10 tips for campaigning ahead of the 2015 election


Speaking at the 2013 NCVO Evolve conference last night, Sir Stuart Etherington laid great emphasis on the need for the voluntary sector to speak up and speak out. But how do organisations on a shoestring budget get their voices heard?

At the annual event for the voluntary sector, Isabelle de Grave and Sophie Brinsford crowd-sourced some top tips from a wealth of experts and compiled 10 tips to getting a campaign going ahead of the 2015 Election.
1. Get thinking now. 
There’s a sweet spot for influencing the parties’ policies in the run-up to the election, and it lies somewhere between now and a year ahead of the poll date.
2. Engage key politicians.
Political parties are already gearing up for the election. Jon Cruddas, David Laws and Oliver Letwin are the leads from each party for the election plans.The Number 10 Policy Unit is being re-engineered to be more political, watch out for the appointment of a new Head of Policy that will be key to the Tory operation.
3. Create a pledge card and get politicians on board early on.
Speaking at the NCVO Election 2015 campaigning workshop, Fiona Weir, CE of Gingerbread explained the impact of the pledge card – signed by 13 top cabinet ministers – in boosting the agenda of their successful ‘Lets lose the labels campaign’ for single parents. Gingerbread engaged David Cameron early on, inviting him to thier AGM where he made a series of statements on ‘ending the war against lone parents’, from which his signature on the Gingerbread pledge card followed.
4. Fit your policy asks with target electorates.
Consider how your policy asks will sit with the key sections of the electorate that the main parties are pitching to. Groups such as the ‘strivers’ or the ‘squeezed middle’.
5. Keep an eye out for ways into policy ideas generation.
All three parties will also be looking to sources outside the party for ideas generation, so keep an eye on groups such as the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), which will feed into Labour’s policy review, for example.
6. Have a clearly focused aim and a handful of specific asks.
NCVO’s top ten campaigns have a common thread running through them. They are very clear in what they are asking of government. For example, Age UK’s Just Equal Treatment campaign challenged the law in order to enable older people to retire when they are ready, rather than being forced to at 65. In October 2011 The Employement Equality (Repeal of Retirement Age Provisions) came into place.
7. Campaign in a consortium, but put the work in, don’t just let it ride.
Jenny North, Director of Policy and Strategy from Impetus Trust recommended that campaigners join consortia but advised that to achieve success organisations must put the work in. Consortia are a popular way for like-minded organisations to collaborate and speak with one strong voice policymakers. Smart negotiations and joint purchasing agreements can cut costs and help build a strong campaign.  
8. Don’t be afraid to ask for pro bono support - Make a video.
On a shoestring budget, Gingerbread won digital campaign of the year for the ‘Lets lose the labels’ video. After a persistent effort, and constant requests for pro bono support, Gingerbread made contact with a partner at an ad agency. The video was made and had 3,000 hits in the first week.
9. Tweet, trend... change
A common theme of many successful campaigns is their engagement with social media. The No Going Home campaign, which sought to prevent the proposal of limiting housing benefit for young people reached its peak when it saw over 2,000 people use the #nogoinghome hashtag and 18,000 people viewed posts about the campaign on facebook. Make your mantra, tweet, trend... change.
10. Be newsworthy
Fiona Weir of Gingerbread also explained that campaigners must be savvy in order to get the attention of mainstream media. A campaign’s demands must reflect real needs and demands and also consider that those demands need to make it into the media to be heard. Focus your campaign around a theme that newspapers will grab.