Funding Campaigning Activities: FAQs for charities

It is often not well understood that charities can campaign a way of achieving their charitable purposes. Similarly, grant-making charities are often unsure about whether they can fund campaigning and political activities. These FAQs set out some of the principles to think about when considering funding campaign activities.

Is my organisation allowed to fund political campaigns?

Yes, if the organisation’s proposed political campaign supports its charitable purposes and as long as it is not party political.  Charities cannot fund other organisations to do things that they couldn’t do themselves but there is no prohibition on political activity under charity law – there are just some additional legal considerations to be aware of (see our guidance on political campaigning for further detail).

Can charities fund non-charities to undertake campaigns?

Yes, you can fund both charities and non-charities (subject to the above), but funding non-charities to campaign brings in some additional risks. For example, non-charities won’t be subject to the requirement not to be party political that applies to registered charitable organisations, so you should check the proposed campaign does not support or criticise any political party. The key is that your charity needs to be sure (and have safeguards in place to ensure) that your funds will be used only to further the charity’s purposes throughout the campaign. 

Can charities fund campaigns in the run up to an election?

In principle, you can continue to grant fund a campaign in the run up to an election or even fund a new campaign. Charities can engage with election campaigns, even though they have to avoid being party political.

For example, an organisation might want to campaign to try and get all political parties to adopt its position on a certain policy. You could fund this provided the campaign remained non-party political and it supports your organisation’s purposes, but you might want to introduce some additional safeguards and conditions into your grant agreement taking into account election law considerations.

If the organisation you want to fund is not a UK-based organisation then you should seek further advice, as there are controls on who can make political donations and incur spending regulated by election law in the run up to an election.

This information is necessarily of a general nature and doesn’t constitute legal advice. This is not a substitute for formal legal advice, given in the context of full information under an engagement with Bates Wells.

All content on this page is correct as of September 18, 2019.