It would be easy to think that the ‘Fundraising Preference Service’ (FPS) isn’t something to worry about as a campaigner – not least when the Government is including anti-advocacy clause in its grant agreements.
But while the focus of the FPS is about regulating fundraising communications, I think it’d be short sighted for campaigners in charities to assume that it won’t affect them as well.
If you’ve not been following in details how the FPS came about, you’ll be aware that last summer there was a number of stories about fundraising practices. As a result Sir Stuart Etherington from NCVO was asked by the government to review the current self-regulation arrangements. One of his recommendations was the Fundraising Preference Service with the idea it being;
“a list of people, and their contact details, who do not wish to be contacted with fundraising communications. Charities can access the list to cross check their own databases against prior to fundraising campaigns. And where members of the public continue to receive fundraising communications despite registering, the Fundraising Preference Service offers a basis for changing the relationship”
Now the creation of a FPS hasn’t been without its critics (see here and here), and until it exists it hard to quantify what impact it will end up having. But it’s happening and a working group formed by NCVO has been created to look at its implementation.
So it’s helpful for campaigners to be thinking about the implications for their communicating with supporters. Here are 3 questions to be asking;
1. Will those who’ve signed up appreciate the different types of charity communications? The FPS proposes a reset button which would mean those who sign up wouldn’t be able to get any more fundraising communications (see Joe Saxton on the challenges of getting the data to work here). But will those who’ve signed up appreciate the difference between a direct mail asking them to donate to a email to sign a petition. While we might appreciate the difference will many see signing up to the FPS as putting an end to all communications from charities?
Joe Jenkins argues here if we are to have an FPS that is workable it should focus on communications that primary or sole focus are on soliciting financial support so newsletters, campaign asks, etc wouldn’t be affected – good news for campaigners but something that needs to be made clear in the development of the guidance – but my hunch is that the FPS it will lead to charities being more cautious about all mailings that go to supporters (perhaps a good thing). If was being very cynical, I’d suggestion that the existence of the FPS would make it easier in the future to extend the guidance to include all charity communications.
2. What about integrated campaign/fundraising asks? Many campaigners have worked hard with fundraising colleagues to develop integrated campaigns which combine ask people to take campaign actions and donate (see some great examples here). If we take the principle that Joe Jenkins has made about the FPS being focused just on ‘communications that primary or sole focus are on soliciting financial support’ will that means that you can’t include a fundraising PS in a campaigning direct mail, or invite people to donate following an online action they’ve taken? On the other hand as Joe Saxton suggests perhaps it’ll lead to the rise of ‘fugging’ – fundraising under the guide of campaigning.
3. What will be the impact of the new ‘opt in’ legislation? Over the summer, the EU has passed new data protection legislation which will will mean personal data must be ‘freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous’. That won’t just affect fundraising but all charity communications, and while it’s a separate process to the FPS what this will mean for recruiting new campaigners isn’t yet clear. NCVO have a group looking at it and it’s another process to follow.
The work to shape the FPS is underway guided by a group convened by NCVO. As yet I’ve not seen any detailed proposals of what it’ll include, but I’m sure those involved will want to get input from a range of organisations.
So my recommendation. Don’t assume this is someone else’s problem. Start talking to your fundraising colleagues to understand how they’re engaged in the process and ensure that the FPS is shaped in a way that doesn’t inadvertently reduce your ability to communicate with your supporters.
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Been challenging myself to ask more questions. Here are a few I think I should be asking more often.
1 – What does ‘success’ look like? A fundamental question to ask regularly. The answer should have both a specific and detailed response, as well as a reflection on what you want your campaign to achieve in the long term.
2 – What has the real influence here? Who can deliver the change we want? Its easy to focus on campaigning towards a target we feel comfortable with, or we’ve approached before. A through power analysis should be central to any campaigning we do, and from that an informed strategy. I’ve always thought that the right target is whomever can wake up tomorrow and deliver your campaign ask.
3 – What do you really need from us? A question any organisations with resources should ask to those within its movement, campaigns often succeed because of the variety of voices working on a issue. Sometimes that’s in formal coalitions, where resources are distributed in formal ways, but even in more informal coalitions, ensuring that others partners in your movement have what they need is essential. The answer isn’t always money, sometimes its political insight, sometimes its practical resources or access to technology.
4 – Do we really need to campaign here? This might sound like a counter intuitive question, but launching a campaign should be a tactic if other more ‘insider’ approaches aren’t going to work, rather than an initial response. Why? Campaigning comes at a cost, it’s resource intensive, and often the success we’re looking for can be delivered by a well placed ‘insider’ interventions.
5 – What would we do with twice the resource? All campaigns operate in a resource scarce environment, where their are trade offs to be made, asking this question is a great way of checking that you’re allocating the resources that you do have the most efficient and effective way. If you’d do more on one thing that you’re already doing, then perhaps you should look to redistribute the resources you already have.
