Three into one does go

People often come into social care aiming to make a difference.
But those who choose the voluntary sector as their vehicle often
get distracted by “engine trouble” – caused, usually, by lack of
funding – and take their eyes off the route.

So managers and directors, rather than managing and directing,
spend an inordinate amount of time fundraising. However,
fundraising becomes easier the better or higher profile a charity
has. And one of the best ways to raise your profile is through
effective campaigning – which, of course, also helps to change
things for the better.

To increase their profile more effectively, three small charities
that work with a similar client group have hit upon a useful

Respond, Voice UK and the Ann Craft Trust all work with people with
learning difficulties who have been or are at risk of abuse. They
also share a policy and campaigns officer, Rebecca Seden, in a post
funded with money from Lloyds TSB Foundation and the Department of

“The three charities were like a lot of small organisations that
could do campaigning work, basically, only when they could fit it
around fundraising,” says Seden. “It’s hard to think strategically
when you’re doing other things. Now campaigns are planned and
objectives set that can be followed through.”

Raising the profile, however, will not be easy. “When learning
difficulties are mentioned in government priorities, they always
seem to be about number five in a list of 10, so we’re very
concerned about that. Disabilities generally have now been lumped
in with older people – a huge field that is easy to get lost in. So
contact and influence with MPs and ministers is very important to
us,” she says.

Seden’s background is in political campaigning, but it has been a
steep learning curve. “I haven’t worked with or known any people
with learning difficulties before, but I have learned so much – not
least about the injustices that, unfortunately, a lot of them face

Indeed, one of the main campaigns is improving the lot of people
with learning difficulties within the criminal justice system.
“Historically, they have been treated as unreliable, incompetent
witnesses and have thus been denied justice,” she says.

Recently the Home Office published research on rape and conviction
that highlighted the lack of justice for women who have been raped,
especially those with learning difficulties.

It’s my job to pick up on that sort of thing,” says Seden. “I
spotted it and we were able to put a press release out and stir up
some interest. We can react immediately while things are
newsworthy. If I wasn’t here it might well have been something lost
within the hustle and bustle of running a charity.”

Another aspect of the job is responding to government
consultations. “It’s good that we have three organisations tabling
a single response; it helps strengthen the message. I think that
government likes a united front; it’s safer for them if everyone is
saying the same thing,” says Seden, who can also act as one point
of contact.

Kathryn Stone, director of Voice UK, believes the united front is
crucial. “It is important for us to have a campaigns officer who
can draw together a consistent and co-ordinated approach and
response to different issues that come up,” she says.

Richard Curen, director of Respond, agrees: “This unique
partnership benefits all of us equally. We’re similar in our
outlooks and with what we feel needs to change in society and the
law. Sometimes funders make us feel we are in competition, but this
way of working can only bring us closer together.”

Seden believes that together the three organisations can make a
real difference. “It’s not that people aren’t interested in the
work we do; it’s more a case that they just don’t think about it,”
she says.

“So talking to people and highlighting issues enables it to get on
their radar. And to do that we need to be proactive and not just
reactive. If you rely on being reactive, you can’t always push a
campaign in the way you want it to run.”

Lessons Learned 

  • Be clear about the expectations of each organisation, ensuring
    each one has an equal say.
  • Spend time at each organisation – get to know them well. “If
    you’re based at one organisation it’s easy to get to know that one
    well and not the others – particularly if the other partners are in
    different parts of the country,” says Seden. 
  • While each organisation will have their uniqueness, presenting
    a united front is a powerful tool. You have more clout, people will
    listen, and as you build credibility they will also begin to listen
    out for you; they will seek what you have to say.

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