Advocacy campaigns have the potential to make a tangible difference in the lives of everyday people. But whether it’s targeting a specific piece of legislation or bringing attention to an under-addressed issue, a well-run advocacy campaign doesn’t happen overnight.
Many campaigns are the culmination of months, or even years, of grassroots work and community building. Not to mention that most modern advocacy campaigns are backed by the right digital resources to optimize their potential outreach. However, even as campaigns advance and improve their tactics, organizers everywhere can benefit from studying past examples of effective advocacy to learn why and how they succeeded.
Examples of advocacy can be found at every level, from local grassroots movements to national campaigns. New organizers can use these examples as models for their own plans, while experts can gain new strategies they may not have considered before.
To inspire your next campaign, this article will explore five example advocacy campaigns and how they found success through the following points:
- What Makes an Advocacy Campaign Successful?
- Trends in Advocacy Examples
- Advocacy in Action: 5 Examples of Advocacy Campaigns
Each advocacy example will provide an overview of the campaign’s path to accomplishing their mission and offer takeaways that your advocacy group can apply to your own organizational practices. Let’s get started.
What Makes an Advocacy Campaign Successful?
While each of the advocacy examples that we’ll cover were successful, a campaign’s success can be measured in several ways. As you assess advocacy campaigns both here and in other reading, pay attention to the following indicators of success:
- Legislation was changed in response to the campaign. The most obvious indicator of success for political advocacy examples is whether or not the targeted piece of legislation was changed in the organization’s favor. However, keep in mind that even the most organized advocacy groups sometimes need to launch multiple campaigns over multiple legislative sessions to see the change they want.
- The organization’s goals were furthered. Most advocacy organizations have broader goals that all of their campaigns work towards fulfilling. For example, an environmental conservation advocacy group may be concerned with a few key pieces of legislation, while also focusing on raising awareness of topics such as climate change and pollution more generally. Increased awareness is difficult to measure, and multifaceted campaigns sometimes need to be evaluated by looking at overall trends and shifts in the political conversations they’re concerned with.
- The organization saw significant growth due to the campaign. Organizations can assess their internal success by monitoring improvements in their outreach efforts, number of supporters, donations collected, and more. Even campaigns that don’t change legislation still have the potential to help an organization grow their influence and resources, setting their next campaign up for a better chance at success.
For your own campaigns, make sure your organization has the tools in place to measure key metrics outside of whether or not certain legislation passed. Pay attention to your overall volunteer count, volunteer retention, ability to put volunteers in conversation with elected officials, and more.
For the advocacy examples described below, consider how the organizations were not only able to make policy changes but also improve their advocacy group’s standing overall.
Trends in Advocacy Examples
Advocacy campaigns have evolved over the years, meaning the trends of successful advocacy campaigns today may not match up with the trends of even five years ago.
In 2021, even small grassroots campaigns often rely on software and digital outreach to accomplish their goals. Here are just a few trending ways advocacy campaigns are using software and online resources to find success:
- Peer-to-peer campaigns. Peer-to-peer advocacy leverages your supporters’ network of friends, family, co-workers, and other points of contact that your organization may not have access to. While some people may join up with an advocacy group of their own volition, many are more likely to contribute to an advocacy organization if a trusted friend or family member asks for their support.
- Personalized messaging. While digital outreach has made it possible to get in touch with both supporters and elected officials almost instantaneously, many people have grown wise to generic online marketing tactics. This means that personal stories are just as important as they have ever been. Effective campaign organizers know this and use their software to personalize their messaging to advocates and encourage these supporters to do the same when contacting their representatives.
- Convenient mobilization practices. Software has increased the ease with which your supporters can participate in advocacy. Many examples of advocacy have gone the extra mile to make the process as easy as possible when calling their supporters to action. Some even enable supporters to send messages to their elected representatives straight from the organization’s website.
