Six weeks after the first regulated period under the lobbying act began, a total of four charities have registered with the Electoral Commission as non-party campaigners.
The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014, which became law in January, says that in the run-up to elections, charities, individuals or other groups spending more than £20,000 in England or £10,000 in other parts of the UK on particular "regulated activities" must register with the Electoral Commission as non-party campaigners.
More activities are regulated under the new law than was previously the case, and the maximum spend allowed on these has been cut. Many third sector and other campaigning groups feared the new laws would create a "chilling effect", with campaigners feeling less able to speak out.
The four charities that have registered with the commission since the rules came into force on 19 September are the cholesterol charity Heart UK, the League Against Cruel Sports, the gay rights charity Stonewall and the Woodland Trust.
More charities might follow suit because campaigners are obliged to register only by the end of the regulated period, which is 7 May 2015, the day of the general election.
Among the other 21 registered campaigners are the campaigns platform 38 Degrees, the non-charitable animal rights group Political Animal Lobby, the government-backed community organisation One Norbiton, six trade unions, several consultancies and a single individual, Matthew Brown.
Richard Lane, media manager at Stonewall, said: "We’ve always been crystal clear that we campaign in a transparent and strictly non-partisan way. We’ve registered so that we can continue to make that clear to stakeholders from across the political spectrum and our supporters whom we rely on to fund our work."
Jules Payne, chief executive of Heart UK, said: "We have campaigned for more than a decade to ensure the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease is a top health priority for the government of the day, whatever its political persuasion. Heart UK supports the greater transparency of lobbying encapsulated in the act and decided to register in keeping with this."
In a previous story on its decision to register, the Woodland Trust told Third Sector it had decided to "err on the side of caution". The League Against Cruel Sports did not respond to a request for comment.
The religious charity Quakers in Britain said two months ago that it was expected to register, but has not yet done so. Today it told Third Sector it was still deciding.