43 Days to Go: UK General Election for charities

Within mere hours of our carefully crafted update claiming we had no idea when the general election will take place, Rishi Sunak, in the pouring rain, announced that the next UK general election will be on 5 July.

This means that everything in our latest elections blog is absolutely still useful, but we need to pay closer attention to the extra Charity Commission guidance that kicks in once an election has been called.

I’ve had to turn radio 4 off this morning as suddenly it got loud, argumentative, aggressive – not a good background for a peaceful school run or a calm, productive day of work. Charities can get swept up in the party political fever that is already sweeping across the nation, with serious consequences. But don’t panic, we have everything you need to stay composed and effective during the general election period.

The universal principles in Charity Commission Guidance Campaigning and Political Activity CC9 apply during election periods, but the additional guidance adds further detail on matters which arise after the general election has been called.

The guiding principle is that charities must be, and must be seen to be, independent from party politics. The guidance addresses various risk areas.


Where a charity’s policy coincides with that of a party it is acceptable to campaign on that policy provided:

  • it asserts its independence; and
  • does nothing to support that party.


Charities are free to promote their views which relate to their purposes and activities in all forms of publicity. They can set out the policies of each party on the issue in question. However they must let the electors decide which way to vote.

Charities can even publish views of candidates where they support the charity’s policy and publishing will raise awareness. However they must not encourage support for any party or candidate.

Manifestos are acceptable where the aim is to persuade parties to adopt policies. They are not acceptable where the aim is to influence how people vote.


Our motto is policies not parties – and charities should never donate funds to a party.

If you intend to organise a debate, it is important to secure ‘representatives from a wide a political spectrum as possible’ – unless a candidate would risk disorder, express views which contravene the charity’s purposes and alienate the charity’s supporters. The guidance is clear that there would need to be an extremely good reason for not inviting a mainstream party.


Charities must never support particular candidates – but they are free to canvas their views with a view to encouraging debate.

The guidance gives some useful detail about employees who are involved in a party’s campaign – the charity must take extra care to avoid association with or suggested endorsement of the party.

The Commission’s social media guidance will be useful in this area – here is our blog on the subject.


Some charities (such as schools) have to share their facilities with candidates for public meetings. Otherwise, charities are free to hire out their facilities as long as they charge the same to all candidates. They may also refuse to hire facilities out to a candidate if there is a risk of disorder or alienating the charity’s supporters.

Further resources

On 20 May Orlando Fraser released a blog reminding charities of their responsibilities in an election period. The Commission has launched an election landing page with links to all of its very useful guidance.

We wish you an effective pre-election period. If you have any questions please get in touch with Neil Burton [email protected]

Our content explained

Every piece of content we create is correct on the date it’s published but please don’t rely on it as legal advice. If you’d like to speak to us about your own legal requirements, please contact one of our expert lawyers.

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