6 – What are we learning? What would you do differently next time? Finding time to evaluate in the midst of a campaign isn’t always easy, but by asking what you’d do differently helps to ensure future campaigns win. Planning times for quick evaluation should be at the heart of any campaign.
What questions would you add?
I’m often asked for suggestions of books campaigners should read. I could list hundreds, but here are 6 that I’ve found particularly useful in the last year. I’d love your suggestions and additions.
1 – The Power of Habit – you might be groaning under the weight of books available from authors like Malcolm Gladwell or Nate Silver. I’ve read far too many of them, but I found Charles Duhigg book is one of the most helpful. His book is full of insight about what makes us change our actions, and has a fantastic chapter on why Rosa Parks was successful and how movements start because of the social habits of friendship and grow because of the habits of a community. It’s also helpful if you’re trying to keep a new years resolution!
2 – Victory Lab – I’ve written before about why I think all campaigners should keep a close eye on what’s happening in the US to learn about approaches. Sasha Issenberg book is the best look at the data-drive approach that has been adopted across US politics. It’s a brilliant look at how the Obama campaigns and others have adopted microtargetting, testing and audience insight. Campaigners in the UK have much to learn on this and this book is a great introduction.
3 – A View from the Foothills – Campaigning is political, and its vital that every campaigner has a good idea of how politics work. To be honest, I’m sometimes time surprised about the level of political literacy that exists amongst some campaigners. if we want to win campaigns we need to know how the institutions we’re targeting operate. Chris Mullin’s diaries of his time as a MP and junior minister are one of the best reads out there, but you wouldn’t go wrong reading Alistair Campbell’s diaries either.
4 – Made to Stick – looking for ideas about how your communications can get traction, what the top brands do to ensure that you remember their adverts, then you need to read Chip and Dan Heath’s book. Its a practical, full of great illustrations and the principles will stick with you as you design your next campaign messaging.
5 – The World Is Not Ours to Save – this is a personal choice that I’ve found really helpful over the last year. Although its primarily written for faith-based activists, the premise of the book, that as activists and campaigners we need to recognise our limitations, and ensure we build in habits that allow us to rest and be refreshed is one I’ve found really helpful as I’ve been thinking about how I sustain a long-term career in campaigning. If you don’t find Tyler Wigg-Stephens book for you, perhaps try other authors who’ve written about spirituality and activism.
6 – How Organizations Develop Activists – A late entry into my list, but I adore this book. Hanhrie Han has done the legwork to work out why some grassroots groups succeed and others fail. I found myself changing from nodding in agreement to furiously scribbling down insight from Han’s study of two unnamed organisations in the US, for anyone who wants to think about how they can build a flourishing grassroots network . A good summary of why it works (or doesn’t) here and this by Jim Coe is a fantastic summary.
John Stewart spoke at the latest CASS Business School Charity Talk event. In a talk entitled ‘Campaigning with Effectiveness and Flair‘.
John is Chief Exec of HACAN, the largest voluntary organisation dedicated to those campaigning on behalf of those affected by aircraft flight paths, and chair of Airport Watch, a broader coalition of organisations campaigning against the issue of airport expansion.
In his talk he unpacked some of the reasons why the campaign was so successful at dominating the discussions and debates around the building of a 3rd runway. I’ve written before about the Heathrow campaign and some of the reasons I think were elements of its success but Stewart provided a first hand account from the inside. The KnowHow NonProfit website, which is linked to CASS Business School, has some excellent resources from the evening (which also includes Brian Lamb’s presentation which I’ll blog about later in the week).
Stewart drew out three main lessons from the campaign and argued that these were also based on things that they’d learnt from previous defeats that HACAN had experienced over Terminals 4 and 5. A good reminder to always learn from campaigns that don’t succeed!
Bring together the widest possible coalition
In previous campaigns, HACAN had drawn together a small number of residents groups and local authorities around Heathrow but the 3rd runway campaign managed to build a much bigger coalition not just of the usual suspects but a much bigger range of organisations, such an environmental groups, direct action groups alongside MPs, local authorities and residents groups.
Stewart said that this strengthened the campaign enormously, but also introduced new issues (climate change wasn’t a central part of the previous campaigns which had focused more on quality of life issues). Stewart shared the tactics that the coalition had used to keep together what must have been a disparate group of people, including regular face-to-face meetings, which meant that people got to know each other on a personal basis.
You have to admire the campaign for managing to bring together local Conservative councillors to direct action activists from Plane Stupid, but Stewart argued that united around a common aim to stop a 3rd runway was the strength of the coalition. The range of tactics meaning that it made it much difficult for authorities to know how to respond because their tactics couldn’t simply be put into a box or be predicted.
