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Growing a campaign

Last edited: January 03, 2012

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By definition, a successful campaign expands as it attracts growing public support. Growth may happen gradually, or in larger, planned steps as part of a scaling-up strategy that brings the campaign to a new dimension. In both cases, alignment with the existing strategy and strategic planning for necessary adjustments are of key importance. Guidance on scaling-up strategies is available in Scaling Up under Campaign Strategy in this module.

Alliance growth

Alliance growth is a typical means of expanding and scaling up campaigns. A campaign initiated by a single organization, or by a small group of allies, can reach “new” geographic areas and types of target audiences by partnering with additional organizations and individuals. Organizations with large constituencies and influential actors that are not commonly involved in campaigning against VAW can help mobilize new audiences. Such organizations include for example, religious groups, schools, professional associations, among others.

Example: The We Can end all violence against women campaign in South Asia, launched in 2004 by the Oxfam Great Britain Regional Office, has built on small groups of individuals from a range of organizations (such as development NGOs, women’s groups, youth clubs, schools, government departments, and professional associations) to create national, State/provincial, district and village-level We Can alliances. The local alliances develop their own activities within a broad campaign framework. As of 2010, some 2.400 organizations are part of the We Can South Asia alliance.


See the We Can Campaign website for more information.

Expanding a women’s alliance, or an alliance experienced in working on gender issues to “mixed” groups (that include men and boys unfamiliar with gender issues, for example) can also be an effective way to reach new target audiences. As alliance members may have different levels of gender sensitivity, gender training and dialogue on gender issues should be routinely integrated into campaigners’ induction and training, and team meetings. It is important to create a supportive environment for new team members, e.g. by focusing on the useful contributions they can make to the campaign more effective rather than emphasizing differences in gender sensitivity that need to be overcome. See also Lessons on Stakeholders: Working with Men and Boys in Introduction and Key Concepts in this module.

Alliances involving both government and civil society organizations can reach out to large and diverse campaign audiences, as demonstrated in major behaviour change campaigns (e.g. on public health issues such as HIV prevention, etc). However, it is important to be aware of different work styles – for example, government institutions may need to follow more complex internal approval procedures than NGOs, which can slow down decision-making within the campaign alliance. Campaigns for policy/institutional change are usually driven by civil society organizations, but that does not exclude formal or informal alliances with public institutions or decision-makers who support the campaign goal and strategy. In both types of campaigns, it is advisable to consider the risk of the campaign being misused by powerful alliance members e.g. to promote themselves or a specific political party.

For guidance on how to build an alliance see Practical Steps in Alliance Building under Campaign Strategy/Building and Framing a Campaign Alliance.

Taking up growth opportunities

A successful campaign mobilizes public support, e.g. in the shape of active supporters ready to contribute their skills and time to the campaign, or in the form of private donations and institutional grants.

When assessing growth opportunities for campaigning, the following are useful to note:

  • Extra funding and material resources can be harnessed in a variety of ways, including for instance, to increase the number of public activities (e.g more community outreach forums, exhibitions, demonstrations), to multiply communications (e.g. more posters and more air-time), or diversify communication channels (e.g. social media on the internet). Spending extra money strategically can be relatively uncomplicated, if effective campaign management, including monitoring and financial control systems, ensures the resources are spent to maximum effect. See Campaign finances and fundraising for guidance on budgeting and fundraising.
  • Managing a growing body of volunteers can be challenging. Any campaign which includes a strong mobilization component should include in its strategy a plan as to how to support new activists, which should make it clear which campaign team or alliance members are in charge of supporting which activists. Public events (e.g. rallies) and activists’ kits should be designed to motivate new campaigners and ensure the campaign message will be passed on accurately and effectively. Further information on Activists’ Kits is available in Campaign Communications.
  • Unexpected growth opportunities: A large campaigning organization, or an existing campaign alliance, may spontaneously propose to join a campaign. An institutional donor may offer an unexpected sizeable grant. Before deciding for an immediate expansion, it is important to weigh the potential advantages of such growth against the transaction costs. Will rapid growth enhance the chances to produce the planned outcomes and reach the campaign goal? What are the risks involved, and how can they best be managed? Are there any objectives that might not be reached as a result of the necessary changes? Will the principles and ethics of campaigning to end VAW continue to be fully respected? A full re-run of the strategic planning process may be needed before a major growth opportunity can be taken up.