Charities' political warning

PR chiefs encourage charities to continue political lobbying despite media criticism.

Senior charity PR professionals have urged charities not to be scared off from political campaigning after criticism of The Prince's Trust over a £10,000 'donation' to a Conservative Party group.

Last week charity regulator the Charity Commission ruled The Prince's Trust had risked 'its reputation and independence' by running a joint fundraising event in 2007 with the Women To Win group (prweek.com, 17 April).

The charity was accused of making an illegal donation after proceeds from the event were channelled back to Women To Win, a Conservative Party members association that aims to increase the number of female Tory MPs.

Days earlier, questions had arisen in the media about charities' right to campaign after the Government launched a £750,000 fund to support small charity campaigns. The fund was criticised by right-leaning Centre for Policy Studies think-tank, which argued charities should stick to helping people at ground level.

This week, senior PROs insisted political campaigning was the best way to help their service users.

Mencap's press and PR manager Sam Heath said: 'Influencing government to do the right thing is different from donating to a political party. My advice to charities is do the former, don't do the latter.'

He added: 'We can't provide service delivery and information to every single person with a learning disability in the UK, but the Government can help all of them. The way to get the best for people we serve is to campaign politically.'

The Alzheimer's Society's director of external affairs Andrew Ketteringham said: 'The minister that launched the national dementia strategy last month praised the Alzheimer's Society for raising the profile of the disease. Political campaigning is the way to achieve objectives,' he said.

But Ketteringham warned charities to ensure they were 'party-political neutral', by lobbying all parties equally.

CRUK's director of policy and public affairs Richard Davidson said his charity was careful to run similar programmes at all party conferences and to send out equal invites to events. 'My advice to charities is not to be scared of campaigning,' said Davidson. 'Read the Charity Commission's guidelines.'

For the Charity Commission's up to date guidance, go to charitycommission. gov.uk

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