Charities should both improve and better measure the effect of their campaigning work in order to defend themselves from the new lobbying act and charity campaigning detractors, a new paper from the think tank NPC urges.
Closing In On Change, published today, says that charity campaigns currently achieve less than they could and too few charities actually measure the impact of their campaigns, which means they cannot tell which methods of campaigning should be preferred and which should be put aside.
Improved impact measurement would also allow charities to better defend themselves in the face of opposition, NPC argues.
NPC's paper comes as charities prepare to have their campaigning activity come under substantial public and regulatory scrutiny, with the lobbying act's first regulated period starting on 19 September.
Yesterday, Brooks Newmark, the Minister for Civil Society, told a conference in London that charities should stay out of politics and "stick to their knitting". He has since issued a statement saying that he accepts charities' campaigning role and clarifying that he was referring to party politics – as is stipulated by charity law.
The NPC paper outlines a four-pillar approach to campaign impact measurement and includes simple tips on identifying the goal of a campaign, working out what data will be measured and how it will be collected and evaluating a campaign's success.
In addition, NPC has published a guide, Campaigning for Social Change: the Role of Trustees, to help trustees understand the legal framework around campaigning.
It says that trustees' responsibilities fall into three main categories – linking campaigning to the charity's objects, managing risks and ensuring effectiveness – and includes a checklist for making sure trustees have complied with the three duties.
Cecilie Hestbæk, the researcher at NPC who wrote both reports, said: "The debate around charity campaigning is in an almighty mess. Hostile MPs and pressure groups line up to attack charities on one side, while some major voices in the sector have ducked the challenge completely.
"None of this helps to answer a crucial question: 'does charity campaigning actually work?' Charities won’t be able to answer this without deciding on a goal for their work and evaluating their progress towards it. It’s tough work, but it’s worth it."