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Charity Insight Contributor
Published 15 September 2011

Is it true that there is strength in numbers or can you lobby for

change as a sole organisation?

Chloe Stables, parliamentary officer, National Council for Voluntary Organisations
There is some truth to this. Politicians, particularly those with responsibility for a particular area, will see many organisations asking for slightly different versions of the same thing and working together may mean you have a much bigger impact. However working across organisational boundaries can be tricky and take extra time, effort and take up valuable resources it is important to be very clear about your collective focus. It is also tempting to stay within the sector and build a coalition of like-minded charities but remember that policy makers may be looking for a wider consensus and an unusual coalition partner may give your argument significant extra weight.

George Pascoe-Watson, partner, Portland Communications
Coalitions can be very powerful, particularly when there are surprising combinations of organisations involved it can help to reassure government that the whole of a sector believe in the change you're lobbying for. For charities, it is worth thinking about the specific issue you are lobbying on. Reactive campaigns often suit coalition lobbying better. The recent outrage at government plans to privatise woodland, and the subsequent U-turn, clearly demonstrates the power of a broad church of charities, allied with public support. However, planned, proactive work where you are also looking to increase awareness of your brand and grow your supporter base needs to be done alone. A unique campaign on a specific issue can help to distinguish your voice from others in your sector.

Gus Baldwin, Public affairs manager, Macmillan Cancer Support
It depends what your campaign objectives are. If you want profile, awareness and supporter participation or you need to do something quickly then a coalition could get in the way. Also, if you're a very big charity then you probably will be listened to by Government whether or not you're in a coalition. That said, I think it is true that Governments are generally less inclined (or feel under less pressure) to do something when stakeholders disagree about the way forward. Also, Ministers generally prefer to have one meeting rather than 30 on the same issue and backbenchers are forever complaining (usually rightly) about the number of very similar campaign briefings they receive via their inbox or postbag. And if run properly a coalition can make an individual charity's resources go much further.

Estelle McCartney, associate director, Champollion
There are obvious benefits to demonstrating that there is wide support for your campaign. From a practical perspective however, you have to work harder to ensure that the campaign is well co-ordinated. Is everyone is making the same case? Who is contacting which MP? You need to invest time in keeping all members of the coalition informed, updated and motivated. In addition, you may have to dilute your campaign ask in order to create and maintain the alliance.

It is entirely possible to lobby for change as a sole organisation particularly if you have strong evidence and a good case to make. You might also prefer to go it alone if you want to establish your organisation as the expert on that issue or topic.

Joe Saxton, driver of ideas, nfpSynergy
Individual organisation can definitely lobby on their own and most coalitions take huge effort to organise and may simply result in watered down objectives. Worse still it's usually the biggest organisations in a coalition who claim the glory - so unless you are a big well known organisation think very carefully about coalitions.

Camilla Williamson, public affairs adviser, Age UK
You can be effective as a solo organisation, especially if you represent a strong or important constituent. But coalition working is always stronger, particularly if you can collaborate with a wide ranging group. Size and numbers are important as ultimately politicians are answerable to the electorate and will get behind an issue that they think is popular. This doesn't necessarily mean that a large number of people need to be affected by the issue, but it is important to illustrate that you have a strong following of people who care about it.

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