Empowering Advocacy Through Technology
Do you need to raise public awareness in order to serve your organization’s mission? Do you need to maintain public funding for your organization? Do you protect or fight for social issues important to your organization?
These are all goals of traditional advocacy. Online advocacy uses the viral marketing capabilities of e-mail and the Internet to meet these same goals. Keeping your supporters informed and engaged doesn’t have to mean an expensive direct-mail or phone campaign. In fact, you can motivate your supporters through e-mail and allow them to take action right from your Web site. Through online advocacy, your organization also can offer supporters the ability to get their peers involved in issues that are important to them — which helps you reach a broader network and can result in a more effective and further-reaching campaign.
First, it’s important to inform your supporters of important issues affecting your cause. The next step is to inspire them through engaging, personalized communications. By providing supporters with easily accessible tools, you give them incentive to immediately take action. Finally, you must interact with your supporters on a regular basis to keep them informed and inspired so they’ll be more likely to take future action on your organization’s behalf. Follow these steps to take your grassroots advocacy campaigns to the next level:
1) Inform: The first step of any advocacy campaign is to educate supporters and potential advocates.
- Publish an informative alert or a call to action on your Web site or via e-mail so your supporters can learn about an issue and immediately take action.
- Give your supporters access to directories with easy-to-use search capabilities, so they can access information on every elected official, including information about committees, Congressional staff, contact information and more.
- Track key legislation on your Web site to keep your supporters informed and up to date.
- Stay informed of what’s happening on Capitol Hill, when a bill is “on the floor” or if it is referred to committee or conference, and keep your supporters informed of proceedings in Congress. Quickly rally support by posting an action alert on important issues.
- Choose specific votes to display based on ZIP code, along with vote descriptions, to inform your supporters of actions in their areas.
- Keep score on your Web site of members of Congress, how they voted on each bill, and how often each member voted in support of your position.
- Provide floor and committee schedules for Congress.
- Reach out and inform your potential supporters. Publish your alerts on Yahoo, MSN, AOL and other media sites. Alerts should include a link to your Web site so activists can get more information about your organization.
2) Inspire: The key to inspiring your audience is to present the information in a personalized way to each supporter.
- Design e-mail messaging about key legislation to inspire your supporters with personalized content that interests them.
- Customize content for the advocacy area of your Web site and spotlight the issues designed to inspire your supporters.
3) Initiate action: Advocacy requires action from your supporters. Give them the tools to initiate action on the issues that impact your organization.
- Motivate supporters and potential supporters to take action with personalized e-mail and Web content based on each Web site visitor’s interests and history with your organization.
- Make it easy for your supporters to initiate action. Connect your supporters via e-mail with members of Congress, the President, other governmental officials, or any recipient you choose. Offer templated messages they easily can customize with personal accounts.
- Extend your message and your reach. Encourage your supporters to send e-mails — including news, alerts and a link to your Web site — to friends and other potential supporters.
- Give your supporters the tools they need to alert the media about issues that are important to them.
4) Interact: Successful advocacy keeps supporters involved, even after they’ve taken action and an issue is closed. Build long-lasting relationships with your supporters with tools to promote ongoing interaction.
- Keep in touch with your supporters about key legislation after they’ve taken action. Customize e-mail messaging to encourage future action, including financial contributions.
- Turn donors into advocates and advocates into donors. Customize content on your Web site for each donor and advocate, offering multiple ways to support your organization. Leverage the history with all your constituents to personalize every communication, keeping them interested in helping you and your cause.
You can increase your prospective donor base by first asking potential supporters to act on your behalf — it’s then easier to turn those supporters into donors. Over time, you’ll continue to know more about your supporters and what motivates them, which will help you better target your future nonprofit advocacy marketing appeals for action or for financial support. The key is to create an online community in which your supporters come to stay informed and be inspired.
Charlie Cumbaa is vice president of products and services at Blackbaud Inc.