centres will offer charities support free of charge.