Charities: Now is the time to get online and campaign!
A couple of months ago, Acevo launched their new report on charity campaigning ‘Speaking Frankly, Acting Boldly’. It’s a great read, and I recommend looking it up. It talks about the importance of charity campaigning, how it’s part of the sector’s legacy, and that charities “must work together to refocus, reframe and reclaim charity campaigning”. The final section – ‘What next?’ – discusses the role of government, the charity Commission, and civil society. And I want to add something else into the mix, another oft discussed topic nowadays – digital.
Being able to win hearts and minds, raise awareness, change public opinion, and lobby decision makers, is essential to the work that the sector does. From the Suffragettes to No More Page 3, campaigning has changed our world for the better time and time again.
Third Sector recently cited campaigners Eglantyne Jebb and Dorothy Buxton as two of the ‘founding mothers’ of the voluntary sector – in 1919, they established the Save the Children Fund. To raise awareness of the fund, Jebb held a stunt in Trafalgar Square handing out leaflets with images of starving children and the headline ‘Our Blockade has caused this – millions of children are starving to death’. She was arrested and fined, but was so passionate about her cause that she convinced the prosecuting counsel to make a donation!
In more recent times, a number of charities working with children have been using digital to campaign, fundraise, and deliver services. Take, for example War Child’s hard hitting game-style video ‘Duty of Care: Protecting Children in War’, which enables you to see what children in war zones experience on a daily basis. Or, the donation terminals which last year were placed in a number of restaurants in London and Oxford, allowing customers to make a contactless card donation to Mary’s Meals, helping to feed school children in developing countries. Or just two months ago, the launch of Childline’s new app ‘For Me’, which provides young people with access to counselling directly through their smartphone.
In many ways not much has changed, good things have stayed the same – passionate people campaigning to make change and raise awareness of their issue. What has changed is how we can do this. There are more options available to us now, and I think that’s exiting. What would Jebb have done if the internet existed in her time?
Campaigning is the bread and butter of a lot of organisations, but when it comes to making use of digital and campaigning online, in much of the sector knowledge is lagging behind. Almost half (49%) of charities in the UK lack basic digital skills, and 70% of charity staff think their organisation’s reputation will suffer if they don’t embrace digital. Upskilling the sector on digital campaigning could help us all to live in a fairer, safer, happier world. You only need to look at examples of some organisations making fantastic use of online campaigning to see the potential – Thames Valley Police’s highly amusing and effective ‘Tea and Consent’, the Salvation Army South Africa’s controversial response to #TheDress, and Great Ormond Street’s moving ‘One Day at GOSH’ video, to name but a few.
Now is the ideal time to think about online campaigning, because you may have heard, there’s an election on. And of course, there are important things to think about when it comes to campaigning during an election period and ensuring you’re complying with the law, but that doesn’t mean we can’t campaign at all. In fact, a recent survey by Sheila McKechnie Foundation found that 86% of respondents think that over the next year charities should be campaigning more than they currently are, not less.
To go back to ‘Speaking Frankly, Acting Boldly’, writing about the report in the Guardian last month, Acevo CEO Vicky Browning argues that not only can charities campaign during the election, but that they should, saying “The only way that this election is going to return a government that understands the needs and opinions of a diverse range of communities is through hearing the voice of charities”.
With the election coming, and soon a whole crop of freshly elected MPs in place, this might be a great time to try and get your issue on the agenda. And I believe that with the right things in place, anyone with passion and a cause can get a campaign going online. Which is why I’m running a free live online training session on how to plan an online campaign. If you’d like to learn more about online campaigning, join me on Wednesday 21st June at 1pm, when I’ll be sharing everything you need to get started. You can find more information about it at www.fancyguppydigital.com/online-campaigning and I hope to see many organisations and individuals from Birmingham at the session.
I look forward to seeing a lot of fantastic campaigning in our city over the coming weeks and months, in the run up to the election and as we welcome a new government. It’s what we do 😊!
Michaela Hodges is Director of Fancy Guppy, an organisation working with nonprofits to help them make more use of digital in their work – be it campaigning, comms, fundraising, marketing, or events. You can find more information at www.fancyguppydigital.com.