Sector organisations have welcomed the Government's announcement of a £750,000 fund to support innovative campaigning.
The fund will reward projects that give a voice to marginalised groups or have innovative approaches (Third Sector Online, 8 April). It will be divided between up to 30 projects over the next two years.
A spokesman for the Office of the Third Sector said it was a response to the 2007 third sector review's commitment to supporting campaigning.
Ian Leggett, director of People & Planet, called the fund a "really good investment in impact and effectiveness". But he warned the Government not to focus exclusively on innovative techniques. "To reach groups that have given up on the system, you need old-fashioned face-to-face contact on the ground," he said.
Belinda Calaguas, policy and campaigns director at ActionAid, also endorsed the fund and rebutted criticism of charities' increasing involvement in campaigning from Jill Kirby, director of think tank the Centre for Policy Studies. Kirby told Radio 4's Today programme last week: "People want to know what charities can do that government can't - and that is to help people on the ground, not be in Parliament becoming lobby groups."
Calaguas said: "That's like saying fire brigades should stick to fighting fires and not do fire prevention work."
The fund was welcomed by the NCVO and Jenny Willott, the Liberal Democrat charities spokeswoman, who also defended charities' right to engage in political lobbying. "It is fundamental to a vibrant democratic society that organisations can speak up for its more vulnerable members and push for political change," she said.
Shadow charities minister Nick Hurd said campaigning was a valid activity for charities and confirmed that the Conservatives had no plans to tighten the rules. "But this looks like another token gesture that does not address the real priorities of the sector," he added.