As another year draws to a close, we can reflect on what a strange beast UK politics has been over the past twelve months. On the one hand, we’ve had the likes of the Partygate scandal, the rise and subsequent removal of Suella Braverman, a change in Scottish leadership, a huge number of protests, and enough gaffs to fill an episode of You’ve Been Framed.
But in some ways, it feels as if we’ve been running on the spot. There was no guarantee of both major English parties having the same leadership as it did a year ago. After Liz Truss, it seemed nothing was set in stone. Similarly, somehow we’re still watching the PM pushing for the Rwanda deportation plan after so many months of pushback and objections, and there’s still been no announcement of a general election. The cost-of-living crisis is far from over, and for many people the politics of the past year has simply been a lot of focus on the wrong issues – it’s no surprise that 63% of the public feel that the country is headed in the wrong direction. Everything has changed, but nothing has changed much.
Still, we are ever the optimists at nfpResearch, and we’re always on the lookout for lessons to share from our research and the ever-unfolding dramatics of the UK’s corridors of power. Here we’re sharing our main takeaways from the past year of watching the relationship between charity and politics – we hope you enjoy.
Charities can and should be political entities
We’ve always been in favour of charities having a seat at the table when it comes to politics. This year has made this message all the more apparent. The Conservative Party Conference earlier in the year was a hotbed of comments made against the voices of charities, deeming the sector too politically charged. But in our opinion, and the public’s, this is a vital aspect of the sector’s mission. Two thirds of the public (65%) agree that campaigning is an important role of charities, and more than half want charities to directly lobby MPs.
Getting stuck into politics has been a winning formula for certain charities. We’ve seen environmental charities rally off the back of protests and demonstrations all through the year, stepping into the space made for them by direct action groups. And they’re not the only charities who have recognised that the public are keen on activism: we’re now a year on from Age UK’s success in helping to secure the triple lock for pensions. Their involvement saw them mobilise a huge number of supporters, bolstering their brand as a strong advocate for older Brits and showing the nation the impact a strong campaign can have.
How we campaign matters a lot
We love to see charities make their voices heard, but it’s important that the messaging you choose is well strategized. For instance, we’ve spoken this year about the need to strike a balance between explaining the entirety of your mission, and expressing yourself in simple terms that make your cause more easily understood. Reaching a point where you aren’t overwhelming the listener with information, nor appearing too vague about your goals is sometimes a difficult balance to strike, but well worth the consideration. Charities can also boost the perceived impact of the sector by reminding younger generations of Gift Aid, a now largely misunderstood scheme that could help supporters feel that their money is going further.
When it comes to campaigning, language choice matters deeply. Only 2% of MPs we surveyed have told us that ‘poverty or inequality’ was a top issue. The cost-of-living crisis, however, was recognised as an urgent issue by 70%. These issues are largely one and the same – but one sounds shorter-term and more easily combatted through policy. Reaching MPs requires that you meet them on their terms a lot of the time, and using their preferred language is a large part of this.
Tried and tested campaign tactics
This year, some charities have managed to show us that there are campaign tactics that just don’t go out of style. Our collaboration with Cats Protection earlier in the year gave us some insight into their core tenets for advocacy, which have allowed them to be massively successful in their efforts. Advice like using data to back their storytelling, directing their supporters to join in through the correct channels, and working to ensure photo-ops and meeting with MPs make a splash were hugely insightful.
Of course, all of this is improved by well-researched strategy. Knowing how and when MPs prefer to hear from your organisation is a must to ensure you’re reaching them effectively, and we’re fast approaching a period where a lot can be achieved in this sphere. Just as we saw earlier in the year during the handover of the SNP to its new leadership, charities can make the most of periods of change to influence pledges and meet with candidates before the dust settles.
As we approach the next general election, we’d love to hear from you about your goals and strategies to make yourself heard in the corridors of power. Email us at insight@nfpResearch or download a briefing pack below for more info about our research.