More than a third of charity boards 'more cautious about campaigning'

An online survey of 100 charity professionals by the Sheila McKechnie Foundation finds that 31 feel their boards have become more wary of campaigning in the past three years

Campaigning: chilling effect?
Campaigning: chilling effect?

More than a third of charity boards have become more cautious about campaigning over the past three years, new research indicates.

An online survey of 100 charity professionals carried out over the summer by the Sheila McKechnie Foundation asked participants to say how the environment for campaigning had affected their organisations over the past three years, from a list of suggested answers.

Thirty-five respondents said it had made their boards more cautious about campaigning, and 31 said it had made their senior management teams more cautious about the activity.

Respondents could choose more than one response.

Thirty-six respondents said the environment around campaigning had made it harder to get funding for their campaigns, the most popular answer, and 21 said they had reduced the amount of campaigning that they did.

But 11 said it had resulted in their organisations carrying out more campaigning.

In response to a question on whether they thought there were threats to the legitimacy of campaigning, 91 said yes.

Asked to select from a list of answers what they thought were the current threats to the legitimacy of campaigning, almost two-thirds of respondents said negative media coverage of the work of the voluntary sector, the most popular answer.

Sixty-three respondents selected "conditions of funding discouraging campaigning", and 52 said "campaigning has become seen as too risky or something that VCSE organisations should not be involved in".

Almost half said "a negative public view of the VCSE sector" was a threat.

Fifty-two respondents said guidance from the Charity Commission and nine selected guidance from the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.

One respondent said they did not think there were any threats to charity campaigning.

The Sheila McKechnie Foundation said the results showed the voluntary sector was "catching a serious campaign chill".

Sue Tibballs, chief executive of the charity, said: "The moves by some in government and the Charity Commission to contract the space to campaign is wrong-headed.

"Charity leaders need to calmly and confidently challenge this view and champion campaigning both publicly and within their own organisations. Campaigning on behalf of vulnerable and marginal groups and individuals is central to what charities are for."

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