This guest post is by Jake Fabbri of Fonteva.
No matter if you’re part of a nonprofit or trade association, you know how vital it is to your continued success that you attract and retain members.
Your members are the people who keep your organization going: they attend your events, advocate for your cause,1 and finance your projects with their dues, merchandise purchases, and donations.
But they’re not your only supporters: you also have your army of advocates on your side. They’re the ones calling senators, tweeting at representatives, and signing petitions for your cause—and they’re especially important in the age of digital advocacy!
From City Council to Congress, there are thousands of elected officials across the country holding public office in various levels of government. Advocacy organizations and associations often "think big" and focus their grassroots efforts on influencing federal policy. However, it is also important that mission-driven groups also consider the impact of policy work on both a state and local level. Local legislators are often more accessible than members of Congress (due to the scope of their legislative work), transforming even one grassroots connection into a powerful point-of-contact. At Muster, we've had the fortune of witnessing many incredible associations and advocacy groups effect change in cities, counties, and in state legislatures nationwide. Below are some tips to get the most out of grassroots advocacy at the local and state levels:
Whether or not your business or organization’s leadership has chosen to publicly participate in the political arena, your team should be monitoring the latest political developments in order to determine if engagement would be beneficial - or necessary - at any point. In the current political climate, it is more important than ever for your organization to be proactive about preparing statements regarding relevant issues (especially in the event that your organization is involuntarily brought into public dialogue). Here are three tips to consider before taking a visible stand:
Social media presents a variety of opportunities to amplify the influence of your digital advocacy campaign. These online outreach effortscan support your advocacy campaign by raising awareness and extending the impact your messaging. We've assembled several ideas you can use today to intensify your advocacy campaign's presence.
Are you headed to sunny Chicago this weekend for ASAE Annual? So are we! Whether your association is already a partner of ours or interested in exploring a different digital advocacy provider, we’d love to learn about how you engage in advocacy. Here are 5 reasons why you should stop by Booth 551 and meet our team:
“Don’t boo, vote” - the legendary words of former President Barack Obama have gained renewed relevance in today’s political climate. With midterm elections closely approaching us in November, nonprofit advocacy groups (with 501(c)(3) status) should commit to remaining steadfastly nonpartisan and focus efforts on voter outreach and candidate education.
In today’s technologically-driven world, data is king. Data collection reigns over decision-making in most industries, but provides particularly exciting opportunities for organizations (such as nonprofits, companies, associations, etc.) to gain deeper insight into their stakeholder base and leverage this knowledge. Untapped data serves no purpose, but exploring data through list segmentation and analysis provides actionable insights into the behavior and properties of stakeholders. In turn, this understanding leads to smarter advocacy, increased engagement and overall greater impact.
Major companies are turning towards advocacy after facing increased pressure to get involved in social and policy issues. According to Public Affairs Council, over 60% of the 92 companies surveyed said that they have been pressured to get involved in social issues, with 74% indicating that pressure will continue to trend up. Whether it be human rights, environmental sustainability, and education, businesses are shifting their business model to a more socially responsible one. As a whole, the world is becoming more and more data-driven. Here are three reasons why private companies should harness the power of digital advocacy:
Member enthusiasm in your trade association's public policy platform will likely pique between December and April when both state and federal legislatures are active. However, a solid member engagement strategy should include strategic contact year-round, particularly in terms of maintaining membership interest in your association's advocacy initiatives. Below we've outlined several ideas you can use to promote your organization's advocacy positions during the summer months:
It’s a grassroots practitioner's worst nightmare: after months of tirelessly and strategically recruiting and engaging advocates, your calls-to-action are suddenly met with radio silence. What happened? Advocate fatigue. Constant communication and access to advocates can lead to unintended advocate burnout. Here are three recommendations to consider in order to avoid losing supporters due to zealous grassroots advocacy.
Most professional trade associations are equipped with association management software (AMS) to streamline their contact management operations. From collecting dues and membership records to event management, a good AMS is a useful tool membership-based organizations. Association management software can alleviate painpoints associated with organizing membership online, but an AMS doesn't provide member engagement opportunities to the same degree as an advocacy platform.
