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The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland
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Blog: Candidates and charities during an election campaign

Have you ever thought about how much charity volunteers and staff have in common with local political representatives? Both are usually very committed to their local communities, understand the needs of their area and want to dedicate their time and skills to making things better.

Charities have strong links to their beneficiaries and local communities and can play a valuable role in informing elected representatives about issues and potential solutions, while working to meet their charitable purposes. Public representatives value the contribution of charities to our society and can bring their concerns to the tables where decisions are made. These relationships are vital but it is important that when an election is called and elected representatives become candidates again or people stand for election for the first time, that neither charities nor candidates risk the independence of the charity sector.

This blog is an appeal to candidates to be careful not to compromise charities during your campaign. With only a few weeks to polling day on Thursday 4 July 2024 all candidates are super busy. You’re looking for places to meet the public, and to hold hustings in. You’ll also be looking for information to use in your campaign and for photo opportunities to promote your views and connection to the constituency. All these things can be done but it is vital that you don’t seek the endorsement of a charity or a charity trustee – or give the impression that they have endorsed you or your party. If you are using research or reports produced by a charity, avoid doing so in a way that leads the public to think that the charity’s research shows its support for you.

You are running in the election because you want to do something for our society, but here are a few very important Don’ts - Don’t ask a charity to:

  • Share party political social media posts on their social media channels.
  • Hire out its premises to your political party at a non-commercial rate.
  • Allow its charity trustees, staff or members, who may have been elected representatives or are party activists to provide access to charity assets for non-charity related business.
  • give support or funding to a political party, candidate or politician.

And please don’t be offended if a charity that is well known to you stresses its independence and ensures that any involvement it has with political parties is balanced and neutral.

The Commission has produced guidance for charities, and this can help candidates understand the constraints on charities too. See the Commission’s Charities and politics guidance  or the thematic report: Charities and political campaigning - staying compliant which shares lessons learned for charities from other elections.

Participation in the election is vital for our society but it is also essential that charities stay compliant with the law. As a candidate in the 2024 General Election, and in any election, you can help them do that.

Written by By Ann Breslin, Commission Policy and Research Manager.