Policy, campaigns & research

Eight Steps to Charity Campaigning

At Engage 2023, we heard from the brilliant Enver Solomon, CEO at Refugee Council. Enver shared with us his toolkit for a successful campaign.

Enver Solomon, CEO of Refugee Council, was the opening keynote speaker at this year’s Engage Conference. Enver spoke about the current polarising and divisive environment in which charities are operating. But he also reminded the audience that it’s a time of excitement and opportunity, especially with the coming election of a new government.  

In Enver’s opening keynote, he highlighted 8 key points to successful campaigning and influencing. We’ve summarised his talk below: 

1. Find a method and stick to it.

There are many different approaches to campaigning. For example, outsider or insider approaches, or even strategic litigation. The key is to agree a method and really understand your approach and stick to it. Be consistent, be strategic, build capacity, expertise and knowledge.

2. Campaign not just with your hearts, but with your heads.

Campaigning needs to have heart but also be systematic, thought through, methodical and even ‘scientific’. You need to understand the data and evidence around the issue, adopt a theory of change that sets out what you are seeking to achieve and  evaluate what’s working for you and why, so you can change tactics if needed.

3. Put forward what you’re for, not just what you’reagainst.

Every critique should come with a proposed solution. This should also be carefully considered, thought through, and developed. You need clear asks for what you want decision-makers to do differently, how it will work in practice, and even consider how much it would cost.

4. Influencing is about developing relationships and connections

Even politicians are people! They have interests and lives outside of politics. When developing relationships, try to build rapport and common ground; this will make people more likely to listen to your case even if they have different political views to yours. Build relationships across the political divide, and think about ‘soft power’ too.  

5. No single organisation delivers a policy change or campaign victory

If they claim to, they’re lying! Most successful campaigns are coalitions involving a multiplicity of organisations. Different organisations bring different strengths and can play different roles. If a minister receives one or two letters on an issue, they will probably ignore it. If they receive 50 or 1000, they won’t. 

6. Integrate your approaches

Think about how you can make content or campaign actions work across different audiences. For example, a meeting with your local councillor or MP could yield some local news coverage. Or a testimonial or case study with your beneficiary could be turned into a video for your supporters to generate social media interest.  

7. Don’t just think nationally, think regionally and locally also

The UK is now a different place than it was 20 or even 10 years ago, with established devolved administrations and city regions with mayors that have increasing power and profile. Some campaigns will naturally be more locally based and others more nationally focused, but think about how you can blend the two or play them off of each other. 

8. Campaign with humility

Part of the campaigning passion that drives us forward is our conviction that we’re right and just in our goals. But we aren’t always right about everything! Take time to consider what isn’t working, what needs to change, and could be better. This will ultimately make you more successful.