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May 2014
Karen Barker, Andrea de Ruiter, Tim Harrison

Nine campaign tactics for charities to consider before
a General Election

Nine Things For Charities to Consider Before a General Election

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Contents

Section I: Executive Summary
Section II: Three easy wins for charities campaigning at the national level
1. Start talking to candidates early (like, yesterday)
2. MPs will only support campaigns that are credible
3. Be memorable
Section III: You may be thinking global, but MPs think local: Three ways to give
your campaign a local connection
4. Invite all candidates to local events or meetings
5. Make briefings relevant to constituency
6. Email and postcard campaigns from constituents can be effective if
done the right way
Section IV: Three things to watch out for
7. Dont overload or overcomplicate
8. Avoid being partisan
9. Lastly, remember: MPs are people too!
Section V: Summary and conclusions

Nine Things For Charities to Consider Before a General Election

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Section I Executive Summary
We have combed through the comments we received from MPs in this years
Charity Parliamentary Monitor to get a sense of what campaigning tactics used by
charities are the most effective. From this data, we have compiled nine things for
charities to consider in their campaigns in the run-up to a General Election:
1. Talk to MPs early and often in the run-up to a General Election. If you
wait until after the manifestos have been written, your chances of
influencing policy are greatly diminished.
2. MPs will only support credible campaigns. You demonstrate your
credibility through the quality of your evidence, showing you have the
correct expertise to speak on a particular issue, and co-ordinating your
message with other organisations in your sector.
3. Make sure your campaigns are innovative and/or garner a great deal
of media attention as these are more likely to get support.
4. Invite all candidates to events or meetings your charity runs in their
constituency.
5. Make briefings you give to MPs relevant to their constituency. This
could be done by using local case studies, or including information
about services your organisation provides in their constituency.
6. If you ask your supporters to email or write a postcard to their MP,
encourage the writer to personalise the message. The more
investment and connection a constituent displays in the campaign, the
more likely it is to grab an MPs attention.
7. Avoid overly long or complicated briefings.
8. Avoid showing (or appearing to show) partisan bias.
9. Avoid failing to respond to feedback or concern from the MPs you
reach out to.


Nine Things For Charities to Consider Before a General Election

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Section II Three easy wins for
charities campaigning at the
national level

In this section, we explore three key ingredients to effectively engage MPs with a
national campaign.

1. Start talking to policy makers early (like, yesterday)
If your charity is not already talking to policy makers about their policy priorities
for the 2015 General Election, it should be. Work on the party manifestos is
already well underway, and will be ratified at the autumnal party conferences this
year. Feedback from MPs across all three main parties have made it very clear
the most effective time to lobby for future national policy is during the manifesto
drafting process. One Conservative MP summarised that charities should contact
[MPs] long before the general election as lobbying should have been done a
long time before the GE at the policy formation stage. A Liberal Democrat MP
agreed that lobbying should be directed at those drafting manifestos as most
other campaigning is simply too late.

Another Conservative MP commented that manifesto commitments have the
best chance of action post-election. A Labour MP put it even more bluntly: If
its not in the manifesto[,] parties can ignore it. The window for influencing
manifesto policies is closing quickly, so the time to reach out is now.

2. MPs will only support campaigns that are credible
The credibility of a campaign can be broken down in two main ways: how
credible is the charity (or ideally charities) presenting the campaign and how
credible is the evidence they are using to support the campaign?

The quality of your campaign and evidence is a top concern for MPs, with 20% of
our total sample of MPs citing it as an effective campaigning tactic.

You must have both solid and compelling evidence to support your campaign.
Depending on the campaign, this could include case studies to give a human face
to a campaign and/or robust statistics. One Conservative MP said statistics back
up campaign messages while a Labour MP said their use presents a context in
which to frame the campaign.

Another important factor in giving a campaign context involves demonstrating
clearly that you have the expertise required to be speaking on a particular issue.
This may involve demonstrating that the campaign grew out of your current work
Nine Things For Charities to Consider Before a General Election

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with beneficiaries or research you undertook as part of your core mission. One
Conservative MP explained the best way for charities to display authenticity was
to do the job well, and not just campaign as well as demonstrate that their
organisation lives by the values they preach. Another Conservative MP also
highlighted the importance of showing your campaign connects to your charitys
expertise: Stick with the purpose for which it [your charity] was established. In
other words, for a campaign to have the most resonance with MPs, it must be
clear to them how it connects to, and strengthens, your core mission. Your
credibility with MPs is also clearly tied to demonstrating you are effective at
meeting your core mission, beyond campaigning.

