People support ‘causes over organisations’; this is where it leaves charities

Written by Lauren Weymouth

People increasingly support causes over organisations, but there’s still an important role for charities to play, according to campaigning expert Craig Dwyer.

In his new blog, written for Acevo’s 30 things to think about, Dwyer, who was the social media director for the Yes Equality campaign for civil marriage equality in Ireland, said people connect with causes more effectively, but charities can use this to their advantage in campaigns.

“Much of the next 30 years of change-making will be shaped by the millennial generation,” Dwyer said. “Increasingly, millennials support causes rather than organisations, so to connect with individuals more effectively and increase engagement with the cause, campaigns should use digital platforms to enable and empower supporters to create content they can share to promote the central message.”

Dywer’s arguments came off the back of research published by the Millenial Impact Project, which found millennials learn about and donate to causes digitally, that their peers are a critical influence of millennial giving and that they are motivated by opportunities to use and develop their skills.

The role of charities

Although the nature of campaigning is changing, Dwyer argued there is still a really important role for civil society organisations to play.

“Campaigning for change is in a period of flux. We need to be nimble in our response. We need to rise to the challenges and embrace new opportunities,” he said.
“Campaigning is often portrayed as a fight, a battle, a crusade. And it can often feel like that to campaigners and to those directly affected by issues.

“But to affect real change, campaigns must go beyond the struggle of those involved to reach people not directly affected.”

He added charities need to frame the cause in a way that motivates people to get involved, facilitate and enable supporters to take action and become content creators, and be a central hub that provides strategic leadership and oversight.

“Charities must draw supporters in with an inviting cause that appeals to their intrinsic desire to do good. Excellent storytelling and issue framing is crucial to converting observers to supporters,” he said.

“It must be authentic, it must demonstrate how things can get better and it must show what role an individual can play in making that happen.”

“People are intrinsically motivated to do good; it is the task of campaigns to mobilise these people and facilitate their action. This requires moving from combative concepts to collaboration, listening and empowerment.”

To celebrate its 30th Birthday, Acevo has collated 30 things to think about from 30 different voices from around the charity sector. These thought-provoking insights aim to inspire and provoke debate about how civil society leaders can make a difference over the next 30 years. To find out more, visit and talk about it on Twitter with the hashtag #acevo30.

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