Campaigning and political activity by charities: guidance

On 7 November, the Charity Commission issued updated guidance for England and Wales on Campaigning and political activity by charities. It follows the passing of the Elections Act 2022, which received Royal Assent on 28 April. The key points are as follows:

  • a charity an organisation must be established for charitable purposes only and an organisation will not be charitable if its purposes are political;
  • campaigning and political activity can be legitimate and valuable activities for charities to undertake; however,
  • political campaigning or activity, as defined in the guidance, must be undertaken only in the context of supporting the delivery of the charity’s charitable purposes and must not be the continuing and sole activity of the charity;
  • carrying out political activity may sometimes be the best way for trustees to support their charity’s purposes, but trustees must ensure that it is not, and does not become, the reason for the charity’s existence;
  • charities can campaign for a change in the law, policy or decisions where such change would support the charity’s purposes and can also campaign to ensure that existing laws are observed; however
  • a charity cannot exist for a political purpose, which is any purpose directed at furthering the interests of any political party, or securing or opposing a change in the law, policy or decisions either in this country or abroad;
  • in the political arena, a charity must stress its independence and ensure that any involvement it has with political parties is balanced;
  • a charity must not give support or funding to a political party, to a candidate or to a politician;
  • a charity may support specific policies advocated by political parties if they would help achieve its charitable purposes; however,
  • trustees must not allow their charity to be used as a vehicle for the expression of the political views of any individual trustee or staff member (in this context the Charity Commission means personal or party political views);
  • when considering campaigning and political activity, charity trustees must carefully weigh up the possible benefits against the costs and risks in deciding whether the campaign is likely to be an effective way of furthering or supporting the charity’s purposes;
  • when campaigning, charity trustees must comply not only with charity law, but other civil and criminal laws that may apply and, where applicable, they should also comply with the Code of the Advertising Standards Authority;
  • a charity can campaign using emotive or controversial material where it is lawful and justifiable in the context of the campaign – but it must be factually accurate and have a legitimate evidence base; and
  • the principles of charity campaigning and political activity are the same, whether the activity is carried out in the United Kingdom or overseas.

The Commission has also updated its guidance on Charities, Elections and Referendums. Critically, it states that

“A charity’s policy position on a particular issue may coincide with, or be more or less similar to, that of one of the political parties. In this case it is entirely acceptable for the charity to continue to campaign on that issue and to advocate its policy as long as it makes clear its independence from any political party advocating the same policy, and does nothing to encourage support for any political party” [emphasis added].

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "Campaigning and political activity by charities: guidance" in Law & Religion UK, 9 November 2022,

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