Recess: what should charity campaigners be doing?

It’s sunny out, MPs are back in their constituencies, and the sandwiches and cheap wine of party conference season still seem a world away. Surely now’s a great time for charity campaigners to down tools and relax ahead of another gruelling autumn of legislation, select committee reports, the spending review and Autumn Statement?

Of course that’s not quite the case, most of you will already be working through the jobs that you had to put off, which you will definitely (maybe) get round to in recess. For those of you who are missing the day to day cut and thrust of Westminster life, here’s a look at some of the planning you can do to help you hit the ground running when the nights start to draw in.

Party conferences

Even though there is still time before conferences start, it’s well worth thinking about what you want to achieve now, to make the most of your conference presence. Many charities will look towards putting together a meeting plan, which can help you introduce yourself to some of the new intake of MPs.

There’s always a temptation to throw a lot of resources at party conferences, but remember to think carefully about what it is you want to achieve, and the most effective way to do so. Conference conversations can be quickly forgotten, so they’re better for introducing yourself and catching up, rather than putting together plans of action.

Spending Review/Autumn Statement

If you want to effectively engage with Treasury officials and ministers (and departmental officials/ministers in the case of the spending review), now is the time to be talking to them. Given the long-awaited nature of the spending review in particular, departments will already have formulated some ideas. So if you want a particular item of spending to be protected, you need to be making the case now. Officials are often keen to hear evidence that can be used to advise ministers, but this needs to be in early.

Equally, the Treasury will also be thinking about Autumn Statement. Remember that if you have any requests they need to be framed in a way that will be attractive to the Chancellor and the Treasury. If you can demonstrate that a change would deliver better value for money or boost skills and productivity, you’ll have a much better chance than if you just ask for more money.

Engagement with new MPs

As the general election blurred into the Queen’s Speech and beyond, many charities will have had a cursory look at who they might be able to work with, and may have even forged links with new MPs already. But recess is a great opportunity to really think about which MPs you really want to build a relationship with, and who will be able to help you achieve your goals.

Summer reading

Summer’s also a great time to sit down with a good book, and there are a number of interesting political books out at the moment which might have lessons for campaigners, including:

  • ​More Human: Designing a World Where People Come First by Steve Hilton
  • Five Year Mission: The Labour Party Under Ed Miliband by Tim Bale
  • PostCapitalism by Paul Mason
  • The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History by Boris Johnson
  • How Parliament Works (7th edition) by Robert Rogers and Rhodri Walters
  • And for the really dedicated, you can always have a look at what’s on MPs’ reading lists.

So hopefully those are a few useful things to think about during what remains of summer, but whatever you do, make sure you’re ready for NCVO’s Campaigning Conference on 14 September. The conference has an exciting line up of speakers, including Stonewall chief executive Ruth Hunt, and will arm you with lots more practical tips about how to make sure your campaigns are successful.


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Chris is NCVO’s public affairs manager, focusing on parliamentary work. He started his career working for several MPs in Parliament, and has also worked in public affairs and policy roles for the Federation of Small Businesses.

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