A code of lobbying practice for charities

Charities are united by a vision of a better society. Often, their experience of working with people on the ground gives them a unique insight into how public policy shapes our society.

Chloe Stables: 'Those who work to high standards do not want their reputations endangered by those who do not.'
Chloe Stables: 'Those who work to high standards do not want their reputations endangered by those who do not.'

They are experts on their issues, and it is no surprise that many charities wish to influence and shape public policy in order to help the causes and people they exist to serve.

Charities are big employers of public affairs specialists. Many are influential with politicians and civil servants, who appreciate the expertise they bring. They push for policies they believe will be best for the causes they represent, just as lobbyists in any sector would.

Charities are not generally seen as part of the lobbying problem, but those who work to high standards do not want their reputations endangered by those who do not. The public places a high level of trust in us and it's vital this continues. We must operate to high standards of transparency and accountability, and must be seen and believed to be doing so.

No one wants to be smothered by that most feared of fabrics, the red tape, but an effective regulatory system that is trusted to secure high standards would be of great help to ethical lobbyists in all sectors.

Proper regulation would mean a universal, independent register, covering in-house as well as consultant lobbyists, linked to a clear code of conduct.

Sadly, that is not what the Government has given us. Instead we have a system that will cover only a tiny proportion of lobbyists. This leaves the rest of us open to accusations we are operating outside regulation.

Given this disappointing approach, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations will now establish its own code of good practice for charities that lobby. This will focus on some of the practical elements of the standards we think charities should uphold.

This isn't parallel regulation. But we want to provide a clear standard that charities can promote their adhesion to in order to make clear the high ethical standards by which they work. We'll be consulting our members and will aim to complete the code later this year.

Chloe Stables is parliamentary and media manager at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

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