The 2010 general election was a "watershed" for the third sector because of the unprecedentedly high political profile it achieved, according to a new report by the Third Sector Research Centre.
Opportunity and Influence: the third sector and the 2010 general election, published yesterday, says the sector was "implicitly at the heart of all party agendas", although the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats viewed it differently.
Labour talked about partnership, campaigning and service delivery, while the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats both emphasised localism.
Researchers Jane Parry, Pete Alcock and Jeremy Kendall found it was difficult for individual charities to secure media coverage during the election campaign unless they commented on stories that were on the agenda, such as the big society.
"The 2010 election provided a unique opportunity for the third sector to shape debate about future policy within a contested political climate," said Alcock, the director of the centre.
"The sector responded proactively to this challenge and organisations may now be well placed to influence the big society agenda."
The research is based on analysis of documents, including press coverage, manifestos and speeches, and on interviews with 15 people from 13 organisations.