Good and bad news on charity advocacy and campaigning

The government’s Cabinet Office has come up with a replacement to the ‘anti-advocacy’ clause for grant agreements which was proposed earlier this year.

These standards will be adopted by all departments to make sure that taxpayers’ money, awarded through government grants, is properly agreed and spent.

Official news release.

NCVO’s response leads with “charities have welcomed substantial changes to the government’s planned anti-lobbying clause”

The new grant standards unveiled today take a substantially more sophisticated approach than the original clause, and explicitly safeguard the important role of charities and others in presenting evidence to government and parliamentarians.

However, sector bodies NAVCA and Directory of Social Change said there was more to be done to make the new rules workable – more at Civil Society News, or see NAVCA news item. Plus NAVCA’s chief exec has an article for The Guardian ‘The battle to protect charity lobbying must continue‘.

A further piece from NCVO’s Stuart Etherington is titled ‘A resolution to the anti-lobbying clause‘. A couple of extracts:

Perhaps of most interest to the voluntary sector will be standard six. This requires robust grant agreements which include terms of eligible expenditure. This replaces the anti-lobbying clause which was announced in February and subsequently ‘paused’ in April in response to concerns about its impact expressed by NCVO and others.

….

Ministers and officials deserve credit for transforming what was initially a very poorly thought out notion into something that has the potential to be a positive tool for quality grant-making.

Further coverage by The Guardian and Civil Society News.

VoluntaryNews last piece on this matter was ‘Government moves on anti-advocacy clause, grant scrutiny‘ back in May, when a pause was announced on the clause.

Catching a serious ‘campaign chill’

Meanwhile, the Sheila McKechnie Foundation has published research showing that hostile media coverage and government pressure are directly affecting the ability of charities to campaign on important issues. Its first annual survey of 100 charity professionals indicates that 90% feel that campaigning by the voluntary sector is under threat.

The top five reasons were:

  • Negative media coverage of the work of the VCSE sector (65%)
  • Conditions of funding discouraging campaigning (63%)
  • Senior managers and trustees being more cautious about campaigning (53%)
  • Guidance from the Charity Commission of England and Wales (52%)
  • Campaigning has become seen as too risky or something that VCSE organisations should not be involved in. (52%)

Download the press release (2 page, Word format) or set of slides on the survey results (11 page pdf, 459KB ), via SMK news page.