While your organization doesn’t need to strictly follow these trends to run a successful campaign, keeping an eye on trends can provide insight into how advocacy as a whole has transformed. This is why studying past advocacy examples matters: by studying previous campaigns, you can build on past strategies and use modern tactics to find even greater success.
Advocacy in Action: 5 Examples of Advocacy Campaigns
No two advocacy campaigns are exactly alike, but studying advocacy examples in a variety of fields can help your campaign grow in new and innovative ways. Read through the following five examples of advocacy in action to get inspired for your next campaign:
Chamber of Digital Commerce
Along with nonprofits and grassroots groups, trade associations can also advance their interests through advocacy. This is showcased in the work that the Chamber of Digital Commerce does to promote the acceptance of blockchain and other digital assets.
Appropriately, the Chamber of Digital Commerce excels in digital advocacy, setting up their website to point supporters straight to their current advocacy campaigns. Their homepage wastes no time explaining their mission and calling visitors to participate in their next event. Further down the page, users can also find an overview of the Chamber of Digital Commerce’s current top priorities and multiple clickable resources for each, investing visitors to learn more in whatever manner they prefer.
However, the Chamber of Digital Commerce doesn’t stop at providing educational resources for supporters. Their website also features resources for legislators that break down fairly complex topics like blockchain in a way that is relevant to elected officials’ interests.
Lastly, the Chamber of Digital Commerce proudly displays their partnerships with several other organizations, who share similar legislative goals. While all advocacy organizations can benefit from joining up with like-minded organizations, new grassroots groups who have yet to establish an internal membership base can grow significantly by creating these working relationships and putting themselves into conversation with other organizations’ member bases.
Even if your advocacy group doesn’t specialize in online marketing and communication, you can still create a user-friendly website to help facilitate your campaign. Integrate your advocacy work throughout your website intuitively by including a navigation link to a “Policy” or “Advocacy” page that users can access at any time.
Then, ensure your advocacy content is highly visible and points users towards the next step to support your campaign.
Virginia Nurses Association
The COVID-19 pandemic caused many medical and health-based advocacy groups to face unprecedented challenges. Among these organizations, the Virginia Nurses Association (VNA) rose to the occasion, representing the interests of over 100,000 registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Balancing the needs of a country in crisis and the health and safety of their members, the VNA lobbied legislators and their state governor to:
- Expand Medicare Telehealth in Virginia to reduce costs and unnecessary exposure.
- Continue to explore all available avenues to ensure an adequate supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for healthcare providers.
- Ensure transparency in communication about PPE and that resources are available to healthcare providers if there is inadequate PPE.
- Ban all nonessential gatherings of any size.
They backed up their demands by providing comprehensive information on COVID-19 and its impacts on patients and nurses alike on their website. This ensures any visitors will be able to quickly ascertain the reasoning behind the VNA’s agenda and learn how they can further support the cause by sharing informational resources on social media.
2020 taught many advocacy groups that unexpected challenges and crises that can dramatically impact your field do happen. While no advocacy leader can be expected to have contingency plans for every emergency, ensure your organization does have protocol for continuing to advocate and respond to new challenges in more difficult times.
Richmond Association of Realtors
The Richmond Association of Realtors (RAR) is a local Richmond trade association dedicated to advancing real estate legislation. With over 4,500 members, their team had trouble matching each individual to the right elected official until they invested in geo-targeting software.
Messages from individuals who aren’t in an elected official’s district will do very little to sway their vote. Many advocacy groups (of which RAR was previously included) use zip-to-district matching. While ZIP codes can help many find their representatives, many ZIP codes don’t follow the boundary lines of congressional districts. This means that approximately 22.6 million Americans can’t rely on zip-to-district matching tools to pair them with their representative.
By contrast, geo-targeting focuses on individual activists’ location and compares their residence to the position of congressional districts. This allows advocacy organizations like RAR to isolate and target the right elected officials for all of their supporters.
Whether your campaign is targeted at the federal, state, or local level, matching your supporters with their representatives is vital for effective messaging. While some parts of advocacy campaigns can theoretically be run without advocacy software, accurate matching requires assistive technology, especially as your organization grows.
