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What happens next? Navigating the challenges and opportunities of an election year

25 April 2024

Reflections from our recent senior leadership forum

As we are now without doubt in the regulated period before a UK election takes place, the thoughts of senior leaders in charities are turning to what the impact may be on the sector and how they can get their charity’s priorities on the agenda.

What do we know about the election?

Sadly, a limited amount at present – which makes it very difficult for charities to plan ahead, both in the short and longer term. Limited comments from the major parties could be viewed as a tactical manoeuvre but means that (assuming an Autumn election), clear manifestos are unlikely to be forthcoming until later in the Summer.

However, that does give charities the opportunity now to put their ‘asks’ on the table. Qualitative assessment suggests that charities can deliver more value in the provision of services and can impact positively on policymaking.  

Charities and campaigning – can we do it?

In short, yes you can but you must take into account a variety of factors including Charity Commission guidance (see below). It is fair to say that some charities have been nervous about operating in this area and the Charity Commission have recently updated their guidance to give the sector more confidence as to what charities can and can’t do when it comes to campaigning and political activity. A key principle is that campaigning and political activity should not be the reason for a charity’s existence. Charities cannot support a particular party, candidate or politician, but may lend support to specific policies if those policies would help the charity advance its existing charitable purposes. It is helpful to ensure that any support or discussion is balanced.

That could include (for example) preparing an open letter to all political parties and prospective MPs, setting out key priorities for their area or sector. Some thought has to be given to the ‘asks’, so that charities can balance delivering on their objects with the credibility and evidence needed to make the proposals viable.

For more detail on charities and campaigning, see our series on charity campaigning along with the Charity Commission’s guidance.

Charitable campaigning and political activity: can charities and politics mix?

Charity campaigning and political activity in an election period

Financial forecasting

The UK economy is still generally seen to have a solid financial base, but remains more impacted by wider global issues than by party specific economic policy. 2024 is set to be a big year for global elections, including the US, India and a number of European countries, all of which have the potential to impact the global economy, and in turn the UK economy at both national and local levels.

Over the last few years we have increasingly seen charities being asked to deliver more for the same funding or less, either by number or in real terms, forcing reconfiguration or realignment of priorities. Charities are also finding new ways of working to make funding go further – whether that is consortium working, corporate partnerships, or working with local authorities to ensure that they are in the best position to access funding as it becomes available.

This article summarises some of the practical discussion points covered in our recent Senior Leadership Forum: "What happens next? Navigating the challenges and opportunities of an election year". The next forum is anticipated to take place in summer 2024. Watch this space for further details.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of this article further, please contact Hayley Marsden or any member of our Charities and Social Economy team on 0113 244 6100.

You can also keep up to date by following Wrigleys Charities and Social Economy team on X.

The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature.  The law stated is correct at the date (stated above) this article was first posted to our website. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors.

Hayley Marsden View Biography

Hayley Marsden

Associate
Leeds

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