What charities need to know about the general election

Barring any mishaps in the House of Lords we now know that the long-rumoured election will be taking place on 12 December. People might expect this election to be about Brexit, but as we saw in 2017 other issues may come to the fore, so the expertise of charities will be essential to informing the debate.

Think about what you want

Every election is an opportunity for charities to talk about the issues that matter to them, so you should be thinking about how you can take your agenda forward. If you’re a national charity, there might be an opportunity to raise a key policy issue. If you’re a local charity, this might be a chance to build, or cement, your relationship with the candidates standing in your area.

So think about what difference the parties or candidates in your area could make to your beneficiaries as a result of this election, and focus your campaign on achieving those goals.

But if you want to be heard, it’s also worth looking at what the parties are talking about, and how they’re talking about it, so that your suggestions chime with, and can become part of, that political agenda.

Put in some time for planning

Despite the fact we’ve known there was likely to be an election for a while, it’s been tricky to do much detailed planning. Many of you will already have an outline, but it’s not too late to plan activity so that you spread your effort across the six weeks.

However, the debate may move in unexpected ways, and you might find yourselves with an unexpected opportunity to talk about your cause, so think about all the things that might come up which you’d have to react to, and what your response would be.

Later in the campaign there is likely to be a bit of a lull as most campaigners will want to be talking about their issues early on. There might be an opportunity here to think about what comes after the election. This looks like a very unpredictable election, so don’t put all your eggs in one basket, but it’s worth thinking about who you want to engage with, and how you want to go about it, incorporating what you’ve learned from the election campaign.

Check the rules

As ever, charities will need to be aware of the rules on campaigning. Make sure your activity focuses on the issue, and is not party political. Charity Commission guidance – particularly the guidance for elections and referendums are worth looking at to make sure you stay on the right side of things.

And make sure you’re on top of the Lobbying Act – our campaigning law expert Douglas recently outlined some welcome changes to the Electoral Commission’s guidance which reiterate that the guidance is not as restrictive as many think.

But don’t be held back by them

But as charities, we all need to be clear that while we need to think about the rules, they shouldn’t, and don’t stop us from campaigning.

It’s of course right that trustees think about the risks associated with campaigning, but given the opportunities that this election presents, there also has to be a significant risk attached to not campaigning, and failing to secure the changes that matter

So what we want to see, and what I know we will see, at this election, is brilliant charities speaking up and running great campaigns – campaigns that ultimately make a difference to the lives of people in the country.

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Avatar photo Chris is NCVO’s public affairs manager, focusing on parliamentary work. He started his career working for several MPs in Parliament, and has also worked in public affairs and policy roles for the Federation of Small Businesses.

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