SmartCause Digital

Online Advocacy for the Nonprofit SuperStaffer

Apr 30, 2012

Last week, I had the pleasure of leading a webinar for NTEN called "Online Advocacy for the Nonprofit Superstaffer" that featured some fantastic panelists.

Here are some lessons, tips and tricks that I've picked up for:

  • Managing online advocacy among many other duties
  • What works and doesn't work in state and federal advocacy
  • Choosing and using advocacy software

Managing Online Advocacy Among Many Other Duties

Identify the crisis advocacy decision-making team and process

Be ready for any advocacy opportunity by creating and documenting your organization's advocacy decision-making process. Who needs to be consulted? Who gives the final approval? Who "hits send" or "says go"? You may find it helpful to create a RACI chart to demonstrate and document the team's roles.

Pre-draft and approve issue-based messaging for use in support of and opposition to bills

Months before legislative session begins, draft messaging around your organization's core issues that can be used to support or oppose bills that may come before the legislature. The writing and approval process may be folded into other communications projects such as the creation of the annual report or the annual appeal.

Keep peers and staff informed of legislature schedules and deadlines

Make sure everyone in the office has key legislative deadlines marked in their calendar. This will help you amend the organization's email calendar or find time on the executive director's agenda, when needed.

Include advocacy in communications projects and metrics dashboards

"Care and feeding of the masses" is one of my favorite phrases. Keep supporters engaged year-around by highlighting advocacy issues in communications pieces such as enewsletters and board updates. Keep staff engaged by including advocacy metrics in the monthly performance report.

What Works & Doesn't Work in State & Federal Advocacy

Start with the base

Start your mobilization campaign with the most likely activists and work out. For example, send a quick email to all people who have taken action on a past action alert. Then reach out to staff and board. From there, start sending messages to donors, volunteers and supporters who support the issue under consideration.

Connect with your organization's issues and current events

Talk about your organization's issues and values, and avoid mentioning confusing bill numbers. If the country is talking about issues and candidates, connect your issue to the election cycle.

Check out industry benchmarks but value your own metrics

Review nonprofit online benchmarks to understand how online campaigns are evolving. Focus on your own organization's metrics to truly understand how *your* online campaigns are performing.

Make it a multi-channel campaign

Combine your online and offline tools into a comprehensive campaign. Place an advocacy flyer to the annual luncheon chairs, in addition to sending an email message. Ask your supporters to call and write their elected officials in addition to reaching out via email.

Tell a good story

Keep it timely, keep it actionable and keep it achievable. Talk about one person's story, not thousands. Give your supporters a deadline and a goal: "We need 50 people to call by tomorrow!" (Learn more about how to tell good stories via email.)

Choosing & Using Advocacy Software

Consider the long- and short-term costs of software. Does the software include annual fees? Is there a per-user license fee? Can staff make updates or will your organization have to hire a consultant?

Consider what analytics your organization wants to track. Do you want to see email opens within a supporters record? Do you want to know what issues are important to a specific supporter? Do you want to be able to query based on past action, donation levels or the day they joined the email list?

Consider how you want your advocacy software to integrate with some of your other important software, such as fundraising databases and content management systems. After all, one study shows that advocates are 7 times more likely to donate!

Check out Idealware's article about eadvocacy tools for a great reference piece.

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About the Author

Yesenia SoteloYesenia Sotelo is a digital skills trainer and web developer.

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