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Why do charities campaign?

This is one of seven fact sheets in a series about reporting on charity issues. It provides context for accurate reporting and details of where to get more information.

Other topics in the series are:

  1. How can I tell how effective a charity is?
  2. Why do charities have paid staff?
  3. How much money goes on running costs?
  4. Why do charities fundraise?
  5. Why do charities deliver public services?
  6. Are there too many charities?

Download this fact sheet as a PDF (50KB)


Campaigning is an activity that aims to create change.

It brings energy and passion to public debates and ensures that a wider range of voices are heard – including the voices of the disadvantaged.

One element of some charities’ work is lobbying MPs and Government. This has been a thorny issue.

Since the 19th Century, charities have been engaged in campaigning on a number of issues and these have led to significant improvements through behaviours, changing public attitudes and government policies.

At its heart, the debate is about whether you think charities should only spend money on front line services. Or whether you think they should also be allowed to spend money campaigning for systematic changes that could solve, or at least lessen the problem their frontline services address. The Charity Commission makes a number of distinctions in relation to this: Campaigning – often to increase awareness or change behaviour – is a ‘legitimate and valuable activity for charities to undertake.’

Political activity – engaging with government and parliament – can only be done in the context of supporting the delivery of a charity’s charitable purposes. Unlike other forms of campaigning, it must not be the continuing and sole activity of the charity. Party political activity – it is against charity law to engage in party political campaigning and charities are not permitted to support a particular candidate or back a political party.

Useful press contacts

National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO)

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  • Telephone 020 7520 2413
  • Out of hours 07714 243 942
  • @NCVO

Charity Finance Group

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  • Telephone 020 7871 5477
  • Out of hours 07889 129 971
  • @CFGtweets

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