There is a "significant risk" if charities do not campaign in the upcoming general election and they should feel confident to speak out on key issues, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations has said.
A blog published today by Chris Walker, public affairs manager at the NCVO, said that, although charities should look carefully at the rules for campaigning and lobbying, they were less restrictive than many charities assume.
The blog came after the House of Commons voted yesterday to hold a general election 12 December, which some commentators are suggesting could be the most crucial and divisive ballot for a generation.
"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," Walker wrote.
"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."
This warning from NCVO came soon after the Electoral Commission published new guidance clarifying how the lobbying act works.
The lobbying act sets spending limits and makes it a legal necessity for all organisations that spend more that £20,000 in England or £10,000 in Wales on regulated campaigning in the year prior to an election to register with the Electoral Commission.
But the act has proved controversial in the sector and there were significant concerns about how the law operated before the 2017 general election.
The new guidance on the lobbying act from the Electoral Commission was welcomed by the NCVO, the charity leaders body Acevo and the international development umbrella body Bond, which all provided support during its drafting.