New guidance highlights need for charities to be politically independent

New Charities and politics guidance launched this week by Northern Ireland’s charity regulator aims to support charities in understanding the law when engaging in campaigning and politically focused activities.

Charities in Northern Ireland are uniquely placed to campaign and advocate on behalf of their beneficiaries, with many charities using the political arena to contribute to the delivery of their purposes.

However, as new guidance from the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland highlights, it is vital that charities undertaking political activities abide by the law and ensure they remain politically independent.

Commission Chief Executive, Frances McCandless, explained: “Campaigning can be an effective way for a charity to support its charitable purposes, with many charities using political activities to successfully influence public policy.

“It is vital, however, that charities ensure they always act within the law, including remaining independent of party politics and never supporting or favouring one candidate or party for election.

“I would encourage all charities to read our new guidance, Charities and politics, which contains an important checklist for charities when planning and undertaking political activity.”

The Commission’s Charities and politics guidance provides information and advice, including real life case studies, on a number of key areas including:

• Political purposes - under charity law, a charity cannot be established for a political purpose
• Political activity or campaigning – when a charity can legitimately engage in political activity and campaigning
• Political activity or campaigning in the run up to an election
• Political activities and methods which are open to charities
• Key principles of charity law.

To read or download a free copy of the Commission’s Charities and politics guidance, visit the Charity governance section of now.

Charities thinking of campaigning in the run up to the UK Parliamentary General Elections next year, may also be interested in the new Charities and Campaigning guidance, developed by the Electoral Commission.

The Charities and Campaigning guidance, published last month in preparation for changes to campaigning legislation, was developed by the Electoral Commission in conjunction with the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland and other charity regulators.


For more information please contact Shirley Kernan, Charity Commission for Northern Ireland Communications Officer, on telephone: 028 3832 0169, mobile: 07827338978 or email:

Notes to editors

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland is the independent regulator of charities in Northern Ireland. It was established under the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008

Under charity law, political campaigning, or political activity to influence public policy, must be undertaken by a Northern Ireland charity only in the context of supporting the delivery of its charitable purposes.

Unlike other forms of campaigning, political campaigning must not be the continuing and sole activity of the charity.

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