Membership engagement requires strategic planning and continuous nurturing- whether through events, email messaging, social media interaction or personal outreach. The often-overlooked area of membership engagement comes in the form of advocacy software. Implementing a strong advocacy program with a special focus on involving your membership will strengthen membership engagement by connecting members with your association. Below are 3 signs that show that your organization should invest in advocacy software:
Advocacy software is a key puzzle piece to assembling a modern government relations program. With a variety of different digital advocacy tools on the market today, it can be overwhelming to review each advocacy product thoroughly in order to make the right decision that fits your organization’s needs. If you are among the decision-makers evaluating from which advocacy vendor your organization will purchase advocacy software, consider the following 5 factors:
There are many best practices to guide the creation of advocacy campaigns. Most best practices cover high-level concepts that both industry veterans and grassroots professionals understand. So what happens when best practices are followed...yet engagement rates aren't at desired levels? It may not be time to go back to the drawing board, but it may be time to dig a little deeper and start asking questions that lead to better insight. Here are 22 questions to ask before you launch your next advocacy campaign:
As the early months of 2018 unfold, it’s evident that citizens are embracing their constitutionally-protected right to grassroots lobbying. Empowered citizens are giving rise to a tidal wave of political activism through marches, protests, social media movements and grassroots organizing. Just as citizen-to-citizen advocacy is undergoing dramatic transformation thanks to technology, political advocacy in the private sector is adapting to the current activist landscape as well. Companies are increasingly under pressure from consumers to engage in social policy dialogue. Here are 4 trends we expect to see shaping how companies engage in advocacy in 2018:
1. C-Suite Advocacy. Companies who embrace political engagement as a function of their social responsibility will need to approach advocacy from multiple angles. As this article in the Nonprofit Quarterly points out, CEOs are recently taking public stands on political issues - which is revolutionary. Historically, corporate political involvement has been conducted through traditional lobbying and in the halls of government. However, the changing role of advocacy - in both practice and importance - is invigorating C-suite participation in private sector activism.
Online advocacy tools are revolutionizing the way that associations and advocacy groups engage their supporters in the political process. Organizations are increasingly adopting online advocacy services to enable their supporters to voice their opinions through online campaigns. Sending an elected official an email, connecting with a legislator via Twitter or calling a decision-maker through an online campaign are all types of online advocacy. Regardless of the type of advocacy campaign, below are three tips you can use to amplify the grassroots reach of your initiatives:
Image source: unsplash.com
Social media provides many opportunities to amplify an association's messaging. Developing a solid social media strategy is great way to focus on your advocacy objectives while reaching supporters and rallying them around your advocacy goals. Many associations have social media accounts, but don't use them effectively and do not have a streamlined, coherent strategy to engage with their audience online.
Let’s say you’ve organized your membership list, activated your advocates utilizing a digital advocacy platform and sent an online Action Alert. The last step is to examine the progress of your grassroots advocacy campaign and measure its success. But how do you know which metrics to analyze? This blog post outlines three important metrics to monitor as you grow your grassroots advocacy campaign.
Traditionally, companies join relevant trade associations and count on the association's government relations team to lobby for their business interests. Trade associations play an integral role in educating lawmakers and guiding sensible policy creation. For a corporation or other type of business, a potential drawback of relying solely on trade association policy engagement is the risk that specific business interests will not be addressed (Source: this eBook by Lee Drutman). Trade associations generally develop policy positions through the input of members - thus, if only one company encounters an issue hindering business that similar firms are not facing, a trade association’s policy priorities may not include that company’s hurdle in order to focus on policies that impact the association's industry.
A successful grassroots advocacy campaign involves multiple moving parts, but advocacy software can be a valuable addition to any legislative strategy. Making it easier to get members engaged and keep them engaged allows the entire organization to have bigger voice. This bigger voice means more influence on elected officials and impacting public policy that favors your organization. Below are three reasons your organization should consider purchasing advocacy software:
Nonprofits engaging in advocacy should look to Patagonia’s involvement in grassroots and political activism as a leading example of a civic-minded company. Revered for its outdoor gear and apparel, Patagonia has also built an impressive reputation as an environmental champion. A self-described “Activist Company”, Patagonia has proven its commitment to environmental causes for decades (according to this article, Patagonia has hosted grassroots trainings for 20 years!) In recent months, Patagonia has emerged as a trailblazer in the defense of public lands through the use of digital advocacy tools. With the aid of online advocacy, Patagonia inspired civic engagement among like-minded citizens by empowering them through political participation. Here are four things nonprofit organizations can learn from Patagonia’s remarkable environmental activism:
A Chamber of Commerce offers many substantial benefits to its membership. Scroll down to learn about four value propositions offered by Chambers of Commerce to its members, and how these member-focused opportunities often result in positive outcomes for the organization as well.
For many small nonprofit organizations and associations, revenue generated from membership dues is nearly 50% less than top associations (source: Here). Because small organizations may have a limited audience to collect dues from, non-dues revenue is essential. Non-dues revenue is money that is made by an association that is not a membership fee. Collecting non-dues revenue can be difficult for small associations because of the challenges they face to support programs that could become a source for non-dues revenue. However difficult creating such programs may be, it is beneficial to diversify your organization’s revenue stream.