Don’t dodge the economic arguments
The campaign realised from its previous defeats that it had to engage with the central issue and argument that the government was using to justify building the runway, that the UK economy needed it. In previous campaigns, Stewart implied they’d focus on quality of life arguments that although important to those involved in the campaign didn’t resonate with decision makers who could suggest that these were the arguments of NIMBYs.
Stewart shared how they commissioned independent research on the economic argument, which was undertaken by an independent and respected consultancy firm which the EU also used, so it couldn’t be immediately dismissed by government as a being written by a pro-environment consultant. The campaign found that this report was vital in helping to counter the central arguments of the government, and convincing the opposition parties to get involved . A good lesson to remember the importance of independent research in supporting your campaign asks.
Engage in pro-active campaigning
Early on the campaign realised its tactics couldn’t simply be limited to working through the official structures that the process would provide, like official enquiries which was its previous approach. Stewart argued that if these processes were effective at changing things they’d soon change the structures, perhaps a slightly cynical approach but the argument that they don’t favour community campaigns who have little of experience of making quasi-legal arguments is a good one.
Instead the campaign focused their campaigning on what communities are good at doing, talking to each other, and mobilising around more traditional tactics like marches and rallies. This was successfully combined with more traditional lobbying using a cross-party group of MPs, and excellent cheap media activities, like flash-mobs at the opening of terminal 5.
At the end of the presentation, Stewart spoke about how the campaign had worked with direct action groups. He argued that they’d been good for the campaign, and an important part of the campaign mix. While the campaign didn’t want everyone taking direct action, they helped to prevent the campaign from easily being boxed by the government. Listening to Stewart talk about the role of groups like Plane Stupid in the campaign, its clear they have a central role, and its fascinating to see how these groups co-existed and even shared platforms with those with much more conservative approaches to policy change.
Campaigners often have press officers and media teams to deal with enquiries from journalists, but that shouldn’t be used as an excuse for not learning more about what a journalist is looking for, or what might make a good story.
This top tips paper from nfp Synergy which is full of quotes from its Charity Media Monitor is full of useful advise which has come directly from journalists from the major newspapers and broadcasters.
10 top tips for charities from journalists
Tip 1: Case studies, case studies, case studies
Tip 2: Don’t just target the newsdesk – dig deeper
Tip 3: ‘No comment’ doesn’t mean ‘no story’
Tip 4: Be available, prepared and professional
Tip 5: Think globally, act locally – use local media
Tip 6: Build relationships – meet people face to face
Tip 7: Think carefully about your subject lines
Tip 8: Email your press releases – but phone with your exclusives
Tip 9: Know your targeted media inside out
Tip 10: Find out the other side of the story: media training and more
To get more like this, I’d recommend you sign up for their free monthly e-newsletter which is often full of useful information and tips.
Duncan Green has just posted insights from a recent research project that the Oxfam GB has run into ‘influencing the influentials’. I’d highly recommend reading it – http://www.oxfamblogs.org/fp2p/?p=186
Without the actual report we don’t get the detail it provides, but a few lists that might sheed some light on a couple of points that Green makes;
Print is much more effective than broadcast – Its useful to look at lists like the annual Guardian Media 100 to get a sense of the influence of different paper, I’d suggest its possible to take the position the respective editor get as a reasonable proxy for the importance and influence of the papers as much as them as individuals.
So from the 2008 list, Paul Dacre at Daily Mail is at 3, then a long gap to Rebekka Wade at the Sun at 30. The rest of the papers are then grouped together in positions 37 through to 48 in the following order Telegraph, Guardian, FT, Times, Daily Mirror and Independent. The editors of the Sunday Times (44) and Mail on Sunday (78) are the only Sunday papers that make it in.
the ‘commentariat’ is becoming ever more important as the interface between politicians and public opinion – Its harder to find a list of top columnists, but the Total Politics list of the Top 100 Political Journalists, not all of them are members of the ‘commentariat’ but a good number are and the list was voted for by MPs is a good place to start. Many columnists are also active authors, appear on TV/Radio, regular bloggers and speakers.
Two columnists made it into the Guardian Media 100, Matthew D’Ancona (also editor of the Spectator at 42) whose column is described as ‘being the most significant of the next 12 months’, and Andrew Rawnsley at the Observer (72) described by a panel member as ‘one of the two people you read on a Sunday if you are in the Government’
Using the Freedom of Information Act, I’ve found out the following about the number of campaign actions that DFID get each year.
