The election year began with Oliver Letwin, the architect of the Conservative manifesto, setting off alarm bells by saying he regretted the fact that "so much of the effort of some parties in the voluntary sector is devoted to campaigning". Letwin, now a Cabinet Office minister, said he treasured charities' ability to "change things and solve problems".
Although the Tories' big society idea raised the profile of the voluntary sector, few charity campaigns stole the headlines during the pre-election period. Third Sector columnist Brian Lamb suggested too many organisations were nervous about falling foul of the Charity Commission's guidance on political campaigning.
Several prominent voluntary sector campaigners joined Letwin in the House of Commons. They included Kate Green, formerly chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group and now Labour MP for Stretford and Urmston, and Stella Creasy, formerly head of public affairs and campaigns at the Scout Association, who became Labour MP for Walthamstow.
Beatbullying created perhaps the most talked about online campaign of the year with The Big March on 15 November. Avatars of more than three-quarters of a million supporters marched across more than 60 websites, including Google and YouTube, before handing in a petition asking government calling to protect young victims of bullying and abuse.
The year ended with community sector umbrella bodies, including Navca and Urban Forum, announcing a campaign to lobby local councils against persuading MPs to water down provisions in the Localism Bill for devolving power to community groups. The campaign was set up in response to fears that some councils might ignore provisions in the bill requiring them to hand more power to local voluntary organisations.
The NSPCC received some mysterious festive cheer by generating £100,000 from a Facebook campaign – despite not being responsible for the campaign, or knowing who was. The campaign, which asked people to adopt cartoon profiles on the social networking site, also caused the number of NSPCC supporters on Facebook to double by December.