Let’s say you’re a nonprofit professional looking to establish an advocacy campaign for your cause. The mission behind your organization is important to you, and you want to raise awareness so that others can get involved as well. In the end, your ultimate goal is to enact positive change in your community or on a grander scale.
How can you launch this type of campaign, create an effective marketing plan, and maximize its potential?
What is a nonprofit advocacy campaign?
An advocacy campaign is a unique campaign strategy used by many nonprofits to draw in new supporters, increase exposure for the cause, and create change on a local, state, or national level.
An advocacy campaign differs from other nonprofit campaigns in that the main goal is generally not to collect donations. Although some advocacy campaigns will indeed call for donations to directly solve a problem, other key objectives include boosting awareness and gathering supporters to complete a certain action, like signing a petition or making a phone call.
The overall goal for an advocacy campaign is to create a change. Regardless of the mission, you support or the path you choose to follow, there are a few tactics you can use to bring your campaign to the next level.
Consider these 4 strategies to make the most out of your advocacy campaign:
- Establish good storytelling practices.
- Use the right tools.
- Foster relationships with representatives.
- Boost your campaign with social media.
Ready to get started? Let’s jump in.
1. Establish good storytelling practices.
Your advocacy campaign is essentially a platform for telling your story— what your nonprofit does, why and how you were founded, why your mission is so important, etc. This is how you draw in new supporters and develop a team willing to fight for a needed change.
Consider these three storytelling tips:
- Use emotion. Targeting your audience’s emotions is a great way to foster a connection with your nonprofit. When your audience has strong feelings towards an issue at hand, they are more likely to take action. Tell a true story of a particular group your organization is trying to assist, and encourage your audience to picture themselves in the story. By doing so, you can evoke feelings like a desire for an improved world, compassion for others, or even rage at injustice.
- Explain the proposed solution. Unraveling your audience’s emotions won’t do you any good if you don’t have an outlet to direct that support toward. This is the perfect opportunity to bring in your nonprofit and the work you are doing. Whether you are advocating for a change in policy, awareness of a relevant issue, or signatures on a petition, you can once again bring your audience into the story by placing an emphasis on how they can help solve the problem.
- Include pictures. You’ve heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Well, it’s cliche, but true. By using intriguing, eye-catching images in your marketing materials, you can grab the attention of potential new supporters and lead them into your campaign. Photos easily illustrate the issue, why it matters, who it matters to, and how your audience can help.
The key is to leave the story open-ended and conclude with a specific call-to-action. Encourage your audience to be part of the solution by completing a particular action. By the end of your story, the supporter should know exactly what they are being asked and how to follow up.
2. Use the right tools.
Before undertaking any new project, it is crucial to have all the tools you might need. Luckily for you, there are thousands of software options available to help you do pretty much anything. What used to be a fairly drawn out, manually intensive set of processes can now be streamlined with digital tools and automated resources.
Find a set of tools with comprehensive features including:
- Online petitions: When you gather thousands of individuals as a collective voice, you increase the likelihood of your representatives taking you seriously and actually doing something about the issue at hand. Online advocacy software knows this, and has made it increasingly easy to start a petition, send it out to the world, and encourage supporters to sign and share.
- Click-to-call: Click-to-call functionality creates a quick and easy way for supporters to connect with their representatives by automating the process. This decreases the research and effort from the user, and as a result increases the volume of calls going through— once again, amplifying your voice! You may also choose to provide a script or outline to further simplify the conversation.
- Legislator lookup: When a user does have to search for the appropriate representative to contact, a legislator lookup tool makes this as simple as possible. A supporter enters their zip code or address, and is provided with their legislators and available contact information.
- Alerts and updates: Your supporters likely want to keep informed on your mission and find out if there is anything they can do to help. Using tools with the ability to send out alerts and updates is an excellent way to send out mass communications to those who have already gotten involved.
No matter the technological route you choose, the right tools can cover a wide range of tasks vital to your organization. One recent trend uses optimized mobile apps to empower the supporters of your advocacy campaign.
The best resources can easily integrate with other tools so that the information collected can quickly stream from one program to another. For example, with your tools integrated, your advocacy app would be in communication with your CRM and your advocacy software! In fact, Salsa refers to this as an advocacy software ecosystem.
3. Foster relationships with representatives.
Because of the vital role that legislators play in enacting change to your community, it is a good idea to try to get them on your team. Having an elected official backing your cause increases the likelihood of real action being taken.
Follow these 5 key tips to leverage your organization’s relationship with local legislators:
- Ask your supporters what their main concerns are. Consider taking a poll on social media or asking your followers to rank their top grievances. This will give you a better understanding of what your supporters want to see changing around them.
- Decide on no more than three asks. Compile your list of concerns and decide on three that have been repeated the most among your supporters. These three will become your asks— the specific requests you plan to bring to your representatives in hopes of change.
- Request a meeting with your local representative. Find your legislator’s contact information (using a legislator lookup tool!) and call their district office to set up an appointment. Plan for your meeting to last about 20 minutes; 10 of which should cover your nonprofit’s mission, with the final 10 minutes devoted to your asks.
- Follow-up afterwards. Send a thank-you email a week or two after your initial meeting, and then continue to follow up once a month to check up on the status of your asks. You don’t want to be a nuisance, but you also don’t want to let them forget about you and your cause.
- Encourage others to do the same. Gather other supporters of your nonprofit and set up meetings in other districts with other officials. Provide your list of asks to other advocates that meet with representatives so as to keep everyone on the same page.
Elected representatives know that part of their job includes keeping their constituents happy and taking their wants and needs into consideration. Take advantage of this by reaching out and making your voice heard.
4. Boost your campaign with social media.
Social media platforms are an excellent way to reach thousands of supporters at once, while also increasing your reach and exposure to new audiences. Social media can be an invaluable tool for your advocacy campaign— as long as you know how to use it.
Check out our 4 top tips to boost your campaign with social media:
- Gather input. Social media gives individual supporters a voice and an opportunity to impact the greater organization. Encouraging supporters to share their ideas and concerns reiterates the fact that your nonprofit is fighting for the people. For example, you can request input when determining your asks for your legislative meeting!
- Encourage supporters to share your posts. One of the greatest benefits of social media is the shareability. When you post engaging updates to your social media and encourage your current followers to interact with and share your posts, you increase your network to include their families and friends as well.
- Try different angles. Mix up your current social strategy. Try different calls-to-action and varying approaches to see what works best. Maybe you are seeing high conversion rates with online petitions, and lower rates with click-to-calls. If you notice that one of your posts is doing particularly well, try to determine what makes it stand out and emulate that with other posts.
- Explore various platforms. According to Double the Donation, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are currently the top three platforms for digital advocacy. Each offers unique benefits to your advocacy campaign (such as real-time updates, photo sharing, metric reports, etc.), so consider a combination of a few to maximize your campaign’s impact.
When your social media campaign successfully reaches new supporters, you continue to grow your voice. It is also a great way to keep your current followers up-to-date with the status of your mission. Celebrate reaching goals such as gathering your target petition signatures or convincing a representative to take action, so that your supporters see the difference they are making.
By taking advantage of a few crucial tools, you are on your way to maximizing your nonprofit’s impact on the cause. If you’re ready to take your nonprofit advocacy to the next level, click here to discover other key strategies and techniques for running a world-changing campaign.
Keep fighting to make the world a better place. Best of luck!
Gerard Tonti is the Senior Creative Developer at Salsa Labs, a fundraising software company for growth-focused nonprofits. Gerard’s marketing focus on content creation, conversion optimization and modern marketing technology helps him coach nonprofit development teams on digital fundraising best practices.