An easy way to boost the credibility of a campaign (especially for smaller or
lesser known charities) may be to partner with other charities in your sector. One
Labour MP said charities should: co-ordinate with other charities on one
message as fragmentation weak[ens] message. The more charities you can
rally to your cause, the more credibility your campaign will have in the eyes of
MPs.

Lastly, to be effective a campaign needs to make clear why you are targeting
MPs. This links closely with the need to have specific asks in a campaign, which
we will return to in section IV.

3. Be memorable
MPs are constantly inundated with information and campaigns, so anything you
can do to make your campaign memorable will make it more likely to succeed.
This could be done several ways: through innovative campaigning, and/or
campaigning that reaches a wide audience. One Labour MP suggested that
imaginative campaigning is effective because it grabs attention.

MPs across all three major parties stressed that getting coverage in local or
national media could go a long way to garnering attention. Use of media, both
through news coverage and paid advertising was cited by 13% of MPs as an
effective tactic. This tactic was more popular with Labour MPs, with 18%
advocating media use and was additionally mentioned by several Liberal
Democrats.

One Conservative MP explained big media support was important as MPs are
so over bombarded with charity campaigns and surveys that they take more
notice of mainstream media coverage. As with any supporter, an MP is probably
more likely to remember a campaign if they see it multiple times, so media
coverage and advertising could be important supplements to more direct
campaigning. For smaller charities that lack the resources or profile for a national
campaign, getting local media coverage of your campaign can still help you get
the attention of MPs especially in the run-up to an election, when they will be
monitoring local news closely.
Nine Things For Charities to Consider Before a General Election

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Conclusion
The three key things to remember with a national campaign are:
1. Talk to MPs early and often in the run-up to a general election.
Realistically manifestos will be influenced by your work in parliament over
the last four years, but now is the time to hammer this home. If you wait
until after the manifestos have been written, your chances of influencing
policy are greatly diminished.
2. MPs will only support credible campaigns. You demonstrate your
credibility through the quality of your evidence, demonstrating you have
the correct expertise to speak on a particular issue, and co-ordinating
your message with other organisations in your sector.
3. Innovative campaigns and/or ones which garner a great deal of media
attention are more likely to get support.


Nine Things For Charities to Consider Before a General Election

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Section III You might be
acting global, but MPs think
local

The top choice tactic across all MPs was to ground issues in MPs and candidates
constituencies, with 30% of the total sample mentioning this tactic.

What does this mean, exactly, and how can your charity do this? In this section,
we consider three simple ways to ensure your charity has the local connection
which will make MPs and candidates take note.

4. Invite all candidates to local events or meetings
An easy way to raise your profile with current and future MPs is to invite all
candidates to events in their constituency. This could be anything from inviting
them to visit a project or centre your charity runs in their constituency, or an
annual event you run in their local area. The key to securing candidates
attendance is communicating effectively that this event will be an opportunity for
them to meet constituents. Its important for you to remember, and convey, that
your charity is in contact with a large number of candidates constituents in the
form of your staff, supporters and beneficiaries. Inviting candidates to events is
therefore a win-win. Charities are able to showcase to candidates the great work
they do, and candidates gain an opportunity to meet constituents. Inviting every
candidate is important for several reasons:

Engaging with candidates is vital. As one MP put it: They will be the next
MPs. Candidates may have more time than sitting MPs, and will relish
any opportunity to meet constituents. Other candidates attending an
event may make it more likely an incumbent will make the time to attend,
especially in closely contested constituencies.
As explored in more detail in section IV, MPs dislike charities to appear
partisan. By inviting all candidates, charities can gain valuable face time
with present and potential MPs, without favouring one party over another.

If your charity is thinking of inviting candidates for a site visit or event, it is
important that you ensure this event will be well-attended. This displays both
that your charity is well supported by constituents, and also makes it more likely
MPs will accept invitations in the future. Moreover, knowing how many
constituents will attend, tells MPs exactly what influence their presence could
have. As one Conservative MP commented, Do not hold public meetings unless
they are going to be well attended. Because otherwise candidates will stop
bothering to take an interest.

Nine Things For Charities to Consider Before a General Election

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Events that provide a photo opportunity for candidates will be all the more
enticing to candidates on the campaign trail (or indeed at any time).

