A guide to campaigning
At Age UK we work with you, our supporters, to influence decision-makers on issues that affect older people, such as our underfunded care and support system, our cold homes and loneliness.
We campaign with you, with local Age UKs, with colleagues from Age Cymru, Age Scotland and Age NI, and with friends and older people's forums. We also work with other national and local organisations that share our aims.
There are two strands to our campaigning activity:
- direct calls for changes in law and policy
- campaigning to the public to influence the behaviours and attitudes towards older people.
We focus our campaigning where we believe we can achieve the greatest change. We recognise that we are most likely to be successful if we create a strong network of campaigners, focus on a few campaigns at a time, listen carefully to older people and give them lots of opportunities to speak out about the campaigns that matter to them.
Why campaign with us
As well as helping to achieve lasting social change, campaigning with us can help you build local relationships, as well as protect vital services that older people rely on. Campaigning can also be great fun, helping to build a sense of purpose.
Depending on the nature of the campaign, it can give you the opportunity to work with key decision-makers, e.g. in local authorities or in the NHS. It may also give you the chance to work with other local groups and organisations, sharing skills, knowledge and resources.
There is strength in numbers – whether it is on a local, regional or national level – and a group of voices is always more powerful than a single voice.
How to get involved
There are many ways in which you can get involved in our campaigns, from providing a case study to sending a letter to your local MP. Here are just a few of them:
1. Tell us your story
Do you have a story that you could share with us? For a chat, get in touch by writing, emailing or phoning us. All stories will be treated sensitively and will never be used without your prior consent.
- Email: email@example.com
- Phone: 020 3033 1712
- Post: Age UK Campaigns, 2nd Floor, Tavis House, 1-6 Tavistock Square, London, WC1H 9NA.
2. Send a report, postcard or template letter
Writing to your local MP, councillor, health authority or newspaper can be an excellent way of engaging them with our campaigns.
We'll provide you with all the information, materials and contact details that you need.
3. Tell your friends about our campaigns
Why not spread the word about our campaigns? We depend on your involvement for our success.
4. Sign a petition or attend a lobby
Signing a petition and/or attending a lobby can be an effective way to campaign.
5. Support local campaigning
Find out what's going on in your local Age UK. They may be running a local campaign or holding events and focus groups.
Working with your local MP
When we talk to MPs they often tell us how important it is that campaigners write personal letters to them about the issues they care about. MPs receive hundreds of letters and emails each week – the trick is to make sure that yours grabs their attention!
1. Keep it short
First of all, keep it short – one side for a letter or three to four paragraphs for an email if possible, with clear headings.
2. Keep it focused
You can always attach more material, but make sure that the main part focuses on your key message.
3. Keep it local
It helps wherever possible to include local examples (such as case studies of older individuals) to back up your points and show how the issue impacts on local older people within the constituency.
4. Suggest an action
Once you've told your MP the problem, suggest an action. It makes an MP's life easier if you are clear about what you want and how they can help you achieve it.
If there's more than one action you think they can do, pull out the most important one and highlight it, suggesting other additional actions that they can take.
6. Make it personal
Above all, make it personal. MPs don't want to be bombarded with standard letters. If you've contacted them before, do mention it. And if the result was something positive, remember to include that and thank them.
7. Send an email
Write to your MP at the House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA. Also, most MPs use email regularly and often respond personally. To find and contact your MP electronically, go to www.theyworkforyou.com.
8. Follow up
If you don't like the reply you receive, follow up with them asking your MP to reconsider their position and highlight why you disagree.
If you want to know more or need further support, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to share your campaign message
The media can be really useful for gaining mass awareness of a campaign or event. Local and regional newspapers are often working on a very tight budget, so to be successful you need to make life as easy as possible for journalists.
- Know who to contact. If in doubt, call the news desk and ask. Try to build relationships with friendly journalists.
- Keep your press releases short and packed with information. You need to grab the journalist's attention with the first couple of paragraphs. Remember the mantra 'who, what, why, where, how' to make sure you include all the right information.
- Just because something is important to you doesn't make it necessarily interesting to the media. Ask yourself the questions: 'Why should the journalist care?' and 'What impact will it have on the local community?'
- For key press releases, it's always worth following up with a phone call. Always check with the journalist whether now is a good time to talk and get to your point quickly.
The Age UK Media team can help you prepare your press release before you distribute it to the local media. Contact the Age UK media team on 020 3033 1439 or email email@example.com.
Make sure you prepare a few bullet points with all the key information you want to get across. For radio or TV interviews, work on having three key messages:
- What's the problem/event?
- An individual example of how you/older people are affected/can benefit
- What you want Government, the local authority or others to do.
If you have any questions about working with the media, contact the Age UK media team on 020 3033 1439 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Using social media
|Social network||What's it good for?|
|Networking with peers, sharing photos, joining groups and 'liking' interesting things, including charities and campaigns.|
|Posting (Tweeting) comments and opinions, following like-minded people and their Tweets.|
|Networking with professionals.|
How you incorporate social media into a campaign is no different from any other activity. It is most effective when used with other communications and actions. However, there are a few things to remember:
- Social media allows you to engage with those who are following you and respond when they speak to you.
- Those people who follow you do so because they want to hear what you have to say. They will be warm to your campaign and more willing to help.
- Make it interesting. Photos and videos are easy to use on social media and are much more engaging and powerful than text.
- Asking someone to 'like' or 'retweet' something for your campaign is a great first step for new people engaging with your campaign. Supporters are then more likely to take other, harder actions, like writing to their MP. So make sure you ask supporters to take more complex actions too.