It’s that time again. In just over three weeks the nation will go to the polls. And as parties have frantically prepared their manifestos and refined key messages, the third sector has found itself in a familiar chaotic state. Complete confusion about the Lobbying Act. Letters to write to all prospective parliamentary candidates. Hustings to organise…
“The sector must be more bold and creative in our demands of government”, we are told.
We review the best charity pre-election campaigns. We dust down our own 2015 and 2017 charity manifestos. Oh, look, we called for ‘an urgent reform and sustained investment in social care.’ That was bold in 2015 wasn’t it? Is it more of a copy and paste job updated to 2019?
In an alternative universe, it’s a prime time for charities to shine a light on itself and to write a manifesto for themselves as a sector. It might be better time spent and give us a greater chance of being heard.
I was told by those in the know that it’s preferable to have an odd number of demands, keep it short, and to limit your calls to no more than five. Here goes.
1. The sector should be measured in its effectiveness in working in collaboration with others. We all talk about partnership and collaboration a lot but shifting this from conversation to reality is something the sector needs to work on. We reach out instinctively to support our causes but not each other. We need to train people to run multiple relationships instead of training people to work in silos. By pooling resources and expertise means we can reach more people.
2. The sector needs to embrace collective leadership. It is about being less concerned about individual achievements. A shared purpose moves from a concern about ‘me’ to a passion for working together. It’s having authentic discussions. It’s about openness and engagement with all staff and volunteers, families and individuals we support.
3. The sector does come under increased scrutiny from government and the media. We receive public money. We work in the field of trust. We can’t assume that we do good work. We need to repeatedly earn public trust rather than complain about the lack of it or claim it is misunderstood. That means telling our story more effectively to build on the connections between our donors and the individuals we support.
4. Leaders in the voluntary sector need to embrace social media to get their message across, to communicate the work of their charity, to thank their supporters and above all, show their human side.
5. The sector must continue to speak out, providing what it says is evidence based and rooted in the needs of the people we support and their families and carers. That means reframing the debate and offering a positive vision and solutions, not just problems. It means influencing and profiling your charity on a regional and local level not just on a national Westminster level.