Blindness charity calls on supporters to lobby

ANNIE KELLY

Action for Blind People is to launch a supporter campaigning group in an effort to widen its reach and raise its profile on a national level.

This is the first time that the charity has approached donors to become active supporters and lobby local politicians on its behalf. The People in Action campaigning group, which will be launched in December, will ask its members to write to local MPs, send emails, co-ordinate petitions and attend events.

"We're not a membership organisation, so this is a good way to get our work recognised in different communities,

said Hannah Saul, parliamentary and campaigns officer at Action for Blind People. "We're trying to get Government to take notice of what we're saying and will use local support to move this forward."

The charity is recruiting members through a door-to-door donations drive.

An extra question on a standard donations appeal form will ask people if they would like to campaign on the charity's behalf in their local community.

So far 20 per cent of supporters who donated to the charity have agreed to become campaigners.

"We're really pleased with the response so far,

said Saul. "It's a good indication that people will be willing not only to lend their support but get active and become involved with the changes we're trying to make."

The charity launched a parliamentary and campaigning department last August, which is preparing for the launch of the group.

At present the charity has not formalised how the group will be structured, although there are plans for a dedicated web site that will provide information and contact details for campaigners around the country.

"We don't know the extent to which we'll ask people to get involved,

said Saul. "The next step is to confirm support and then start to move towards the launch at the end of the year."

The move reflects the recent growth of the charity. In March, Action for Blind People revealed that it had more than trebled its individual donations over the past two years from £2.3 million to £7.3 million.

It attributed the upswing to a decision in March 2000 to invest £4 million in attracting new donors, which resulted in 300,000 first-time givers.

"As we expand we're coming up against more and more issues that would be better solved on a national level,

said Saul. "A big part of our remit now is to extend our influence, and campaigners can do this incredibly effectively, and we're going to encourage them to be very vocal about our work."

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