With the upcoming General Election fast approaching on 4th July 2024, it is important for charities to remember the guiding principle of charity law – charities must remain independent of party politics. This is particularly important in Northern Ireland where charities have strong links to their local communities and beneficiaries.

Whilst a charity can attempt to raise awareness on important issues and influence public opinion in relation to policy, it must not encourage the electorate to vote for one party or another. A charity must remain independent and not align itself with a particular political party. It may support or oppose particular policies as a means of achieving its own objectives so long as there is no restriction in relation to campaigning set out in its governing document. In addition, whilst a charity can carry out campaigning and political activity, it must be careful that any political activity does not become the reason for the charity’s existence or purpose.

Advocating effectively is one of the important things a charity can do and campaigning may include raising awareness and changing public attitudes for the benefit of its beneficiaries. The charity’s best interests must be at the forefront of any campaign and the Trustees must act with due care. It may be useful for Trustees to develop internal policies and procedures around campaigning to ensure the campaign objectives are in line with the charity’s objectives.

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland has published helpful guidance and we would encourage charities to read this guidance if it is their intention to get involved in political activity.