To make sure each of your supporters’ messages finds the right elected officials, take the time to research your local officials and invest in advocacy software with geo-targeting technology.
Virginia Forestry Association
Advocacy software doesn’t just allow organizations to send more messages to their supporters. It also enables organizations to send more engaging messages, as the Virginia Forestry Association (VFA) discovered.
Prior to investing in advocacy software, the VFA had trouble engaging their members, sending them emails that encouraged them to take action on their own time. Not to mention that without advocacy software, the VFA lacked the analytics tools to understand which members actually followed through and messaged their representatives.
The VFA saw its membership engagement increase to 80% after implementing advocacy software with sophisticated messaging and communication tools. Specifically, they were able to make use of Action Alerts, messages that tell supporters who to contact, provide a message template, and encourage them to action right at that moment.
In addition, the VFA’s new reporting tools allowed them to monitor each individual supporters’ actions and make data-driven decisions regarding outreach and membership engagement.
Digital advocacy is so effective because it prioritizes convenience. Asking supporters to take extra steps, such as researching who their representative is and figuring out when to send their message, will likely result in fewer messages sent. Invest in advocacy tools that take care of the logistics for your supporters and allow them to focus on telling their story about why your campaign matters to them.
Additionally, you can only measure your engagement if you have the right tools set up beforehand. Make sure your advocacy software has comprehensive reporting features that allow you to track key metrics, such as engagement, for each campaign.
Home Building Association of Richmond
The Home Building Association of Richmond (HBAR) is an example of how advocacy groups with strong lobbying teams can use technology to play to their strengths and heighten their influence.
Focused on local housing regulations, the HBAR already knew how to get in touch with stakeholders in their local area through phone calls and email. Membership directories and mass communication tools allow advocacy groups to get in touch with hundreds of supporters at a time, a task that’s near impossible with traditional means. With advocacy software, the HBAR was able to grow their membership base, reaching out to key stakeholders in far greater numbers than their limited technology previously allowed.
After several years of dedicated advocacy work, the HBAR crafted a piece of legislation relevant to the home building industry. From there, their organization used their software tools to rally their new, expansive base of local supporters to contact their elected officials in far greater numbers than they could relying on traditional methods.
Their bill was passed into law, and today, the HBAR continues to take action, advocating for policy change in 14 counties with the backing of nearly 400 businesses pledging their support.
The HBAR demonstrates how advocacy software can elevate already competent teams to the next level. Whether your advocacy group is brand new or well established, incorporating the right technology to supplement your advocacy efforts can dramatically increase the scale and responsiveness of your campaigns.
Bonus: Looking for tips on how to choose the right advocacy software for your organization? Check out Muster's eBook 10 Facts to Consider Before Purchasing Advocacy Software.
Advocacy examples showcase how organizations with focused goals and the right resources can sway public opinion and push forward meaningful change in their respective fields. These inspiring examples should motivate your own grassroots advocacy group to continue advocating for your goals and seek out creative solutions to overcome both common and unexpected challenges.
After learning from these advocacy examples, you can study the strategies and tools they used by reading further about what makes advocacy effective. Here are a few comprehensive guides on core components of advocacy to get you started:
- The Ultimate Guide to Advocacy Campaigns (+ Best Practices). Advocacy campaigns have many moving parts, and running multiple, organized campaigns requires a rock-solid foundational understanding of campaign best practices. Get familiar with the ins and outs of advocacy campaigns with this guide.
- What is Digital Advocacy? Digital advocacy has transformed the way organizations contact supporters and elected officials alike. Learn the nuances of digital advocacy and how it can take your campaign to the next level.
- Grassroots Advocacy 101: A Guide for Those New to Political Advocacy. If you’re new to grassroots advocacy, look no further than this beginner’s guide to political grassroots movements. Learn the who, what, when, where, and why of grassroots advocacy before starting your own campaigns.