5. Make briefings relevant to constituency
There are several key things that MPs want from briefings from your charity.
Many MPs stressed the importance of keeping briefings clear and concise (for
more on what that means see section IV). Secondly, MPs were keen to stress
that briefings that clearly connect the work of your charity with their constituency
are more likely to be well received. One Liberal Democrat MP explained that
charities need to find ways in constituencies to localise what they do as the
national picture can often seem distant but people become more aware if there
is a local angle. One Labour MP suggested including local case studies to
highlight campaigning issues, and to raise the profile of charities in the
community.

Another Labour MP suggested it was helpful for charities to provide specific local
information as MPs like to see and use information, examples and campaigns
that work locally. MPs surgeries can serve as key referral points for local
services, so make sure MPs (and their staff) know about programmes or
resources you offer in their area which may be of use to their constituents. This
gives your charity a vital referral route to potential beneficiaries, while also
reminding MPs of the important work you do.

Lastly, consider asking your supporters to act as ambassadors on behalf of your
charity when approaching an MP or candidate. Do you have supporters, staff or
beneficiaries in an MPs constituency who would be willing to brief their MP on a
specific campaign or even about your charitys local work generally? As one
Liberal Democrat succinctly explained it, the most effective communication
involves getting local members [of your charity] to talk to local candidates as
they have [the] vote.

6. Email and postcard campaigns from constituents can
be effective if done the right way
Email and postcard mailings from constituents can be an effective way to raise
the profile of a particular campaign. Letter, email and/or post card campaigns
were mentioned by MPs from all three political parties as an effective way to
campaign, with 18% of the total sample citing them as an effective tactic. This is
because, as one Labour MP put it, MPs cant ignore [the] postbag. Other MPs
from across all three major parties felt that a mailing campaign mounts
pressure (Conservative), brings attention (Conservative) and is always
noticed (Labour).

However, mailing campaigns were also one of the most often cited tactics to
avoid across all parties. The difference between mailing campaigns that are seen
Nine Things For Charities to Consider Before a General Election

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as effective, and those which are seen as a nuisance, seems to be the level of
engagement required from constituents. The campaigns to avoid were ones
where the mailings were described with adjectives such as viral, template,
mailshots (Conservative), edm (Labour), mass and standardised (Liberal
Democrats). One Liberal Democrat MP explained that mailings that the
constituent had obviously not invested much time in were likely to be ignored: I
have had plenty of Dear [fill in name of MP] emails that go on to say that I am
desperately concerned by... You and your supporters are diminished by that
message of thoughtlessness. It makes it very easy for recipients to be
dismissive. In other words, MPs understandably feel that if your supporters
cannot be bothered to write in the MPs name on an email template, they may
not actually be that invested in the campaign.

The key to an effective mail campaign may rest on focusing on quality, not
quantity. While you obviously want to make the process as simple for your
supporters as possible, try to find ways to encourage supporters to display their
engagement with the campaign. With postcard campaigns, this could be
encouraging supporters to write in their own short message of support, or
explaining why this campaign is important to them. In an email campaign,
explain to your supporters that the more personal a message to an MP is, the
more impact it will have. This could mean simply providing supporters with key
points which they can convey in their own words, rather than providing them
with a template.

Conclusion
MPs and candidates with an eye on an election will be most concerned about
issues that affect their constituents. Showing your campaign both benefits and is
supported by voters in their constituencies is the simplest and best way to grab
an MPs attention and claim their support. It is therefore vital that your campaign
makes a local connection whenever possible. This can take many forms, from
recruiting local ambassadors to brief MPs on your behalf, to using regular events
as an opportunity to engage local candidates and MPs. It is also important to
consider the quality of the engagement with an MP over the quantity. One
constituent taking the time to attend an MPs surgery to explain why your
campaign is important to them and other local people may have far more
resonance with an MP than a dozen template emails.

Three ways to make the local connection are:
4. Invite all candidates to local events or meetings.
5. Make briefings you give to MPs relevant to their constituency. This could
be done by using local case studies, or including information about
services your organisation provides in their constituency.
6. If you ask your supporters to email or write a postcard to their MP,
encourage the writer to personalise the message. The more investment
Nine Things For Charities to Consider Before a General Election

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and connection a constituent displays in the campaign, the more likely it
is to grab an MPs attention.

