Purpose test: Charities and other organisations with limits on their political activities

Some organisations have restrictions on their political activities, for example in their constitution, or charities who are bound by charity law.

These organisations may find that abiding by these separate restrictions means that they are less likely to carry out activities that meet the purpose test.

This is because the restrictions mean that many of the sorts of campaigns that meet the purpose test are prohibited for those organisations.

For example, charities must remain independent of party politics and must not support a political party or candidate, or create a perception of support as a result of their actions or participation.

If you are a charity and abide by charity law and guidance from the relevant charity regulator, in most circumstances your campaign activity is unlikely to meet the purpose test. 

Part of UKCharity regulatorWebsite link
England and Wales

 

Charity Commission for England and Wales

 

Scotland 
OSCR logo
OSCR
Northern Ireland
Charity Commission for Northern Ireland

 

Charity Commission of Northern Ireland

 

You will still need to be aware of the non-party campaigner rules in case your activities meet the purpose test. In some circumstances, charities can and do carry out campaign activity that is regulated under electoral law. In the recent past, for example the UK Parliamentary general elections in 2015 and 2017, charities have conducted campaigns that met the tests for regulated spending, and have registered with us in accordance with the rules.

Our case studies from recent elections provide examples of issues-based campaigning that will be helpful when applying the purpose test to your own campaigns.

If you are planning a campaign and you are still unsure how it fits in with the rules for non-party campaigners, please get in touch and we can provide advice.
 

Last updated: 23 September 2019