Charities are better at lobbying than major companies, say MPs

Three in four MPs think charities lobby them more effectively than companies, according to new research.

A survey by think tank nfpSynergy asked 159 MPs to rate their responses to the statement "in general, I think that charities are more effective at campaigning amongst MPs than companies".

Seventy-six per cent said they agreed or strongly agreed. Labour and Conservative MPs shared the view evenly, with 76 and 77 per cent saying they agreed, but agreement was highest among Liberal Democrat MPs, at 92 per cent.

The survey also asked MPs to make general comments on lobbying by charities compared with companies.

Several said they liked the media opportunities offered by charities and that charities were better at engaging with MPs' constituents. Some said charities provided better briefings and more personal contact.

One respondent said charities were less aggressive than companies, and another said companies "try to dictate rather than persuade".

Common criticisms of charity lobbying included too much use of early day motions, "old-fashioned" postcard campaigns and a lack of understanding among campaigners of MPs' work.

Commenting on the survey, Steve Shaw, parliamentary campaigner for Unlock Democracy and Friends of the Earth, said MPs respected the ability of charities to mobilise local supporters.

"The supermarket industry has a budget hundreds of times larger than all charities and NGOs put together," he said. "Yet it faces huge battles in Parliament, despite the comparatively tiny resources of those lobbying against it. NGOs are structured in a way that corporations aren't: they're bottom-up organisations, with members who can lobby their MPs, whereas profit-making organisations are top-down. They influence in other ways: an entity as powerful as Tesco talks directly to the minister."

He cited the Warm Homes Act 2000 and the Climate Change Bill as examples of change caused by parliamentary lobbying from charity coalitions. "Charities and NGOs are good at punching above their weight, and MPs acknowledge that," he said.

TOP LOBBYING TIPS

- Highlight your constituency work and local focus

- Develop relationships with key MPs, including face-to-face meetings, regular briefings and follow-ups

- Offer the right information in the right forum - MPs value focused briefings

- Don't bore - MPs dislike generic campaigning and unfocused receptions

- Don't waste resources - avoid mass mailings and receptions that lack specific objectives.

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