Advocacy doesn't happen all the time, and when it comes to grassroots advocacy, the more educated your members, stakeholders, volunteers, and other constituents are, the more likely you are going to be able to motivate them to take action. The more grassroots advocacy action you can generate, the more likely you are going to be able to get lawmakers attention.
Bill prognosis has become a hot topic in the bill tracking industry lately. Everyone wants to know if their efforts are going to pay off. Some companies trying to differentiate themselves by guessing the probability of a bills passage based on a “complicated proprietary algorithm,” while others tell you the only way is to hire their team of “professional analysts” to help you make those determinations.
Here is my “complicated proprietary algorithm” and “professional analysis” all in one sentence. Most likely (yes, that is a scientific term) the bill you are tracking is going to fail. In fact, an astounding 85% of bills (excluding resolutions) fail in the states every session.
Most of the strategies and tactics that are used for advocacy are no differnt from the ones businesses use. The tools are very similar as well. If you’re going to successfully educate and mobilize people to win public policy issues, you will need some basic engagement tools. Advocacy software that educates and connects your advocates to their elected officials might be the most important, but there are many other tools that your organization should have in place for a successful advocacy campaign.
9 Essential Online Advocacy Tools
✓ Legislative tracking: Think of your legislative tracking system like your own personal Google for pending legislation. A tool like BillTrack50 will save you time researching and keeping on top of all the legislation that is important to your organization. Plus you can keep others up to date on the latest developments.
✓ Website: Your website is one of the most important tools in your advocacy tool box. It is where your activists and policy makers will go to find information about you and the issues you stand for. There is no shortage of systems you can use from Wordpress to Hubspot. Choose the tool that you can manage with a small staff and that will integrate in with your other systems. (Full disclosure- I am a Hubspot partner and would recommend that platform.)
✓ Legislative landing page: Create a webpage for the action alert to link to that connects who the committee members or legislators are and summarizes the bill in simple terms that are easily understood and shared. Place links to the blog post or embed the video in your legislative landing page. There should be one, clearly defined action step on this page. This is different from your regular website pages because it is linked directly to the bill you are asking for action on.
✓ Social Media: Social media should be a major component of your communication plan. It can help you organize and build support, reach the media and better inform public opinion, and most importantly reach policy makers. Consistent posting, with relevant content, helps build an audience. Use tool that has a social media platform like Hubspot or Hootsuite to schedule posts ahead of time, but also be flexible - post any breaking news and be sure to interact with your audience.
✓ Email: Use the link of the legislative landing page to send in your email communications to your segmented lists. Refer to your communication plan on how often to send emails and when. Let your recipients know how often you will be communicating with them and why. Mail Chimp, Constant Contact, or Hubspot are tools you can use to manage your email campaigns. With Hubspot you can also set up automated campaigns in a series based on actions, dates, or contact property values.
✓ Blog: Blogs are great ways to share information with your advocates and policy makers. Consistent blogging, fresh topics and inviting guest bloggers are great ways to build an audience. Make sure your website system not only supports a blog format, but makes it easy to manage subscriptions and notificationsand enables your posts to be shareable on social media.
✓ Video: Almost anyone today can create great video content. Record videos interviewing your organizational leadership, issue experts or someone impacted by your issue. Remember that visuals and personal stories can be very powerful advocacy tools. Post the video to YouTube and include a description that has a link to your fundraising page and/or legislative landing page. You can also use a branded video hosting platform like Wistia for your video content and measure the engagement.
✓ Survey. Never assume that what you know where your audience stands on an issue, and never, ever make up statistics to back up your advocacy claims. Create a series of surveys using tools like Survey Monkey to test the awareness level of the issue and the general sentiment. Include a link to the survey on your landing page, or use an advocacy platform that has built in voting and commenting features. Share your results (if they are favorable) with policy makers and on social media. If they’re not favorable, no one knows but you and you can adjust your communications to address it to hopefully swing stakeholder opinion your way.
✓ Events: A mix of online and offline tactics can help spread your message and show the strength of your support. Press conferences, advocacy days, marches and protests can all be offline tools that can raise awareness of your issue. Integrate your social media and other online tools to promote these events and spread your message beyond just the original attendees. Eventbrite is a popular online event management tool.
What is in your advocacy toolkit? How are you making it easy for your members and stakeholders to educate themselves and engage with their elected officials?
It has been said that, “We can always live on less when we have more to live for,” (S. Stephen McKenney). Nowhere is this sentiment tested more than in nonprofit work. While there is no doubt that our passion can fuel an impressive amount of progress, the “living on less” part can turn from a practical reality into a stifling momentum killer.
Yes, nonprofits need to do more with less. And arguably, they need to be smarter with their decision making than for-profit organizations, simply because they often don’t have the resources to pay for their mistakes.
Alliance for Girls Awarded Free Votility License at #ASAE14
Alliance for Girls (AFG) is an association of girl-serving organizations and leaders who provide a strong voice for girls across the San Francisco Bay Area. They have more than 60 member organizations that collectively serve over 90,000 girls.
Is there a way to streamline and modernize grassroots lobbying? How can you engage people with your cause and get them to take action “in the field” or on-site? How can you manage and measure that engagement, as well as regular online advocacy? How can you leverage technology to increase member retention? These are the questions Votility set out to answer for the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR).
IPCPR is the oldest, largest and most active trade association representing premium retail tobacconists and their suppliers. It provides support and advocacy services for independent retail tobacconists, and seeks to influence tobacco legislation in their favor.
IPCPR approached Votility with several challenges.
Who They Are and What They Do
The American Red Cross is a humanitarian organization that provides help to those in need. Whether in an emergency or during everyday struggles, the Red Cross aims to be there to help. Thousands of organization employees, volunteers, and donors work together to offer services for disaster relief, support of military families, education on health and safety, global humanitarian work, and blood drives.
Who They Are and What They Do
The Nature Conservancy is a charitable environmental organization that celebrates Earth Day every day of the year. The organization—made up of individuals, businesses, communities, government agencies, and others—is active in all fifty states in the U.S., and in thirty-five different countries. Its over 1 million members work to conserve land and water and make a lasting difference in protecting nature and life across the planet.
Who They Are and What They Do
Safe Passage is based in Yarmouth, Maine. The organization works to bring education, opportunity, and hope to at-risk children and families who live in extreme poverty near the garbage dump in Guatemala City. The organization is made up of dedicated professionals, teachers, staff, sponsors, and volunteers from various countries all over the world. They help over 550 children that range anywhere from 2 to 21 years old.