Annual Campaigner Survey 2024:

Under Pressure

Our Annual Campaigner Survey asks campaigners what’s going on in their world. Over successive years, you’ve told us it’s getting harder to do your jobs so, this year, for the first time, we asked about the impact on you personally. 

The results show the toll that pressure from all sides is taking on campaigners. 

  • Campaigners are facing pressure from politicians, the media, donors, regulators, and their own organisations – a diverse set of stakeholders with complex and competing needs 
  • This has led three-quarters to question whether they have the energy to keep going 
  • They are calling for better wellbeing support and more chances to build links with other campaigners 
  • They are broadly optimistic that a change of government would signal a positive shift in approach – but fewer than half think a Labour administration would repeal legislation that restricts the freedom to campaign. 

There is so much to learn from this year’s SMK Annual Campaigner Survey that we decided to publish a highlights report alongside the full results. 

Under pressure

A massive 81% of campaigners say that the pressure on them has grown over the past 12 months. Most worrying, three-quarters (75%) say that, in the past year, they have questioned whether they have the energy levels to keep campaigning. This is despite 78% achieving a campaign win or hitting a milestone during the same period. 

Three little words

Respondents were asked for three words to describe campaigning. The top ten are: challenging, tiring, rewarding, exciting, frustrating, hard, exhausting, hopeful, depressing, and intense. 

Call for the right kind of support 

A substantial proportion (65%) feel ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ supported by their organisation – but a significant minority (19%) say they feel ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ unsupported. 

“I feel like I have the training, but don’t have the time or pastoral support. I recently did some work with Google and was shocked at how much wellbeing support they have.” Survey respondent 

When asked what support they need, as well as specific training, campaigners call for chances to meet other campaigners to share experiences and ideas. They also ask for help to cope with pressure and burnout. 

The current situation is putting pressure on campaigners and is, in too many cases, seeing organisations and donors adding to rather than relieving it. If these results highlight anything, it is the important role infrastructure bodies can play in supporting campaigners. 

Where is the pressure coming from? 

The survey of campaigners and activists asked where pressure or resistance is coming from, and the answer seems to be ‘from all sides’: MPs, journalists, regulators, funders, and from within their own organisations. 

What we say.

Sue Tibballs, SMK CEO, says: 

“These results are a stark warning to organisations and donors. They need to pay attention to how they support campaigners or risk losing them through burnout or career change. 

“We can see that campaigners are dedicated, and in many cases deeply connected, to their work. Yet, with pressure coming from so many sides, they are juggling an extraordinarily diverse set of competing stakeholder interests. While training continues to be desirable, campaigners are also asking for more help connecting with their peers to create communities of support and practice.” 

SMK Campaigner Survey results

survey results

2023/24 Results

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2022/23 Results

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2021 Results

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2020 Results

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2019 Results

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2018 Results

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2017 Results

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2016 Results

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