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Elections spark interest in the rules around advocacy from charities and from the public and can create unnecessary concern for some charities.

Acting ACNC Commissioner Deborah Jenkins said it is important that charities ​understand they are absolutely free to advocate for or against an issue, for example a change to the law or a policy debate, if it aligns with the charity’s work and furthers its charitable purpose. 

“Put simply, if charities stick to advocating for their purposes and do not endorse a particular political party or candidate, they will be fine,” Ms Jenkins said.

“For example, in the lead up to the last federal election, we received nearly 500 concerns from the public about charities who were perceived to be promoting various political candidates or parties.  

“We spoke with 19 charities to ensure they understood the difference between endorsing a specific candidate or party and advocating in line with their stated mission— their charitable purpose.” 

Ms Jenkins said the ACNC’s regulatory approach always starts with providing a charity with guidance about what the rules are.

“We assume that most charities are trying to do the right thing,” she said.

“In general, we find that charities are grateful for the advice we provide and cooperate to address any concerns that we raise with them. Our response is important to support public trust and confidence in the sector. 

“The number of concerns highlights the level of public interest in what charities do, and a need to be confident that the sector is well-regulated.”

Our guidance on advocacy, and on charities, elections and political advocacy, explain the rules in detail.