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Section IV Three things to
watch out for

7. Dont overload or overcomplicate
MPs are very time-poor and have stakeholders constantly competing to barrage
them with information. Therefore, your charity accomplishes nothing by making
briefings and campaigns over-complicated or long. Keep briefings clear and
concise, both in explaining the issue and asking for specific next steps from the
MP. One Conservative MP explained it thus: Lots of information given during
election year. Contact needs to be short and pithy. Other MPs described effective
briefings as a few simple points, short relevant and one message. Many MPs
also highlighted the importance of having a clear ask. Your campaign may be
compelling, but will have limited impact if MPs are unsure of what concrete
actions they can take to support you. As one Labour MP explained, clear actions
points are vital, as No action points harder to implement. Vague discussion [is]
no use. Another Labour MP said that campaigns must be clear about what
[they] hope to achieve as this will feed into programme of next government.
One Liberal Democrat MP highlighted the importance of both brevity and clarity:
What outcome do you want? How many words will you take to say it? Your
charity needs to be crystal clear before you approach MPs about what next steps
you want them to take.

8. Avoid being partisan
Campaigns that could be perceived as partisan were strongly advised against by
Conservative MPs, and were also mentioned by a Liberal Democrat. Interestingly,
this was not mentioned by any Labour MPs, which may mean this is more of a
concern for members of sitting governments than those in opposition. Amongst
Conservatives, partisan arguments or campaigns came out as one of the top
tactics to avoid with various MPs advising charities to not be political as it puts
people off or not be obviously politically biased as it causes a great deal of
resentment. A Liberal Democrat MP was also concerned that engaging in party
politics damages their [charitys] independence. These concerns may be yet
another reason for charities to ground campaigns in constituencies. By making it
clear that a campaign has grown from supporters concerns, not a partisan
agenda, charities can demonstrate their local connection to MPs without
damaging their independence. These concerns also highlight again the
importance of inviting all candidates in a local election to charity events or site
visits, as this is a simple way to demonstrate your cause is party-neutral.


Nine Things For Charities to Consider Before a General Election

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9. Lastly, remember: MPs are people too!
An important thing to remember in any interactions with MPs is that in many
ways, they are like any other potential supporter. If they are going to lend
support to your charity or campaign, they need to know you are credible, reliable
and cost-effective. If a media story affects wider public perceptions of your
charity or charities in general, MPs will also likely be aware of it. One example of
this is illustrated by a Conservative MPs concern that charities need to be
accountable: People generally appreciate charities aims, but many worry that
their money will be wasted on CEO salaries and bonuses. Charities need to be as
honest and accountable as they can to attract money.

Like supporters more generally, MPs were keen for charities to demonstrate they
were spending their money wisely. It is vital that charities understand that many
MPs perceive campaigning techniques that they feel are ineffective to also be a
waste of money, which further alienates them from the cause.

Some MPs were also keen to highlight the importance of matching the message
to the correct audience. As one Liberal Democrat MP explained it: MPs (and
candidates) are not all clones or drones, nor do they all have the same values.
They ARE all good at spotting dross, and, swamped by stuff, will weed ruthlessly
if material fails to engage. Show some sensitivity in your communications.
Another Conservative MP echoed the sentiment: Dont waste my time or their
money if I have no obvious interest/constituency issue. As with any supporter, it
is important for your charity to listen and respond to the feedback you receive
from MPs you engage with. This may sometimes mean recognising when an MP
is unlikely to ever support your campaign or cause, in order to focus your limited
resources where they will have the most impact.

Conclusion
Three simple things to avoid are:
7. Overly long or complicated briefings.
8. Showing (or appearing to show) partisan bias.
9. Failing to respond to feedback or concern from the MPs you reach out to.
Nine Things For Charities to Consider Before a General Election

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Section V Final thoughts

What do MPs think the ideal campaign would look like?
From feedback from MPs, it is possible to imagine what their ideal campaign
looks like: a coalition of cost-effective, non-partisan charities asking MPs
to implement a particular policy that isnt going to cost anything, but
will benefit their constituents. If your charity currently has a campaign idea
that fits this profile, congratulations! More likely, your campaign will have some of
these characteristics, but not all. It is important to keep this ideal in mind, in
order to stress the aspects of your campaign MPs are likely to find the most
compelling to overcome the aspects they may find more worrying (in the current
climate, this may often be the cost of new policy interventions!).

