The 2015 General Election will be a key opportunity for charities to further their aims and objectives and gain more supporters. However, new research released by Claremont shows that many organisations have yet to start planning for the election. With less than 18 months to go until the election on 7th May 2015, the research found that almost half of charity senior managers, trustees and communications staff (48%) believe the General Election will be important for charities from a campaigns perspective, but only 14% think that their organisation is well progressed in the planning for the election. And yet, with the impact of the Lobbying Bill looking likely to be reduced for charities, the candidates mainly in place and manifestos starting to be written, charities need to act now. A fuller guide for charities preparing for the general election is below, developed following a presentation to the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO), but here’s five top tips on what charities should do now:
1) Decide if you need to campaign – and the objective
Just because there’s a general election, it doesn’t mean your charity has to campaign! It won’t be for every organisation and many will look to form coalitions to campaign together – many of the most important campaigns in the 2010 election (End Fuel Poverty, Every Disabled Child Matters, etc) were delivered by charity coalitions. If you decide an election campaign is for your organisation, be clear on what you want to get out of it. For instance, is there a policy objective, an awareness raising aspect or is it to try and change the law?
2) Get the message right
Keep it simple. While all campaigns need to be rooted in evidence and informed policy, politicians will engage best with easy to understand – locally relevant – campaign messages.
3) Develop your communications grid
While Parliament won’t be disolved until the 30th March 2015, campaigners should develop a full communications grid for week-by-week (growing to day-by-day) activity. Cover your own peaks of activity and when the wider news agenda will peak around your issues.
4) Start to get on an election footing
Is your chief exec prepared to give up their Sunday to do BBC Breakfast the next day? Do you have supporters or spokespeople ready to take on every media request? Start planning holidays and rotas around your election campaign to make sure your charity can take on every opportunity.
5) Prepare your social media strategy
Additional research from Claremont has shown that the three main parties (Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats) have seen an overall increase of 126% in social media engagement since the 2010 General Election. On Twitter alone, the number of followers of the three parties has increased six times since 2010, while the number of users of Twitter in the UK has increased just four times. In 2015 social media, and real life stories, will play a huge role in the election campaign. Think about how you can inspire your supporters and staff to join the social media campaign – and what training they may need. From staff social media coaching, to campaign bootcamps for volunteers, empower your networks to get better campaign results.
For more ideas and examples of campaigns from 2010, watch the slideshare below: