Starting your own campaign

Sometimes, you can't wait for the crowd or rely on anyone else. Sometimes, you're the only one with the passion, the energy and the determination to address a particular problem. Sometimes, you just have to start your own campaign.

woman protesting on road

Do you have a cause you feel passionate about?

“Most bullying campaigns are about the victims of bullying, but we encourage the bullies to come forward. Our aim is to try and educate and reform them,” says Carney Bonner. Aged only 17, he started his own campaign against cyber bullying after experiencing it himself. Called ‘Keeping it Safe Online,’ he and his team are piloting a programme to educate cyber bullies about the devastating effect they can have.

“People started chatting to me on MSN, saying things like ‘You’re nothing, you’re going to die,'” he explains. “I couldn’t believe something like that could happen to me – I was always so confident at school.” The experience led him to start self-harming. Through visiting his school counsellor, he managed to slowly rebuild his confidence and decided to convert his anger into action: “It made me so mad to think this could happen to other people that I decided to launch a campaign.”

Like Carney’s campaign, most major campaigning organisations start with a small group of volunteers or even just one individual. In 1942, a vicar called Canon Milford decided to try and help Greek civilians affected by war. Fifty years later that organisation is now Oxfam, one of the world’s largest campaigning charities.

While it may seem like there are hundreds of thousands of organisations across the country working on a huge range of issues, if the thing you care about isn’t being tackled then it’s time to take control.

Getting your campaign started

Campaigning organisations often welcome volunteers, so start by getting in touch with them to see how you can help. This kind of experience will valuable if you decide to launch your own campaign or to work in the campaign sector. Plus, these nice charitable folk aren’t exactly rolling in cash, so if you’re willing to work as a volunteer campaigner, you’ll probably be welcomed with open arms.

If you’re going it alone, you don’t want to tread on any toes, so make sure you’re aware of who is working in the same space as you. Network and collaborate with sympathetic organisations – you’re all in this together, after all.

Campaigning with social media

“Your campaign must have a Twitter account, Facebook and Youtube pages,” advises Carney. “Start following people on Twitter and when they comment on what you’re doing, communicate with them. Also, link up with other campaigners.” Tweet at celebrities and ask them to support your campaign – if you’re persistent enough, they might even re-tweet your message to their gazillion followers.

Social networks can help generate media coverage by giving journalists a way to find you – essential if you want people to actually know what you’re up to. They’re also a cheap way to get PR, which can also help with funding. For example, Carney’s campaign was picked up by Channel 4’s Battlefront Programme and is now supported by the Nominet Trust.

Get cash to fund your campaign

You’d be surprised how interested businesses are in helping young people – they care about their image in the community, so exploit their desire to look good. “You can get to a certain point with no money but you soon realise you need cash for leaflets, printing, that kind of thing,” says Carney. “Local companies often look to invest in charity work to help improve their reputation.” See our funding article for more ideas.

Get a team together

“I’m dyslexic, so while I’m great at talking to people I find paperwork and writing tough. Having a good team you trust is really important, so get others on board,” says Carney. If you can’t afford to pay your team, point out that their hard work will at least look excellent on their CV.

Have a launch night

“We expected 50 people, but 250 came,” says Carney. “Loads of people from the local community, mostly my age. It was a great way of making connections.” A launch party can be a good focal point to attract local politicians and the media to find out more.

Get help from the professionals

Contact your local Council for Voluntary Service (CVS) or your local Volunteer Centre. They’ll be able to advise you about relevant local organisations.

Citizens Advice Bureaus are another good source of help. You can find your local one from the Citizens Advice website. If you want to go the whole hog and set up your own charity, it’s going to take a while to get through all the reading on the Charity Commission website. But that’s the best place to start.

Stay motivated

“Take your campaign seriously, but make sure you have some fun, or you won’t stay motivated,” says Carney. “And you’ve got to stay motivated, because people love things that are new and fresh.”

Picture of anti-fracking protester by Shutterstock

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015