I have seen quite a bit of grumbling recently from bloggers about the volume of charity requests that are dropping into their inboxes. I can only imagine that in the run up to Christmas such requests will become even more frequent.
To be honest, I don’t mind emails from charities too much myself because I have a fairly strict system for dealing with them.
I give the majority of my support to two charities – one big one (Save the Children) and one small one (PiggyBankKids) – and they are the only ones I’ll write about in any detail on the blog.
If I get a request from any other charity that I really like then I won’t usually blog about it, but I’ll agree to share information on my Facebook page or on Twitter, and occasionally I’ll write a quick post for them over on Blog4Charity.
If I get a request from a charity that is working on something I don’t know much about, or that isn’t a personal priority, then I’ll apologise and turn it down. Once you’ve decided that’s your policy, it becomes much easier to implement it uniformly, and not feel guilty about saying no. None of us can do everything.
So making a decision about how to respond to charity requests isn’t too difficult for me. What I think is tricky is how to translate your own passion for a charity or a campaign into something that is interesting for readers too. The more charities there are out there, competing for space on our blogs, the harder that is going to become.
It’s always good if you can add some kind of personal slant to a post, about why an issue has touched you, or why you support a particular cause. But then what? You need to think about what you want readers to take away from that. What do you actually want them to do after reading your post?
Even I am starting to get slightly bored with the standard ‘here’s the problem, here’s the petition’ pitch. I would love to see campaigning becoming more imaginative and exciting. Even if you’re trying to achieve a serious outcome, campaigning is supposed to be fun!
I am reminded of some of the more bonkers stunts that we pulled as student campaigners – sending a pair of brightly coloured flip flops to every Lib Dem MSP when they changed their made on a tuition fees decision… turning up outside the Scottish Parliament in white doctors uniforms when they were trying to increase fees for medical students… plastering the campus with eve of poll posters that said Don’t Wake Up With a Dumb Blonde Tomorrow when Boris Johnson was trying to get elected as Rector.
Obviously the majority of bloggers are busy parents with hectic lives, and we don’t all have time to be marching or scaling lampposts with placards.
But I’d like to think that between the blogging community and the charity sector we have some brilliant minds, and it would be great to see them come together and create some more innovative campaign ideas over the course of the next year. I think that might get bloggers enthused again, and stop them sighing or clicking delete every time another request arrives.
Charities and bloggers are a brilliant and natural match, especially charities like Save the Children who really understand that the relationship has to be mutually beneficial, and so organise events like their bloggers conference. Save the Children also understand that bloggers have to speak in their own voice, and they don’t try to dictate exactly what we post. Sometimes that’s a huge advantage – we can be more political, or more sweary, or funnier than they can be in their own campaign materials.
There are no lack of problems that need fixing at the moment. Whether your passion is health, poverty, international development, the environment, disability, transport, education, animals… there is an issue out there to motivate every one of us, and a charity out there that is working to tackle that issue.
Let’s take advantage of our collective power, and see what we can come up with.