It's undeniable that digital tools have had an incredible impact on influencing public policy and the government relations profession. From nonprofit staff to lobbyists and everyone in between, the adoption of digital tools and strategies has proved valuable in shaping legislation. It's important to understand trends in lobbying and advocacy in order to ensure that your organization - or your client organization - can make an impact in the digital age.
Muster is pleased to announce the opening of a new office space in Arlington, Virginia. Expanding into the greater D.C. area opens a new and exciting chapter for the team as the company grows its presence around the beltway.
In the third episode of our mini-series, "How to Grow Your Grassroots Advocacy Network", our guest, Brian Cannon, Executive Director of OneVirginia2021, discusses the basics of lobbying and how branding influences grassroots advocacy. Brian brings over a decade of experience in non-profit leadership, community building, fundraising, and bipartisan advocacy for state policy issues. Click below to view the second installment of a three-part web series:
Muster's legislative Action Centers are clean, intuitive advocacy hubs for citizens to connect with elected officials. Depending on how your association circulates an Action Center, your team may be interested in embedding the Action Center on a landing page, or elsewhere on your website.
In the second episode of our video mini-series, "How to Grow Your Grassroots Advocacy Network", our guest, Brian Cannon, Executive Director of OneVirginia2021, discusses online and offline tactics nonprofits can use to grow a political advocacy network. Brian brings over a decade of experience in non-profit leadership, community building, fundraising, and bipartisan advocacy for state policy issues. Click below to view the second installment of a three-part web series:
Muster is pleased to announce it has been formally accepted as a Certified Association Executive (CAE) Approved Provider by the ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership. As a CAE Approved Provider, Muster will offer in-person and self-study educational programs in accordance with CAE policies.
What originally began as an idea presented via a Facebook post, the 2017 Women's March acquired nearly 500,000 advocates who showed up in Washington, DC to peacefully rally. The tremendous outcome that resulted from organized political activity on Facebook is proof that the social media platform is an effective grassroots advocacy tool. Let's say you are working on an advocacy campaign for a hypothetical association, the Delicious Food Association, to help achieve their policy goal of eliminating sales tax on chocolate chip cookies. Lawmakers need to hear constituent voices supporting this tax reform, so the association turns to Facebook to spread the word and gain new supporters who can make themselves known to decision-makers.
In the first episode of our video mini-series, "How to Grow Your Grassroots Advocacy Network", our guest, Brian Cannon, Executive Director of OneVirginia2021, lays out the key steps to building a supporter base. We were so honored to speak with Brian about this topic, who is truly an expert in the subject matter! Brian became the Executive Director of OneVirginia2021 in January 2015. He brings over a decade of experience in non-profit leadership, community building, fundraising, and bipartisan advocacy for state policy issues. Click below to view the first installment of a three-part video series:
If you've perused Muster's case studies or marketing materials, you've admired the graphic design work of Corey Vaughn. He has been a creative force on Muster's team for nearly a year. Corey studied Creative Advertising at Virginia Commonwealth University and keeps Muster's branding on point. Here are a few fun things to know about Corey:
If you attended Muster's first annual "Civic Engagement and Advocacy Panel", you may have met Khalil Grant. He has been an integral member of the Muster team for over a year now. A Virginia native, Khalil studied Creative Advertising at Virginia Commonwealth University and is a key player in driving Muster's operations forward. Here are a few fun facts about Khalil:
When paired with grassroots advocacy software, a legislative tracking service can empower your team with the digital tools to take a comprehensive approach to advocacy strategy. Legislative tracking software allows users to follow the legislative journey of bills that are of interest to them. We've compiled a list of legislative tracking services that your organization can use in conjunction with Muster's robust advocacy communications tools:
Authors swear by the Snowflake Method, a structured way to design and write novels. Advocacy campaign strategists and communications directors can draw lessons from this creative thought process to develop cohesive language supporting an advocacy campaign. We break down the Snowflake Method and apply each step to issue-advocacy messaging creation:
Creating compelling language for an advocacy campaign is an exercise that can be supported by a communications framework. We've put together a brief overview to help you create interesting, goal-oriented advocacy content so can support your advocacy mission.
