New campaigning guidance for charities

New guidance which will help charities plan their campaigning activity in line with updated rules on campaign spending, has been welcomed by the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland.

The new Charities and Campaigning guidance, developed by the Electoral Commission in conjunction with the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland and other charity regulators, has been published in preparation for the changes to campaigning legislation coming into effect later this year.

Frances McCandless, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland, commented: “Charities in Northern Ireland cannot be established for a political purpose and must never support political parties or candidates for election; however there are some circumstances in which a charity can engage in campaigning and political activity to influence public policy.

“In fact, when undertaken within the law, campaigning activities may prove to be a legitimate and effective way of supporting and contributing to the delivery of your charity’s purposes.

“Coming ahead of the UK Parliamentary General Elections next year, the new guidance is a must read for charities planning their campaigning work, providing an overview of charity law, electoral law and the role of the regulators.”

Publication of the new guidance follows the passing of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014, which introduces a number of new rules on spending by non-party campaigners.

The new rules will take effect from 19 September 2014 and include:

  • an increase in the amount campaigners can spend before being required to register with, and report their spending to, the Electoral Commission
  • an overall reduction in the amount they can spend at UK Parliamentary General Elections
  • a spending limit of £9,750 per parliamentary constituency
  • new pre and post poll reporting requirements.

Overall, the Electoral Commission has published 16 guidance documents as well as fact sheets on how to ensure common campaigning tactics such as pledge cards and manifestos comply with the new rules.

The Charities and Campaigning guidance (PDF, 267KB) is aimed specifically at charities thinking of campaigning in the run up to an election.

As part of developing the guidance, charities in Northern Ireland took part in roundtable events hosted by the Electoral Commission, providing their views on what they wanted to see in the guidance, corresponding directly with the regulators or completing an online survey.

In addition to the new campaigning guidance, charities may also be interested in the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland’s range of guidance to support charities in complying with the law and maintaining good governance.

This includes Guidance on campaigning and political activities by charities in Northern Ireland. The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland is currently updating this guidance, with the updated version set to be published later this summer.

Seminar on changes to the non-party campaigning rules 

The Electoral Commission is holding a seminar to explain changes to the rules on non-party campaigning on Tuesday 30 September 2014, from 10.30am to 12.30pm, at Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA), 61 Duncairn Gardens, Belfast BT15 2GB.

The seminar should be of interest to people and organisations who may campaign in the run up to the 2015 UK Parliamentary General Election and want an overview of the new rules to help them decide if they need to register with the Electoral Commission.

There are rules that govern people and organisations who campaign in the run up to elections but are not standing as a political party or candidate. These people are referred to as “non-party campaigners”. The rules for non-party campaigners have been changed by the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014. At the seminar the Commission will explain the changes and you will be able to ask questions.

To register for the seminar, please email: infonorthernireland@electoralcommission.org.uk or telephone (028) 9089 4020 by Thursday 25 September, providing your name, the name of the organisation you represent and your contact details.

ENDS

For more information please contact Shirley Kernan, Charity Commission for Northern Ireland Communications Officer, on telephone: 028 3832 0169, mobile: 07827338978 or email: shirley.kernan@charitycommissionni.org.uk

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