Campaigning during a general election

The Lobbying Act (2014), sets out the rules for how charities and other civil society organisations can campaign in the lead up to national elections. Bond encourages  our members to familiarise themselves with the rules and most importantly, to carry on campaigning.

Campaigning is a normal and legitimate part of what Bond members do, and it is vital that organisations continue to speak out during the electoral period.

Below you'll find some useful resources and background information, including template compliance documents.

Useful resources

FAQs answering some of the most common questions organisations might have.

Bond briefing paper designed to help organisations understand the basics of the act, whether you need to register or not and to suggest some good internal practice. Updated September 2019.

Bond presentation on the risks, rules and regulations around campaigning during elections.

A webinar, broadcast on 14 November 2019, co-hosted with NCVO and Bates Wells, the election law specialists, which covers what you need to be aware of in charity and electoral law during a general election, and provides guidance and tools to help your organisation campaign with confidence.

NCVO template board paper to help your trustees decide and document your decision on registration (free for NCVO members, £6.98 for non-members). Published August 2014.

Quakers in Britain have provided a guide on how they recorded the information required by the Electoral Commission once they signed up as a non-party campaigner and a completed example spreadsheet they used to to do this. 

Bates Wells have produced a range of free resources including guidance notes, example board resolutions, risk matrices and other practical tools.

Electoral Commission's Guidance for "non-party campaigners" explains how the rules will work. You can also find specific guidance for the 2019 general election which has details of the regulated period, spending limits and reporting requirements as well as separate guidance on hustings.

The Campaign Collective has a guide to campaigning during a regulated period. Published January 2018.

ACEVO published a briefing on General Election campaigning during the last election.

Bindmans solicitors have written a blog, "Snapping point? Why the surprise General Election presents unprecedented regulatory challenges for charities" analysing the act.

For more information, or to raise any questions or concerns you may have, please email [email protected].

Civil society response to the act

Bond, and many of our members, were a part of a diverse grouping of more than 130 civil society organisations who worked tirelessly to challenge the poorly drafted bill as it was rushed through parliament in 2013.

While key changes to the bill were agreed following two authoritative reports by the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement, Bond remains concerned the legislation could weaken civil society's ability to campaign on the big issues facing our society and planet.

The Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement will monitor the impact the act has on civil society. Please record and share any examples or case studies of impact your organisation has via email [email protected].

Ensuring civil society has a voice

Bond works with the Quakers in Britain to convene civil society organisations on civic space and operating environment issues. Working with 16 other civil society organisations representing a diverse range of issues, this group of organisations has developed a manifesto which calls on the next government to create an enabling environment for civil society advocacy and campaigning in the UK. 
 
Civil society and charity campaigning is central to our democracy, amplifying the voices of those who are marginalised and holding the powerful to account. Over recent years, restrictions have been placed on the ability of civil society groups to speak out. It is essential that this freedom to campaign is restored. To this end, we are calling on the next government to:

  1. Significantly revise the Lobbying Act, along the lines proposed by Lord Hodgson in his Government-commissioned review of the legislation. 
  2. Ensure that all departments engage with and involve CSOs throughout the policy-making process, listen to and value the insights that CSOs provide, and respect and support their right to speak out. 
  3. Ensure that all government grants and contracts support the right of CSOs to speak out, and facilitate open and inclusive policy engagement, and remove restrictions on campaigning. 
  4. Ensure the Charity Commission and Electoral Commission are working to enable a regulatory environment which support the rights of CSOs to campaign.
  5. Commit to uphold the right to protest.

You can download the manifesto here.