5 ways that VCS organisations in Yorkshire can influence national policy

Written by: Helen Robinson.

We hear time and again in our Quarterly Confidence Survey how voluntary sector organisations would like to change the policy environment in which they work, but many simply do not have the time or resources to do so.

Here are just some of the ways that time and resource-poor Yorkshire and Humber voluntary sector organisations can help to influence national policy and contribute to campaigns:

(1)    Become a media spokesperson

Part of Involve’s role in supporting the sector in the region is to gather information about the sector and the impact of policy changes, and ensure it is heard and understood by policymakers. For example, as part of the rural policy work we undertook with the Yorkshire and Humber Rural Network last year, we published policy papers about key issues affecting rural communities, such as health and social care policy changes, transport poverty, and fuel poverty, sparking a great deal of media attention and coverage.

We have established trusted relationships with many key media partners and journalists, and are often approached for comment on news stories. One of the ways your organisation can benefit from this and get your voice heard is to register to be on our list of voluntary sector case studies and approved media spokespeople on a particular interest area. Our ability to achieve media coverage for the sector is often dependant upon there being a relevant spokesperson available. Please email me if you would like to find out more (with no obligation).

(2)    Contribute your views on Project 2015

At the recent Involve Yorkshire & Humber annual lecture, influencing and campaigning was high on the agenda.

Charlotte Ravenscroft from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) talked to delegates about Project 2015: the ongoing consultation on with the voluntary sector about what should be included in the 2015 election party manifestos.

Involve is working with NCVO on Project 2015 to ensure the voice of the sector in Yorkshire and Humber is heard and included in the national campaign. We are in the process of collating information to inform the campaign approach.

Delegates at our 2013 annual policy conference told us that the focus should be on “prevention is better than cure” – that supporting the VCS is an extremely good value for money way of preventing increased public spending later on. What do you think we should be campaigning on? Again, please email me to find out more, or join in the discussion in the VCS Yorkshire and Humber LinkedIn group.

(3)    Apply to receive NCVO support on influencing and campaigning

Involve, in partnership with NCVO, is offering a small number of organisations in Yorkshire and the Humber the opportunity to receive tailored support for influencing and campaigning. The overall aim of the support programme is to give frontline organisations the skills, knowledge and locally appropriate resources to increase their influence and engagement with local decision-making processes. You can find out more about the programme here.

(4)    Take part in our Quarterly Confidence Survey

One of the reasons we are able to put forward a strong argument around policy changes is that we can back up our statement with up-to-date data on the sector. To enable us to continue doing so, we need as any organisations as possible to take part in our surveys. Our most recent Quarterly Confidence Survey has just been launched. Please click here to take part – it only takes a few minutes.

(5) Use and abuse free tools and activities

For cash-strapped VCS organisations, using and abusing some of the numerous free tools available to help get your voice heard by policymakers and influencers is a must. The suggestions below come courtesy of @leonoramerry and are taken from her #WonkComms in the North presentation, ‘Influencing Westminster on a budget,’ in York last Autumn.

  1. Social media – Be constantly engaging with journalists, keeping an eye on journalist Twitter feeds for opportunities. Also, be generous with your social media sharing and others are then more likely to do the same for you in return.
  2. Bank holiday embargoes – Some poor soul is sat on a newsdesk on a bank holiday desperately trying to find news while most people are off work and in the pub. Hand them a story on a bank holiday and they are much more likely to use it and be thankful.
  3. Yatterbox – Sign up for this free social media monitoring service that helps you to identify and follow thought leaders and influencers.
  4. TheyWorkforYou.com – Keep up to date with your MP’s activities in Westminster, plus many other useful resources such as speeches and reports.
  5. Mailchimp Campaigns – Mailchimp makes it very easy to monitor campaign responses and impact. Free service for users with up to 2000 contacts.
  6. The Noun Project – Offers free vector images (for credits).
  7. Prezi – Ditch Powerpoint and create lively presentations on Prezi instead.
  8. Infogr.am – Allows you to create your own infographics.
  9. Salesforce – Offers up to ten free licences for charities.

This post originally appeared on Involve Yorkshire and Humber’s blog