The Charity Commission has ruled that the Prince’s Trust breached charity law by running a joint fundraising event with a political body. Although the income was shared with the body by the charity’s trading subsidiary and made as a payment rather than a donation, the activity was still judged to be a breach of the law.
The event, a lunch with Baroness Thatcher, was held in October 2007 by a volunteer fundraising group of the Prince’s Trust together with Women2Win, a members association of the Conservative Party.
The Prince’s Trust Trading Limited collected the funds and paid half, as agreed, to Women2Win, and the payment was duly recorded on the Electoral Commission website, although it was incorrectly listed as a ‘donation’.
The Charity Commission opened its investigation into the joint fundraising event last month and has today reported its findings.
The Commission has found that the Prince’s Trust had either indirectly offered an opportunity to a political party to fundraise, or had agreed to a joint fundraising event with a political party.
By deciding to share the funds raised, the political body had received a benefit, and the charity had indirectly supported a political party. The charity’s volunteer fundraising group had therefore not acted in the charity’s best interests in that it had risked the charity’s reputation and independence.
However, as soon as the Charity Commission’s concerns were raised with the Prince’s Trust, Women2Win voluntarily offered and subsequently made a donation to the charity of the same sum, £10,050, which was received by the charity on 13 March 2009.
The Commission’s ./guidance (Speaking Out, Guidance on Campaigning and Political Activity by Charities) states clearly that it is not permissible for a charity to support political parties or figures. This applies equally to a charity’s trading subsidiary.
Andrew Hind, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission, said: “Entering into a joint fundraising venture with a political party will almost certainly result in the charity giving support to that party, which would breach charity law and could damage a charity’s reputation and call into question its independence.
“It is essential for anyone involved in charity fundraising to be aware of this and for charity trustees, who have ultimate responsibility for the affairs of a charity, to be clear about their responsibility to ensure charities do not give support, financial or otherwise, to political parties”.
The Charity Commission has produced an update to its existing ./guidance on this issue, (PDF), published today. The update is intended for political parties themselves and sets out the rules regarding the unacceptability of donations by charities to political parties.
The responsibility to ensure that a charity does not make donations to political parties lies with charity trustees, but adhering to the principles outlined in the ./guidance will reduce the risk for political parties of negative publicity surrounding donations which breach charity law.
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