What is advocacy?
Charities are a valuable and trusted voice on issues that affect their communities. Charities can and do speak up in a variety of ways.
Some organisations carry out advocacy as a way of achieving their purposes. Advocacy is a broad term that covers a wide range of different activities.
Examples of advocacy include:
- generating public debate or raising awareness about a specific issue,
- making submissions on a proposed law or policy change,
- lobbying decision makers,
- signing a petition,
- taking part in a protest,
- supporting a political party or candidate(external link).
Recent court decisions
There have been two recent court decisions about advocacy as a charitable purpose. These are:
- a High Court decision about Greenpeace of New Zealand Incorporated(external link); and
- a majority Court of Appeal decision about Family First New Zealand(external link).
Te Rātā Atawhai, the Charities Registration Board, is currently reviewing its approach to assessing advocacy purposes in light of these two court decisions. Once the Board has decided its approach to assessing advocacy purposes, we will update the information on this page. This update will include providing information on how we assess advocacy purposes and further examples of charitable and non-charitable advocacy.
When is advocacy charitable?
Advocacy can be charitable when it is for the public benefit, and supports a charitable purpose. Our courts have made decisions on what this means.
Examples of advocacy that are charitable include:
- speaking up for people who need help accessing services or information,
- encouraging people to vote and participate in elections,
- providing expert and objective information to assist decision makers,
- raising awareness of the environmental impacts of different land or water uses,
- monitoring the actions of decision makers, to ensure they comply with their human rights obligations.
When is advocacy not charitable?
Many not-for-profit organisations have worthy purposes. However, they still might fall outside of what the courts recognise as a charitable purpose.
Examples of advocacy that are not recognised as charitable include:
- supporting a political party or candidate(external link),
- supporting increased funding for for-profit businesses in the hope that they will employ people in poverty,
- carrying out an illegal purpose.
Your organisation may still be able to be registered as a charity, even if some of your advocacy isn’t charitable.
Find more information on when a purpose may be ancillary on our website. Charitable purpose/Take atawhai.(external link)
The Charities Registration Board is an independent three-person body which makes decisions about registering or deregistering charities.
Our courts (the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court) also make decisions about what it means to have a charitable purpose.
If you have any questions about your organisation, please contact us(external link). We are happy to provide you with guidance about your organisation’s purposes and activities.