LGBTQ+ advocacy strategies to generate advocates year-round
Why LGBTQ+ advocacy is always-on from here on
It’s more important than ever for LGBTQ+ organizations to effectively advocate on behalf of LGBTQ+ people. While there’s often increased attention on issues affecting the community during Pride month, meaningful and lasting change happens when advocacy happens year-round.
To illustrate, by the time 2023 Pride began on June 1, there were already over 500 pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation proposed or passed in state legislatures across the country. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) declared a national state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people on June 6, 2023, the first state of emergency ever declared in its history spanning four decades.
The good news is that nonprofit organizations, advocacy organizations, businesses, individuals, and other changemakers can successfully advocate for a better future for LGBTQ+ people with support from the right strategies and tools. In this blog, we’ll explore a few key types of advocacy that help organizations drive positive change; tactics that unite and activate supporters; and technology to make this important work more effective and efficient. Let’s go!
Key types of advocacy
Before organizations can create advocates for their cause, they need to make people aware of the issues they’re trying to solve. This is where issue awareness comes in. Issue awareness campaigns and messages can be directed at existing or potential supporters, with the goal of educating them about a specific issue.
Often, the central issue is a specific policy or a cultural phenomenon that the organization seeks to promote or eliminate. Depending on the organization’s size and locality, there may be specific local issues or pieces of legislation that are most important for them to make supporters aware of. For example, a local nonprofit working on educational issues may raise awareness about specific school board policies with the aim of making them more inclusive.
Issue awareness is often a foundational step in advocacy work, and it’s important to make sure that your organization’s issue awareness work uses specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals to measure progress. One example of a SMART goal within an issue awareness campaign might be:
Technology like a unified constituent relationship management (CRM) platform with easy-to-use targeting functionality can help an organization running that issue awareness campaign to easily track and store the new and existing supporters who engage with their digital ads and social media posts. Later, that information can be used to target the most active and educated supporters and get them involved. For example, if you know which supporters interacted with your issue awareness campaign and learned about your work, you might then ask those specific supporters to contact their local library boards and express support for the drag story time bill currently in committee.
Legislative advocacy and lobbying
Legislative advocacy happens when someone contacts lawmakers with the goal of influencing legislation. Whether at the local, state, or federal level, legislative advocacy and lobbying are direct ways to influence governance and policy that affect the daily lives of thousands, if not millions.
Here are some tips for engaging supporters in legislative advocacy:
- Prep supporters for real-time meetings: If you’re engaging in-person, it’s important to be respectful of and ready to meet the legislative official and their staff. You can empower your supporters to make the most of these opportunities by preparing and sharing on-message talking points with supporters in advance; brainstorming with supporters so they’re prepared to communicate through their lived experiences and stories as well as data; and arriving on time.
- Remove barriers to participation with digital tools: If you’re engaging asynchronously and via email or phone, a high volume of messages concentrated at once will make a bigger impact. Fortunately, technology like digital advocacy tools make this easy to do for staff and supporters alike. Ask supporters to host an event dedicated to phone banking or sending advocacy messages, or drive supporters to an advocacy form with a pre-written message, fields that automatically connect them to a complete list of their representatives, and a time-bound call to action.
There are a multitude of advocacy messages that advocates can share with officials at different levels, and the right one for your campaign will depend on the audience, who’s sharing the message, and your goals. Creating change is not a “one-size-fits-all” effort—there’s room for many voices.
Individual advocacy organizations can only create so much change separately—by coming together in-person and virtually with those who have similar beliefs and goals, passionate advocates can build more power and create more capacity for driving change. That’s why advocacy organizations and activists organizing their local communities toward action can be such a useful way to drive positive change on LGBTQ+ issues.
Community organizing is work that’s often not associated with a specific electoral “finish line”—instead, it’s a practice that takes place over time and across a broad range of situations, with the purpose of engaging neighbors to create change that benefits everyone. Community organizing often involves coalition-building, or working with allied entities and organizations to meet shared goals. For example, an organization focused on LGBTQ+ advocacy might build a coalition with racial justice organizations and labor unions to organize around safer and more just schools and workplaces; with Indigenous groups and climate change advocacy groups to build power around environmental justice initiatives; or with domestic violence reduction organizations to allocate municipal budget funds toward more inclusive shelters and housing resources for survivors.
