At Work: Fundraising - Funding story - Campaigning

Radhika Holmstrom

The biggest barrier to campaigning is lack of money, but funding isn't as restricted as many charities think.

Campaigning is hard to fund, and it is constrained by government regulations. However, those restrictions aren't as crushing as funding bodies and applicants assume.

"Few bodies are prepared to fund explicit campaigning and advocacy organisations," says Claire McMaster, chief executive of the Sheila McKechnie Foundation.

"Others have said: 'We're interested in what you do, but our trustees would feel uneasy about funding your campaigning and advocacy work.'"

Her views are backed up by a survey produced by nfpSynergy for the foundation and for People and Planet earlier this year, in which half the charity respondents said that the biggest barrier to campaigning was that they didn't have the money for it.

In the same survey, however, respondents' comments included "I think charities have more freedom to campaign than they often recognise" and "trustees are particularly wary of being 'political' and often misinterpret this as preventing them from campaigning".

The reality is that it is possible to ask for funds, and possible to give them. The Charity Commission guidelines permit pretty much everything except explicit support for political parties, points out Joe Saxton of nfpSynergy. "However, it's easy to read the guidance and see how people can be put off, especially if they're from a small organisation that could be castigated for doing a disproportionate amount of political work," he adds.

Saxton stresses that campaigning can achieve more for funding than support for projects. "Backing campaigning is a shift from saying 'we must do this' to 'we must make this get done'," he says. "So instead of paying £100,000 for a single project, that money goes to persuade a local authority to fund 10 projects."

By extension, the Jubilee 2000 campaign has freed up the economies of previously debt-ridden nations to fund parts of their own infrastructure that were shored up by aid and development NGOs.

But it's not just about money-saving, McMaster insists. "We've got a long tradition in this country of trying to change the world," she says.

"We've even got a Government that supports the ideas of 'active citizenship'.

That's something that should be recognised."

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