Advocacy for everyone: 6+ ways to help your supporters take action
No matter how your nonprofit organization is making change in the world, it’s impacted by others’ decisions, whether those decisions come from local and national legislators, corporations, institutions, or others who hold power and shape the way we live our lives. That’s why we often say that advocacy is for everyone: when decisions are being made that affect your organization’s work, mission, and vision, it just makes sense to get involved, unite your supporters, and move them to take action with you in pursuit of a specific mission-oriented goal.
Maybe you consider advocacy a core strategy for advancing your mission, or maybe advocacy is new to you. Either way, we think activating your supporters should be easy and effective. Here are six ways to empower your supporters to advocate on behalf of your mission, with support from technology that makes it a smooth and efficient experience.
Collecting petition signatures
A petition is many things: a way to quantify support around an issue; a tactic that helps bring new supporters on board; a relatively light lift to help keep passionate advocates engaged. Some have even described it as a grassroots rally on paper. Ultimately, what matters is that in advocacy, no one is an island—advocates derive strength and power from numbers, and a petition is one of the quickest and easiest ways to demonstrate the collective will of your supporters. An effective digital petition form should include a few key features and characteristics.
- Clear and concise messaging—make it easy for supporters to understand your ask and the urgency behind it.
- Mobile optimization—M+R’s Benchmarks for the year 2022 found that “users on mobile devices (including both phones and tablets) accounted for 57% of nonprofit website traffic.” This volume makes it clear that optimizing for mobile isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a need-to-have.
- Easily shareable on social media—this empowers supporters to spread your message even further with just a few clicks.
- A secondary ask—sometimes referred to as “daisy-chaining,” including a follow-up with an ask for a donation or a re-share once a supporter has submitted the first form can be an extremely effective way of continuing to engage your supporters.
Contacting elected officials and other decision-makers
Your supporters hold many identities: they’re legislative constituents from the federal level down to the municipal level; they’re consumers and customers; they’re community members. This means their voices hold power in a range of ways. You can harness this power by making it easy for them to fill out an advocacy form and contact the decision-makers who need to hear from them with targeted messages. Here are a few ways you and your technology can help your supporters send a clear message:
- Write a message for supporters to use when contacting the stakeholder—this can help lower the barrier to participation. You can offer supporters the ability to customize your message, but giving them a starting point can help the process feel less intimidating.
- Automatically match them to their legislator or the decision-maker you’re targeting—if supporters don’t need to navigate away from your page in order to look up who their representatives are or locate contact information for the person they want to share their opinion with, they stand a better chance of completing and sending their message.
- If possible, include a photo of the stakeholder! Visual details can help affirm supporters’ decision to click submit—and can also help them verify that they’re sending their message to the right person.
Using email to share petitions and prompt targeted messages to decision-makers makes the process easy for you and your supporters in several ways. First, you can segment your email to supporters based on data you already have about them in your constituent relationship management (CRM) platform, which will help you make sure you’re sending the most relevant asks possible to your supporters and can anticipate how likely they’ll be to respond based on past behavior. You’ll also be able to see when supporters are opening and clicking in your emails about advocacy, making it that much easier to report on, analyze, and improve your advocacy emails over time—all of which will help you boost your impact.
Calling legislators can be a very effective way of bringing their attention to an issue or cause, and flooding phone lines with thousands of concerned constituent calls means you become essentially impossible to ignore. With click-to-call functionality, advocates simply press a button to be connected to one or multiple elected officials—all you need to do is provide the talking points so that they’ll feel confident in their message. Connecting your phone tools to your other advocacy technology also means you can more easily see which supporters are taking action over the phone with you, which will help you offer them more personalized advocacy opportunities and retain their support over time.
Social media advocacy enables you to mobilize thousands of supporters to get your issue trending, generate grassroots momentum, and keep your issue on the mind(s) of your decision-maker(s.) Whether you’re looking to target elected officials or custom targets like brands or media personalities, enabling your supporters to share your advocacy campaign message and make their voices heard across social media can help you raise the profile of your cause, drive more traffic to an advocacy form or your website, and build more support over time.
Stories help us to better connect with one another as human beings, and when it comes to advocacy, storytelling can be a powerful tool. Story collection forms allow organizations to easily collect personal stories from supporters about how your issues impact their lives. Whether you’re looking for someone to highlight in your newsletter or to testify in front of their state government, collecting stories within your CRM makes it easy to collect, store, and share the right information with the right people at the right time.
Visual and auditory elements make a story stronger by engaging the senses. Your technology should enable you to attach photos and documents, include links for video stories, and easily manage everything within your database.
Lobby days (in-person or virtual!)
Organizing a lobby day is an effective opportunity to rally your supporters in front of elected officials or decisionmakers to directly make the case for your cause. Whether in-person or virtual, like any other type of event, numbers make a difference. The right event management tools are especially important for making your lobby day successful – from RSVP and check-in forms to easy Zoom integrations to sending follow-up messages after the event, your technology should make it easy for you to keep track of and thank your supporters as they advocate for your cause.