Going to a school board meeting in person to advocate for inclusive policies can be less scary, especially for newer advocates, if coalition members attend as allies—and it can make your message more effective, too. Similarly, attending volunteer events with LGBTQ+ people and allies can be a healing experience, giving everyone involved the energy needed to continue their efforts. These are just some of the reasons why anyone interested or involved in LGBTQ+ advocacy should consider engaging with their local community to move collectively toward action.
Tactics to activate LGBTQ+ advocates year-round
Letters to the editor
This tactic is important especially when newspapers, magazines, and other media entities publish editorial content that is harmful to LGBTQ+ people. One of the most high-profile letters to the editor in recent memory came from GLAAD and hundreds of advocacy organizations and addressed the New York Times regarding the anti-trans and transphobic content they published.
Letters to the editor don’t have to happen at such a large scale—they can be directed at local and regional media organizations, too. And once your letters are published, you can get the word out and encourage supporters to read and share them. Mobile messaging can be a great way to share exciting or time-sensitive updates. Given that our friends at M+R found that nonprofits increased the volume of advocacy-specific mobile messages they were sending by 12% between 2021 and 2022, it’s clear that this is a growing channel that can really help LGBTQ+ organizations spread the word.
Host a lobby day
Provide your supporters with an experience they won’t forget: an in-person (or virtual) lobby day where they can meet directly with legislators and/or their staff. This tactic works well if you have a staff member who is knowledgeable about lobbying, can schedule the meeting, and can lead your group.
Seminars, trainings, and webinars
Education is so important when it comes to generating advocates. Many allies and would-be advocates want to help but might not have all of the tools or knowledge to fully do so. Address these gaps with seminars, trainings, and webinars focused on specific types of allyship or advocacy. For example, Equality Virginia recently hosted trainings on how to advocate for LGBTQ-inclusive policies at school board meetings, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America developed a rhythm of consistent virtual trainings to scale up their National Volunteer Program in 2022.
Provide frequent updates on key issues
To keep supporters engaged and enthused about LGBTQ+ issues, your organization should provide frequent updates on issues as news breaks. By meeting supporters in the moment, you have a better chance at driving them to action.
The good news is that you don’t need to spend hours on end searching for relevant news or updates. There are many organizations and websites that track and host updated, relevant information on LGBTQ+ issues, such as:
- LGBTQ+ Victory Fund’s Out for America map, which is the most comprehensive resource for identifying currently serving and out LGBTQ+ elected officials in the U.S.
- Equality Federation has an up-to-the-minute State Legislation Tracker for LGBTQ+ issues.
- The Human Rights Campaign hosts a wealth of knowledge on the resources section of its website. Types of resources include everything from fact sheets to searchable databases to state scorecards!
- GLAAD publishes studies on LGBTQ+ issues in media. Their research ranges from their Accelerating Acceptance Study to their Social Media Safety Index.
Social media advocacy
Today’s advocate may spend a lot of time on social media, posting and sharing about the issues they care most about. With the reach that platforms like TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram provide, it’s increasingly likely that content related to your cause will “go viral”. That’s why it’s important for advocacy organizations like yours to post regularly on social media, keep track of your most active fans and supporters, and provide your audiences with shareable links to advocacy actions and issue-related content.
The possibilities for LGBTQ+ advocacy are endless. Pride is forever.
These are just some of the many ways that organizations can generate advocacy actions and build advocate relationships to support the LGBTQ+ community. This list is by no means exhaustive, and what might work for your organization may be different based on your organization type, size, location, mission, and so much more.
Regardless of the specific strategies, tactics, and technology your organization uses, know that staying still or quiet is the one thing to avoid—starting small and taking some type of action is most important. To create change over time, organizations and individuals will need to take collective, frequent, and sustained advocacy action to support LGBTQ+ people. From here on out, Pride is forever.