The 2015 election campaign already feels like a marathon, and remarkably there are still four weeks to go. Firstly, that suggests that perhaps I don’t have the stamina for marathons. Secondly, and more pertinently, the dominance of the campaign in the media, online and in conversations does emphasise how vigorously each party is scrapping desperately for votes, and how the campaign is monopolising media minutes.
This election is set to be an extremely close battle and so far parties have clashed over a vast array of issues, with tax and the economy remaining near the top of the pile. At CAF, we’ve been busy making sure that the needs of charities and donors are taken into account over the course of the election. In the first of our weekly round-ups from the election campaign, here are a few highlights so far:
1) Shortly before Parliament dissolved we launched the Social Landscape report, which discovered that one in seven charity chief executives say their organisation is ‘struggling to survive.’ Many charities are battling with the combination of financial difficulties and a rise in demand for their services, and only 12% of charity leaders are optimistic about government support for the sector. And what better opportunity for politicians to make their case than the long grind of an election campaign?
2) We also ran the Social Leaders Debate, in partnership with ACEVO, which saw representatives from each of the major UK-wide political parties grilled about their policies for the future of the sector. An audience packed to the rafters heard clashes on topics such as volunteering, the role of charities in providing public services and the independence of the sector. ‘What did we learn?’ you cry. Luckily, we have a short, numbered, ready-made list of conclusions for you to peruse at your leisure.
3) As Parliament dissolved and campaigning began in earnest, we sent a message to the parties calling for them to make sure that charities were not ignored over the course of the election. Our chief executive John Low argued that “charities have an important stake in debates over the economy, Europe and most other issues and their voice must be heard and listened to.” As of today the sector is yet to receive anywhere near the attention it garnered during the ‘Big Society’ election of 2010 – time will tell if that changes before polling day. Do you think parties are paying due attention to the role of charities? Tell us on twitter @cafonline.
4) With parties clashing on the economy and the role of businesses over elections, we waded in by re-iterating the value of the contribution that many leading businesses make in support of charities, but also arguing that many can do more. Fewer than a quarter of FTSE 100 companies donate 1% or more of their pre-tax profits to charities, and John Low pointed out that “business policy is about more than just tax.” The developing concept of businesses as a force for social good is undoubtedly one that will be returned to over the coming weeks.
5) Elections in the UK might lack the razzmatazz of those across the pond where, it’s safe to say, spending on elections is ever-so-slightly higher. However with calls for the introduction of a First Amendment-style protection for journalists, we demanded that any such amendment must also protect charities and their freedom to speak out on issues. This is the first election carried out since the introduction of the Lobbying Act, and concerns about the impact this will have on charities and their ability to campaign, hence calls for the amendment. Of course, we now even have a US-style Supreme Court to enforce any such amendment too…
6) Whilst politicians battle and amidst all the claim and counter-claim that election fever brings, we also made the point that charities offer another way that people can change the world. Charities are much more popular than political parties and give those disaffected with traditional politics another way to battle for social change. Even when the election finishes and the next government is formed, charities will continue to act as a force for good, and their role in improving our communities must not be forgotten.
7) Finally (and not technically related directly to the election) we published UK Giving 2014, our annual insight into giving habits in the UK. The finding that drew the most attention from the media was that half of men do nothing for charity, with younger people also less likely to be involved in supporting good causes. In addition, the report reaffirmed that poorer people continue to give away a higher proportion of their income than wealthier people. You can read the report in full here.
As soon as parties begin to publish their manifestos we’ll bring you our thoughts on the policies and what they mean for the charity sector. Don’t forget to check back next week to get your latest fix from the campaign trail and elsewhere too!