Less than one in five charities and not-for-profit organisations understand the restrictions imposed on campaigning during the General Election, according to research from social enterprise Campaign Collective.
If organisations – private and charity alike – spend more than £20,000 in England or £10,000 in the rest of the UK on regulated activities, they must register with the Electoral Commission as non-party campaigners or risk breaking the law.
At the heart of the Lobbying Act are the ‘purpose’ and ‘public’ tests. These tests are how organisations can check to see if activity is covered.
If the purpose of activity “can reasonably be regarded as intended to influence voters to vote for or against political parties or categories of candidates, including political parties or categories of candidates who support or do not support particular policies or issues” it is covered by the act.
Additionally, specific tactics might also be covered by the ‘public’ test if the activity is “also aimed at, [can be] seen or heard by, or involve the public.”
The latest research from Campaign Collective says that 18% of organisations claim they completely understand the rules, 37% “somewhat understand” and 44% “not really or not at all” appreciating the restrictions that apply.
Over half (52%) of charities, not-for-profits and social enterprises believe the 2017 UK General Election will be important to their organisation, but less than a quarter (22%) felt prepared for the Election.
Simon Francis (pictured), founder member of Campaign Collective, said: “The Lobbying Act election restrictions apply to all organisations, charity or corporate.
“It is highly concerning that so few organisations are aware of the restrictions that apply during this period, especially in light of the fines recently handed out to two charities by the Electoral Commission. Criticisms around the lack of communication to groups about the law revealed in reports into the last election clearly have not been fully addressed.
“While advice to charities and campaigners on the General Election is to resist being silenced by the Lobbying Act, they can’t ignore the rules.”
Advice for charities and campaigners on the General Election was published by Campaign Collective last week.
*Sapio Research conducted the online survey among 67 charities and not-for-profits between Friday 21 April and Tuesday 25 April 2017.