01 Jun Now is a good time to get online and campaign!
This post originally appeared in the June edition of BVSC’s Update magazine, and can be read online on the BVSC Update website here.
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, re-frame 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 counseling 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 online 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.
Plus, 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 we’ve just launched our new training Kickstart Your Online Campaign, a four-week online training course full of practical insights and advice to help you learn the best ways to campaign online, and ultimately launch your online campaign. Whether you work for a large organisation, or you’re just one person with a passion, everyone can campaign online, and the guidance we’ll be sharing in this training will take you step by step from idea to action. You can find more information about Kickstart Your Online Campaign here.
I look forward to seeing a lot of fantastic campaigning 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 😊!
Third Sector (31st August 2016) Founding mothers: Eglantyne Jebb (1876-1928) and Dorothy Buxton (1881-1963)
Kate Adams, for War Child UK, published in The Guardian (24th July 2015) Our charity’s gaming-style video helps show conflict through a child’s eye
Austin Clark, Charity Digital News (14th May 2016) Contactless donation terminals will help hungry schoolchildren
NSPCC (16th March 2017) Childline launches new app
Lloyds (October 2016) UK Business Digital Index
Eduserv and Charity Comms (March 2014) Delivering Digital Transformation
Thames Valley Police (16th November 2015) Tea and Consent
The Salvation Army International (6th March 2015) South African Salvation Army Advertising Campaign Becomes Worldwide Phenomenon
Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (16th March 2017) One Day at GOSH
Sheila McKechnie Foundation (December 2016) SMK Annual Campaigners Survey
Vicky Browning, for Acevo, published in The Guardian (24th April 2017) Charities must campaign in this election – society needs bold reform