Charities are watching politics to get ahead of the policy agenda

Date posted: 15/10/2020

Charities have always been among the most sensitive to changing political winds. The policy storm being whipped up by a combination of Brexit, Covid-19 and political polarisation has put the sector on high alert.

Since the launch of PolicyMogul we have heard from many charities, small and large, who are interested in keeping a closer eye on what’s emerging from our fast-moving politics.

What are charities currently thinking about politics?

Recently, NCVO posted an update to its guidance for charities about a no-deal Brexit, citing concerns about the impact on communities, economic policy direction, the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and EU citizens volunteering in the UK.

The latest charity leaders’ survey by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) included concerns about Brexit and government support for the sector. This was before the pandemic, since when charity leaders have indicated their priorities are cash grants, the relaxation of grant conditions and unrestricting all income and funds.

These twin demands for cash support and flexibility chime with the government’s unprecedented levels of economic support and self-described “imaginative” interventions in response to the pandemic. And support is already showing up in policy announcements, with the past month including over £100m of government support for veterans’ charities, the Green Recovery challenge fund, domestic abuse charities and charitable fundraising in general.

The case for charities engaging with politics

What emerges is a radically changed picture for those running charities and not-for-profits, particularly those smaller or regional organisations who have not always been highly engaged with national or devolved administration policymaking.

In previous years, smaller charities might have been forgiven for thinking their ability to influence policy or legislation was limited. But now, as the government has shown an increasing appetite for intervention and consultation, all charities have a mandate to stay plugged-in to the policy arena. Indeed, in many cases it may well turn out that charity leaders have an existential reason for becoming more engaged in the direction of national or devolved policy.

At a time when the government is increasingly the source of income for many parts of the economy, there is a great incentive for the third sector to become more active in demonstrating effective local capabilities. The CAF has recently done a lot of work on place-based giving schemes, with examples of local authorities turning to charity partners for agile and relevant local interventions amid fast-changing rules on the ground caused by Covid-19. 

If you run a regional charity, understanding the latest policy and parliamentary discourse provides an essential foundation for returning and refocusing your support at every level, be it national, regional or local.

Becoming more self-confident in areas such as policy and politics is now essential for those running not-for-profits or indeed, any organisation that is regulated, funded or in receipt of some other form of government support. This may now describe most of the economy. 

Focusing on your core mission and waiting to see the outcome of policy discussions is no longer enough for charities seeking to maximise their potential during these uncertain times. Thankfully the tools now exist to remain plugged-in and make better-informed decisions, without costing much time or money.

If you are responsible for public affairs or policy in a charity, PolicyMogul gives you free access to information and insights that once would have been available only to organisations with deep pockets.

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