Campaigns and organisations
Campaigns and organisations

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Campaigns and organisations

2 Activity and questions

Listen to the following audio clip between Terry O'Sullivan, Senior Lecturer in Management at the Open University Business School, and Chris Stalker, Head of Campaigning Effectiveness at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

This audio clip is followed by a series of questions. It is suggested that you listen to the audio before attempting the questions.

Click to listen to the audio clip. (13 minutes)

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Transcript: Campaigning

Terry
What are the success factors that contribute to effective campaigning?
Chris
In terms of success factors, of a good campaign as it develops and as it's being planned. I think, there are a number of important principles. You know, the first being absolutely clear about what you're trying to achieve. And building in an evaluation process even right at the beginning and testing the extent to which those objectives that have been identified have been achieved. Other principles, I think, if I could just pick out two more that I think are really important. Transcript of B625 Podcast 1: Campaigning in a Fundraising Context. Firstly, ensuring that you have a -– that an organisation has a very clear route to change. Very clearly identified process within which they want to try to influence decision makers. You know, a well-developed understanding of what will influence targets, whether they're political targets or whether they're target audiences, target publics. And the second and final principle, I think, is and this is quite challenging, I think, for many organisations but having the confidence to sometimes decrease the resources that you apply to a campaign. It doesn't necessarily have to be running at a full capacity all the time. Good campaigns, in my experience, anyway have natural peaks and troughs of activity.
Terry
What kind of tensions, if any, do you see between fundraising and other kinds of campaigning work?
Chris
At the outset, it is probably worth saying that in many charities, small charities particularly, these, sometimes, are indistinguishable disciplines and that often, it's the same individual working on fundraising, policy, research, campaigning, parliamentary and press. However, for large organisations, medium and large-sized charities and non-governmental organisations, my experience is that there is a fair degree of tension, because I do think that they are two fundamentally different disciplines with very different objectives. Some of the methodologies and some of the approaches might be similar in terms of identifying clarity of objectives and target audiences and I think, increasingly, I hope a discipline, certainly we're trying to instil within campaigners that, I think fundraisers have had, for a long time, which is assessing the return on investment of resources. Now that return may be different, it's not a fiscal return in campaigning terms, but it might be a policy change or degree of policy change. And I think there are some, therefore – using that as an example – some similarities, between fundraising and campaigning. And there may be some convergence as well, at a kind of low common denominator level, I think, about organisational positioning and brand, which is helpful in both terms, both income generating terms, but also in political positioning for campaigning terms. However, in my experience, and I'll give you an example, one of the tensions that manifests itself is the use and mobilisation of supporters and donors in that, my experience is, from a campaigning perspective, that fundraisers are quite naturally and understandably nervous about a campaigning ask, ‘write to your MP about this particular issue’, if that through testing that, that particular campaign action may suppress income from those same supporters. Of course, it is important to say that without fundraising, campaigners couldn't do the work that they do as well, I think.
Terry
Have you got any examples of how organisations can manage tensions like that successfully?
Chris
I think, it's only through successful negotiation internally and you know, there are some examples of where those sorts of tensions have been managed through organisational development and even restructuring so that there is one, you know, command and control over those different disciplines. I think, the ways that organisations have reconciled those tensions have been largely around brand and positioning. So, the example, I suppose, that is quite well-known would be the Full Stop, NSPCCs Full Stop campaign, which was primarily around generating income, getting new supporters into the organisation, who would then be mobilised subsequently to take action to try and protect children against cruelty.
Terry
How can smaller charities and voluntary organisations punch above their weight in getting noticed and creating impact?
Chris
My experience is that large does not necessarily equate to impact; just because an organisation has greater resources doesn't necessarily mean that they're going to use them in the most effective way. It may well be that because the organisation is smaller, their resources are finite and they have to think and they do think more carefully about the way in which they deploy their resources. And those principles that we've talked about earlier, about being clear about what you want to achieve, identifying very clearly who the decision makers are, building coherent strategies to try and influence those decision makers, and also having the flexibility and agility of a small organisation, means that they have much more impact.
Terry
I'm particularly interested in ways in which charities and other voluntary organisations can use collaboration to make more impact. Have you got any examples of that working in practice?
Chris
Working in collaboration, which manifests itself in a number of different ways (strategic alliances, campaign coalitions, even loose networks) is really interesting and a very important trend, I think. In that, increasingly, organisations, I think, have realised that to maximize their resources, maximize their potential for impact, they're not necessarily going to do that in isolation and they need to work with partner organisations as part of wider civil society in order to influence change effectively. And you only have to look at a number of quite diverse issues to see that almost all of those issues, stop climate chaos, Jubilee debt coalition, land mines coalition that campaigned together, many different issues now have coalitions at their heart in terms of the way that the sectors working together. I think that's a really interesting trend. It presents different challenges. I mean, in some respects, you'd think on the face of it, that's a very positive thing. But hidden within that, can come some quite significant transaction costs. And by that, I mean the negotiations the different organisations then have to have between themselves in order to agree any particular agreed policy position, for example. The other thing I'll just add as well to campaign coalitions alliances and networks is some of the most effective coalitions and alliances have been cross-sectoral. And by that, I mean, they're not just within the charity and NGO sector. They can also bring in other sectors. Faith organisations, trade unions, being two examples.