Total number of actions and delivery method
Year Postcards E-mails Letters Petition signatures Total
2007 34,215 (38%) 31,514 (35%) 4503 (5%) 19,808 (22%) 90,040
2008 42,796(40%) 41, 683(38%) 4049(4%) 19,612 (18%) 108,140
Breakdown by Topic (2008)
HIV and AIDS 45,583 (42%)
Debt 22,675 (21%)
Trade 20,811 (19%)
Water 8137 (8%)
Health issues (excluding HIV and AIDS). 2962 (3%)
Rainforests 2152 (2%)
Fulfil G8 promises 993 (1%)
Burma 988 (1%)
Various other development issues, where we received less than 750 items 3839 (3% )
Breakdown by Organisation (2008)
Stop AIDS Campaign 33, 229 (31%)
Jubilee Debt Campaign 20,371 (19%)
Trade Justice Movement 13,809 (13%)
Tearfund 12,171 (11%)
Traidcraft 5321 (5%)
World Development Movement (WDM) 5451 (5%)
Oxfam 2,001 (2%)
ActionAid 2138 (2%)
UNICEF 2678 (2%)
MICAH Challenge 1039 (1%)
World Vision 1097 (1%)
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (Burma) 862 (1%)
Various other organisations, where we received less than 750 items 7973 (7%)
Undoubtedly their is some double counting in the lists, but it still makes for interesting reading, and shows the relative mobilising strength of a number of the main campaigning organisations in the UK. Christian Aid are perhaps a surprise exception from the list, but looking at their website they focused almost exclusively on Climate Change in 2008.
It shows the fact that some coalitions are better at getting their members to run their actions. For example the 45,000 actions on HIV and AIDS of which about 25% didn’t come from Stop AIDS coalition, against the 22,000 on debt most of which came from the Jubilee Debt Campaign (although its shows the influence the campaign still has that they can mobilise that many supporters to take action).
Finally it raises the question how much did the different organisations make of the opportunities to use their postcards to influence policy. It’s all very well to have lots of postcards but they don’t do much to influence policy if they just end up in the DFID postroom. Looking at the list, I think Stop AIDS Campaign are one of the best examples of how to use their actions to maximum effect, holding a high-profile hand in the autumn with Ivan Lewis MP to hand over 14,000 actions on patent pools, and running a significant campaign earlier in the year around DFIDs new three year strategy on the issue. Its a good lesson to remember that without an effective strategy to use the actions you’ve generated
I’ve made a number of other requests and I hope to be able to share them with readers of this blog in the coming months, along with further analysis.
Liberty, the civil liberties organisation is 75 this week, set up to champion the rights of ordinary people and hold the powerful to account, it has a long history of doing just that. In recent years, the organisation has never been far away from the headlines, as we’ve seen an erosion of our rights on issues like ID cards and 42 day detention but why has it been such a successful organisation, and what could others learn in order to make it to their 75 birthday?
Ensure you have a media friendly director. In Shami Chakrabarti they have a director who is articulate and a media savvy spokeswomen. Shami isn’t afraid to be explosive in her comments (see recent Question Time response to Geoff Hoon) but also has an ability to explain often complex legal arguments in media friendly terms. The organisation has been ruthless about using her for everything public facing, few would be able to name the number 2 at Liberty but it’s a strategy that works as they’ve created a virtuous circle of being the organisation the media call when they want a comment on anything to do with civil liberties.
Build alliances that work not simply build alliances with those you know. Liberty are prepared to take difficult positions which can lead to criticism from some in politics and the media (for example when David Davis resigned as Shadow Home Secretary, which lead to criticisms from Labour ministers that they we’re to close to the Conservatives). But Liberty appear to ignore this, when others would stand back and instead they build alliances that give them traction on issues, and sometime begin to work with those who have previously criticised them. They’ve learnt not to let previous differences get in the way if it’ll further their aims.
Be strategic in what you do. Liberty is an organisation that employs 23 staff, and must have a smallish budget for its work (I couldn’t find the exact figures on the website), so it can’t follow every debate it’d like to be involved in, instead it has chosen a few to focus its capacity and money on, and has had a big impact on the policy debates surrounding those issues.
This report, on a World Development Movement letter to Ed Miliband on the building of coal fired power stations in the Observer caught my eye today. Open letters to minister have long been a standard campaigning tactic, but few make it into the papers.
So what have WDM done right?
1 – Given it a go – I’ve been involved in the writing of a number of open letters and I don’t think I’ve ever considered seeing if it had news currency. Credit to WDM, they wrote a letter which had a strong critique of the government and got a good article in the paper which has increased the visibility of their letter, and one hopes its impact.
2 – Got lucky – it was a slow news day this week , so papers were looking to fill column inches, and Sunday papers approach stories differently than the weekly papers.
3 – Made it different – Signatories from 40 countries is impressive (anyone who has tried to coordinate this type of letter knows its not as easy as it might sound), and adds a new angle to the story that the developing world is calling on the UK to clean up its act.
4 – Built a relationship – I don’t know, but I imagine that WDM have built a relationship with Juliette Jowit, making her more likely to report on the letter.
5 – Chosen an hot topic – Climate change is a top news issues, government bashing is in, which makes this letter stand out from some of the more staid open letters NGOs write.