A general election is in the offing and charities need to think ahead to continue promoting their purposes effectively while not getting caught out by the political and legislative pitfalls.

Charities need to be careful not to be seen to be supporting or allying themselves with any particular party. This close to an election, there can be a fine line between advancing the charity’s cause and appearing to influence the voters’ choice. A campaign which a charity would launch in the normal scheme of things can take on a different, and possibly completely unexpected, tone in the run-up to an election. In addition, now we are within 3 months of a general election, otherwise normal campaign material could be deemed “election material” and become subject to additional regulation through the Electoral Commission.

Candidates or political parties may jump on a charity campaign bandwagon to enhance their stature among the electorate. This may publicise the charity’s cause, but the apparent association with the charity may have other effects. If the candidate’s cause is unusual or unpopular, there is a risk that the charity’s message may be lost in a political news story, or worse, the charity’s reputation may be damaged. Charities must be prepared to react, keeping the story on their charity’s message and steering away from the politics.

In this highly charged atmosphere, charities must plan ahead and consider the issues in advance of launching a campaign; otherwise they may find themselves trying to limit the damage afterwards.  

Further reading: Charity Commission guidance: Charities and Elections, see http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/supportingcharities/elect.asp

Electoral Commission: See https://extranet.electoralcommission.org.uk/guidance/resources-for-those-we-regulate