Terry
What would you say are the secrets of using the media effectively?
Chris
I'm not sure that there are any particular secrets! Most media strategies have two elements to them and it's important for an organisation and the campaign's managers to think about two elements. Firstly, is the proactive and by that, that is the way in which an organisation, perhaps working with partners, places media stories at particular times to try and influence opinion formers and decision makers. So that could be through the launch of a report or it could through a particular event or seminar or it could be through, even a stunt in campaigning terms. And that's the proactive side, which is much easier, obviously, by definition to manage. What's harder, and I think in any good media strategy that's obviously complementary to other strategies, it's also important to protect and preserve some capacity for the reactive. And obviously, this is a particular trend in recent years because the 24-hour news coverage and if also in terms of media, when we also look at new technology and the rise of internet and blogs as well, which is reactive. You know, you're approached by either a journalist or a correspondent to make a particular comment about a particular story that may or may not be relevant to the campaign. And given the rise of 24-hour news coverage, that can be quite a drain on an organisation's resources, particularly, if it was a small organisation. And the challenge, I think, sometimes is to be confident enough to say, ‘No, we're not going to comment on that’, and focus on delivering an effective campaign strategy.
Terry
Are there ways in which organisations can prepare themselves to respond better to those sorts of approaches?
Chris
Through a good campaign planning process. It is really important, I think, to identify the scope of the campaign. I would always suggest to organisations and to press officers, in this case, that they talk to colleagues and thought about what were the objectives of the campaign. Because it's very easy to be sidetracked into a particular discussion and debate that a journalist may want to have.
Terry
How can organisations evaluate the effectiveness of their campaigning?
Chris
What’s really important is to put evaluation at the beginning of a campaign. Too often, we're approached by organisations and say, ‘Can you help us evaluate this campaign?’ We go in, look at their campaign plans and of course, they haven't set very clear aims and objectives at the beginning, so it's really difficult, if not impossible sometimes to evaluate that.
Terry
You've mentioned the importance of having clear objectives for a successful campaign. Can you give us an example of how to articulate an objective really well?
Chris
There's been a lot of thought, I think, put into this. And the tried and trusted method, traditionally, has been trying to phrase objectives as being SMART which, though I've seen different definitions, but I take to mean specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timetabled. I think the -- some of the more recent thinking though is that that can be a little bit inhibiting for organisations and there isn't that much evidence, in fact, of good smart campaign objectives being written. What I think is perhaps more useful increasingly is that we try and communicate, perhaps, measurable is useful and achievable, particularly useful, so those two aspects of those five may be more useful.
Terry
Where do you see the future in campaigning, particularly in reaching new groups of supporters and donors?
Chris
Campaigning is at a very interesting place, historically, I think. Most organisations established their campaigning functions, particularly the medium and large organisations, relatively recently. Campaigning’s a new discipline. Oxfam for example, in 1986, established its campaigning unit. So it's only the last 20 years or so that campaigning as an organised voluntary and community sector discipline has started to become established, and started to think about where it's going. So, campaigning is at a very interesting time. I think there are a number of different trends that are quite useful and interesting for the sector to think about and take on. One of which is the role of new media and new technology.
Terry
Do you think those sorts of technologies have a better chance of mobilising new groups of supporters? I'm thinking of, particularly, of younger supporters who then might become lifelong supporters of a particular organisation or charity.
Chris
I suppose my concern would be about that, in my experience, would be that organisations have as one of their objectives, engagement of young people, which I think is a thing organisations need to think about: the resources that that might need and might involve to do that in a sustained way. I think it's one thing, perhaps, seeking their fiscal support over time, recruiting, retainment, for that. I think it's another thing to mobilise them in relation to campaigning support.
Terry
You've mentioned what you see as the trends in the United Kingdom context, I'm wondering if you've got any thoughts about how that might play out in a European or more international environment?
Chris
One of the most interesting things about the way in which international global Civil society is mobilising is you increasingly detect that it’s happening at a regional level. So, there are a number of different regional institutional policy making bodies. Obviously, the EU, the African Union or even within Africa, the Sadac, the Southern Africa Development Committee, in Southeast Asia, ASEAN. And I think there's a number of different legitimate international instrumental bodies that are coming together to make regional policy, and as a response to that, what you do see and we see this quite a lot in NCVO’s international work, is a range of international Civil Society organisations responding and cooperating across borders. So as, policy making has gone increasingly regional so Civil Society has responded in a way that I think means that they're much more interested in engaging across border, bi-laterally, across different states, and trying to influence policy making process at a regional level.
Terry
Thank you very much indeed, Chris Stalker.
Chris
Thank you.

ENDS

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Question 1

What are the success factors mentioned by Chris Stalker as characteristic of effective campaigns?

