We reveal the online political campaigning by charities that has most impressed charity sector leaders over the last year
The year 2020 has been a tumultuous time for charities, as they looked to change policy to support communities amid the pandemic. But that has not halted their campaigning.
In June 2021, a raft of charity sector leaders revealed their favourite charity campaigns in a report from international aid network Bond, entitled Campaigning During Coronavirus: lessons from civil society.
Charity chief executives’ group ACEVO, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), Unlock Democracy, Quakers in Britain, and the Sheila McKechnie Foundation were involved in compiling the report, which highlights how charities have excelled at influencing politicians online over the last year.
A key focus of their report is to demonstrate how charities can harness the success of other organisations during the pandemic to ensure the sector continues to make an impact on policy that supports their beneficiaries.
The report also calls for a “reset” in the relationship between charities and politicians to counter possible curbs on campaigning by civil society, such as restrictions on the right to protest laid out in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
Here we detail a few of the online charity campaigns that has impressed sector leaders in 2020.
Lockdown measures amid the pandemic created a ‘perfect storm’ for perpetrators of domestic abuse, according to the charity Women’s Aid, which was looking to gain funding for support services from ministers.
Women’s Aid used its national network of 170 local groups to help present robust research’ online on how perpetrators were taking advantage of lockdown and social distancing to abuse victims.
“This research provided valuable evidence for parliamentarians,” says the report, adding that the campaign “ensured the government could not ignore the issue”.
From @womensaid - A Perfect Storm: The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on domestic abuse survivors & the services supporting them. See https://t.co/WzzMGX0k66 @DACoordinators @LeewayDV @MandyCEO @DavidDVassist @RefugeCharity @PandoraProjectN@Dontlookback198 pic.twitter.com/OpE1Eh1oUF— NorfolkSAB (NSAB) (@NorfolkSAB) August 25, 2020
Through this activity, across platforms including Twitter, the charity helped gain around £30 million in emergency funding from the government in April 2020 to help tackle domestic abuse and violence against women and girls.
Continued campaigning helped secure a further £12 million in top-up funding in November of the same year.
The pandemic presented tenants in private accommodation with a very real threat of eviction as they were unable to pay their rent.
Homelessness charity Shelter used creative content across social media to mobilise its supporters, particularly on Twitter and Youtube, to maintain pressure on government to protect tenants from losing their homes.
“The campaign snowballed,” says the charity leaders’ report, and combined effectively with separate direct lobbying of civil servants in the Ministry of Housing.
By the end of March 2020, ministers pledged to ban evictions and temporarily increased the notice period landlords were required to give from two to three months.
Charity leaders were particularly impressed with the digital campaigning around its ’We Need Answers’ campaign, which launched shortly after the pandemic began and sought to raise awareness of the disproportionate impact COVID-19 was having on people of colour (POC) in key frontline jobs.
Campaigning included holding a series of online ‘Emergency Community Conversations’ to talk about the impact of the crisis on POC. The first was attended by several thousand people and streamed on ITV.
Young volunteers handled social media coverage, using #WeNeedAnswers and calling on people to write to their MPs in support of a public inquiry into issues around race and the health crisis.
Why has the #BAME community been so heavily impacted by #COVID19?— The Ubele Initiative (@ubeleinitiative) April 26, 2020
Join us https://t.co/0X1PYARJ5j#WeNeedAnswers pic.twitter.com/dzQa3Dpt8y@Yvonne_Witter@ppvernon@debs_wb@ProfKevinFenton@Didara@EddieKaddi@KunleOlulode
“As a result of the campaign, Ubele made the link between structural racism and COVID-19 a central part of the debate on the pandemic response and provided thousands of POC a platform for their voices to be heard,” said the charity leaders’ report.
Amid the pandemic, many NHS services placed restrictions on patients, including banning partners attending antenatal care and labour for women. This continued in some areas for months into the crisis.
Charity Pregnant Then Screwed (PTS) linked up with Conservative MP Alicia Kearns to raise awareness of the issue and call for NHS Trusts to ensure women did not have to give birth and look after a new-born alone.
Pressure from the campaign led to the creation of fresh guidance that helped reintroduce visitors and partners to maternity services in September 2020. However, some NHS trusts began to reintroduce the curbs on visitors and partners.
This is a picture of 7 masked dads waiting outside a maternity ward in the desperate hope they can go in to support their partner through their scan or early labour. It’s not fair. This needs to change #butnotmaternity pic.twitter.com/XRO1oDdtsG— PregnantThenScrewed (@PregnantScrewed) October 27, 2020
“PTS continued the pressure on social media by highlighting which trusts were failing to lift the restrictions. Consequently, in December, the NHS issued revised guidance that stated a pregnant woman should have a person of her choosing with her at all stages of her maternity journey, and all trusts should facilitate this as quickly as possible,” said the charity leaders’ report.
Other campaigns to impress have been Living Streets’ work on safety for pedestrians and cyclists, equity in vaccine development globally by coalition the People’s Vaccine Alliance, and Anti-Tribalism Movement’s action to promote awareness of the impact of COVID-19 on British Somalis.