Five lessons in running impactful campaigns from Richard Curtis

Words: Florence Robson

From Comic Relief and Red Nose Day to Project Everyone, Richard Curtis knows a thing or two about creating powerful campaigns that change the world for the better. Now he has helped to launch Make My Money Matter, a campaign fighting for a world where we all know where our pension money goes, and where we can demand it’s invested to build a better future. As the first guest on our new podcast, created in partnership with Coutts, Richard shares five of his top tips for creating campaigns that get attention and drive genuine positive change.

1. Get business involved

While many of Richard’s campaigns have relied on public fundraising and support, he’s passionate about the need to involve businesses and governments if you want to make lasting and impactful change. “The real money is in business and investment”, he says. “If you’re trying to turn the billions into the trillions that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) need, it’s going to come from really getting business and finance to support the most positive industries.”

2. Consider your marketing and storytelling

You might have the worthiest cause imaginable but if your marketing is dull or confusing, no one will pay attention. That’s where Richard’s strength lies when it comes to campaigning. “I’m always trying to simplify the messaging. With Make My Money Matter we have focused on creating strong slogans, like ‘Have a pension you can be proud of’, which immediately catches the eye”. Films can also be a powerful way of capturing the imagination, he says. “Great art can be used as a tool to help people become more passionate and push for legislative change.”

3. Use celebrities to pass the mic

While Comic Relief and Red Nose Day may be associated in your mind with famous faces making a fool of themselves in the name of charity, celebrities should only be part of the picture when it comes to campaigning. Instead, you should ensure that the activists and advocates working on the ground are given space to speak for themselves. “Celebrity culture is still as powerful as it has ever been. However, don’t put celebrities in a position where they are pretending to know things they don’t. Instead use them to encourage people to listen to those with the best ideas and practical experience of the issues at hand. Genuine change comes from a mixture of public campaigning and the incredible people on the coalface who are developing new systems and methods.”

4. Engage young people

While it might be tempting to focus your campaigning efforts on older groups in positions of social and financial power, engaging with passionate young people may help you to grow your impact more quickly. “There is an aggressively impatient younger generation who will not tolerate racism, inequality or anything else of that kind”, points out Richard. By getting them on board with your cause, you will have active, socially savvy advocates who can drive the campaign alongside you – and may even persuade their parents to join them.

5. Stay optimistic

Campaigning for change can be lonely, exhausting and frustrating work – but it can also be incredibly rewarding and affirming. “Comic Relief has been consistently practical proof to me how generous people can be, how passionate they are, how many people are working on brilliant projects and how philanthropy can be a way to change things”, says Richard. Through your campaigning, you’ll come across plenty of reasons to be optimistic that the world can change for the better.

Listen to Richard’s full episode here. Don’t forget to subscribe to Conduit Conversations to be the first to hear upcoming episodes.