Discussion

The first is being absolutely clear about what you are trying to achieve, and building in an evaluation process from the outset so that you can monitor how successful you have been in achieving your objectives. The second is that the organisation has a very clear route to achieving change – in other words, they have a clear idea of whom they have to influence and how. And the final principle is to manage the resources devoted to a campaign carefully. It does not have to run at full capacity all the time – but react to opportunity and feedback.

Question 2

How does the Midchester Junior and Infants PTA campaign measure up against these success factors?

Discussion

Not very well overall. At first glance it appears that there is clarity about the objectives of the campaign – to get traffic calming measures put in place around the school in order to make the local roads safer for school children. But as we find out more about the campaign a number of ambiguities emerge. For example, how would the campaigners know they had been successful? Deciding on measures of success at the outset, against which to evaluate the campaign, would have forced them to be more specific about their objectives and more focused in their planning. It also appears that there is no shared idea about how the campaign will work – who is being targeted and how. And there seems to be no sense in which anyone is making decisions about resources to devote to the work. The campaign is flagging as a result.

Question 3

What measures of success might be appropriate for a campaign like this?

Discussion

There is quite a choice – and your answer to this question will depend on your interpretation of the scenario. But relevant measures might include quantifying the campaign's outputs as well as trying to look at its outcomes. Outputs are the things that the campaign produces in the course of achieving its ultimate aims (outcomes). Examples would be the amount and kind of media coverage, the number of local politicians whose support has been enlisted, or the number of signatures on a petition. Outcomes are the intended impacts of the campaign – such as, in this case, ‘a safer environment for our children’ or ‘zero traffic accidents in the environment of the school’. Outputs tend to be easier to measure than outcomes, and can give an indication of how successful the campaign is as it unfolds. Outcomes tend only to be something you can measure in the long term, and while they can help you decide whether a campaign has been successful, they can only do so after the event.

Question 4

What tensions between fundraising and campaigning does Chris Stalker identify in the interview?

Discussion

He points out that in many organisations, especially smaller ones, they have a lot in common and may be carried out by the same person. Both campaigners and fundraisers are looking for a ‘return’, whether it be a targeted change or a targeted income. So both have an interest in efficient use of resources, and the promotion of the organisation's brand. However, fundraising and campaigning tend to have different objectives and can therefore find themselves in competition – or even at odds with each other. The perceived danger is that of overloading supporters to the detriment of the organisation's income.

Question 5

What kind of tensions are there in the case study between the need to campaign and the need to raise income?

Discussion

Both activities require the scarce resources of time and energy, which are in limited supply to any organisation, but especially to those in the voluntary and community sector. This seems to be the case in the case study, where the excitement and interest of a new project with a clear end in sight (fundraising for the minibus) may divert the attention and energy of people who might have been active in campaigning for road safety measures (less clear end in sight, and losing its momentum as a project). The answer here for Neelam may be to stand back and think hard about the resources, and potential choices, available. Perhaps assigning clear responsibilities to different groups may be the way forward. Another potential tension stems from the possibility that audiences (like local residents) who would be potential sources of fundraising income may be alienated by the effects of campaigning. However, if the PTA demonstrates the advantages of traffic calming measures to the area as a whole, local residents are likely to become advocates of the proposed changes.

Question 6

How does Chris Stalker suggest that organisations can handle tensions between fundraising and campaigning?

Discussion

He mentions three routes. The first is internal negotiation – the different people in an organisation getting together and establishing a mutually agreed way of working. The second is restructuring – a management intervention to exert more effective control and co-ordination of the various activities of an organisation. This might be more appropriate in a large organisation, for example. The third way Chris mentions is to concentrate on what fundraising and campaigning have in common – the way they both emphasise the brand or image of an organisation. The two functions may thus find mutual benefits which motivate them in working together more effectively.

The example he uses is the NSPCC's Full Stop campaign – further details can be found at:

www.nspcc.org.uk/ WhatWeDo/ MediaCentre/ OurCampaigns/ Ourcampaigns_wda36383.html [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , accessed 16 May 2008.

Question 7

Finally, what advice would you give Neelam as to how to manage this situation?

Discussion

There are a variety of valid answers here. Management is never a cut and dried situation, and this scenario has a lot of loose ends. But, as we discussed in the previous question, Neelam needs to think carefully about the PTA's priorities and the time, energy and resources available to it. She could certainly benefit from the principles of campaigning outlined in the interview by Chris Stalker, which were as follows:

  • Decide carefully what you want to achieve.

  • Build in evaluation from the start.

  • Have a clear route to change (an identified process within which you want to influence decision makers – whether they are politicians or members of the public).

  • Be willing to run the campaign at different levels of intensity through its duration, depending on the circumstances at the time.

And she could also benefit from the advice he gives about reconciling the potentially competing demands of fundraising and campaigning (a combination of activities which is necessary to most voluntary and community organisations):

  • Respect the fact that they are different disciplines with different objectives.

  • Keep in mind the idea of a ‘return on investment’.

  • Be careful not to ask too much of any one group of supporters or donors.

  • Resolve conflict by internal negotiation, and be prepared to restructure if necessary.

  • Find common ground in the organisation's brand and positioning in order to co-ordinate activities in the most mutually supportive fashion.

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