Remember these tips beyond the General Election
While this report has been tailored for charities considering their campaigning
strategy before the 2015 General Election, these tips are good to keep in mind
when engaging MPs at any point in the parliamentary cycle. Clear, concise,
credible briefings to MPs are good practice at any time, as is an emphasis on the
local connection of your work. Concerns raised by MPs about partisanship and
lack of transparency by charities will also endure past the election. All of our tips
are based on feedback from MPs across the three main parties, so no matter who
finds themselves in power after 2015, our advice should stand your campaigns in
good stead.

Focus on the local
The importance of stressing the local connection may not seem possible to some
charities, as tailoring the approach to every MP is obviously more time- and
resource-consuming. However, as we have attempted to highlight throughout this
report, there are low-cost ways to display your local connection. Inviting MPs and
candidates to events your charity would be doing anyway in their constituency is
probably the easiest and simplest way to do so. Charities should also not be
afraid to utilise the passion and first-hand experience of their volunteers and
beneficiaries as advocates on behalf of your campaign.

We feel all nine tips are important to keep in mind, but if you were to take away
only one point to remember from this report, it is the one summarised by a
Labour MP, echoing the sentiments of dozens of other MPs in the run-up to a
general election: All politics is local.





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About nfpSynergy
nfpSynergy is a research consultancy that aims to provide the ideas, the insights
and the information to help non-profits thrive.

We have over a decade of experience working exclusively with charities, helping
them develop evidence-based strategies and get the best for their beneficiaries. The
organisations we work with represent all sizes and areas of work and include one in
three of the top 100 fundraising charities in the UK.

We run cost effective, syndicated tracking surveys of stakeholder attitudes towards
charities and non-profit organisations. The audiences we reach include the general
public, young people, journalists, politicians and health professionals. We also work
with charities on bespoke projects, providing quantitative, qualitative and desk
research services.

In addition, we work to benefit the wider sector by creating and distributing regular
free reports, presentations and research on the issues that charities face.

Our size and our story: nfpSynergy was created in 2002 as a division of the
Future Foundation. Two years later, the founder Joe Saxton led a management buy-
out. We now have an annual turnover of 1.4 million and 18 staff members,
including a variable number of interns. We also own our own premises in
Spitalfields.

Tracking research: We run tracking surveys that monitor the attitudes and
opinions of key stakeholder groups relating to the not-for-profit sector. The research
is carried out on behalf of a syndicate of participating charities who share costs and
data. The aim of our tracking studies is to provide lower cost, more frequent and
more detailed research than any organisation could achieve by acting on its own.
Our monitors include:

Charity Awareness Monitor (CAM) the general public
Journalists Attitudes and Awareness Monitor (JAAM) journalists
Charity Parliamentary Monitor (CPM) MPs and Lords
Youth Engagement Monitor (YEM) young people
Brand Attributes (BA) brand awareness among the general public

In addition, we have developed syndicated tracking studies on local authorities,
politicians in the devolved bodies, the general public in the Republic of Ireland and
regional audiences across England.

Qualitative research and consultancy: Each year we deliver around 30 projects
for non-profit clients. We carry out focus groups, conduct face-to-face and
telephone depth interviews, run workshops and perform small and large scale desk
research projects. Our clients include charities, housing associations and public
bodies who use our research to inform their strategies and planning.





Our consultancy work and projects cover a vast range. For example, we have
recently worked with The Scout Association to develop a new membership strategy
with current and former members, parents and Scout leaders. We have worked with
Macmillan Cancer Support on a number of projects enhancing their service provision
and delivery using qualitative research. Last year, we completed a piece of work for
Scope, evaluating their vital Face 2 Face befriending service for parents of disabled
children.

Some of our clients include:








Social investment: Our social investment programme runs as a thread through
every aspect of our business. At its core is the range of free research reports and
briefings we produce each year to benefit non-profit organisations, which can be
downloaded from our website. We use evidence from our research to campaign on
behalf of charities on key issues, such as reducing the costs charged by mobile
phone companies for charitable donations by SMS. We also support small non-
profits by providing free places at our seminars, giving talks to groups all over the
UK and through pro bono research assistance. In addition, we support
CharityComms (the sector body for communications) by providing them with free
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Topics on which we have produced free reports include:
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help seeking behaviour
Branding
Fundraising
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How charities use the internet
and new technology
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By producing free reports, editorials and presentations we help small charities (with
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