A tumultuous election year, a change in administration, unparalleled global activism and the rise of new media have all contributed to the way that political advocacy is conducted and affects policy. As 2017 unfolds, individual citizens, organizations, and even for-profit companies are speaking out on social issues and engaging in various forms of advocacy. Here are 5 trends we expect to continue to develop throughout the year:
By definition, a “campaign” involves a series of initiatives aimed at producing a specific result. With that in mind, a well-designed advocacy campaign should include multiple activities that work harmoniously towards achieve an objective. When trade associations and/or nonprofit organizations seek to influence public policy through advocacy campaigns, these groups are striving for grassroots support, media exposure, and ultimately a change in policy surrounding an issue or a specific piece of legislation. In other words, an advocacy campaign is no small feat, and requires time to plan and carry out in order to reach legislative goals.
Technology has transformed how advocacy campaigns are developed and implemented. Equipped with digital advocacy tools, nonprofit organizations and associations are able to extend their sphere of influence beyond the communities they serve, by reaching citizens all over the US through online programs. Advocacy software fills the void of government relations in the digital space, but how else can advocacy software be used? The unique features offered by advocacy service providers can be applied in many areas of association operations, take a look at several examples:
Take this interactive quiz to discover if advocacy software is a good fit for your 501(c)6 association:
Through our work with trade associations and nonprofit organizations, Muster has learned much about different association management software (AMS) and membership management software (MMS). Many associations use an AMS or MMS to streamline their organizing, event planning, communicating, and financial reporting efforts.
Globetrotters travel the world to chase adventure and immerse themselves in different languages and cultures. Just as travelers look to visit countries with vibrant and welcoming cultures, associations should cultivate an inspiring and engaging culture within the office to attract top association talent. We've compiled a few tips to help your association work towards cultivating a positive, inviting, and productive office environment for staff.
In many ways, legislative advocacy efforts conducted by a trade association mirror the operations of a political campaign. Both association advocacy initiatives and political campaigns share the goal of influencing an outcome that is ultimately decided by a group of political stakeholders: associations look to legislators to vote a certain way on a piece of legislation and political campaigns rely on citizens to vote for a particular political candidate. As such, government relations professionals can draw upon the experiences of those involved in political campaigns to shape their political advocacy strategy. Here are 6 functions that both political campaigns and association political advocacy outreach share in common:
Maintaining your association's membership list is often one of the most complicated aspects of running the membership side of an association's day-to-day operations. Keeping your association membership list "clean" is necessary, and will save time and resources as your association grows. We outline 4 simple tips to help your association streamline contact list management:
Take this interactive quiz to discover if advocacy software is a good fit for your 501(c)3 nonprofit organization:
Chambers of Commerce represent the many business owning voices of a community (or state), and with such economic responsibility, it is important that chambers have the ability to advocate on behalf of their members. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce designates an entire section of their website to advocacy, including examples of regional chambers and their experience with public policy initiatives- take a look here. Digital advocacy tools give a Chamber of Commerce the ability to do just that. Below are just a few of the key reasons why a Chamber’s should design and implement a digital advocacy strategy:
Just weeks away from the 2016 presidential election, political campaigns and citizen advocacy groups are ramping up efforts to support their preferred presidential nominee. As a tax-exempt organization, what is an association’s role in an election year? How can 501(c)(6) trade associations and other membership organizations engage in political elections?
How do grassroots advocacy software and community advocacy intersect? As a leader or member of an organization you know that, more important than anything, are the community members that care about your cause. They’re the ones who help put in the footwork to make a positive change happen, especially in grassroots advocacy. It can be difficult to get your community engaged especially when you need them the most. That’s where the wonders of grassroots advocacy software come in:
A solid membership engagement strategy is a core function of any member-based organization. Associations thrive on the support and involvement of the individuals, businesses and organizations they serve. Engagement is a two-way street, and relies on developing a genuine and reciprocal relationship between your membership and your association. When an association lacks a connection with its base, the association loses its power as a member-based organization.
The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Annual Meeting: Tips for Association Professionals
Association executives, directors, and other association professionals gather at the ASAE Annual Meeting every year to learn about new association technology tools and attend educational seminars for professional development. If you are an association leader attending the ASAE Annual Meeting, take advantage of this amazing event which offers great opportunities to advance your organization's mission by checking out the newest technologies on the market and learning from your peers.
How Location-Based Data Can Affect Political Advocacy: “Geocoding” versus “ZIP-to-District Matching”
"The problem of figuring out who represents a given citizen is tougher than you might think", the Sunlight Foundation suggest (in this blog post). For companies and organizations with a need to determine what legislators represent their constituents, location-based data is the engine of the constituent matching machine. In terms of political advocacy software, the technological parameters behind the platform directly influence the accuracy of constituent matching.
Recently, email service providers adopted a new protocol as a best practice for email protection: Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC). This new security policy works by ensuring that emails coming from a domain that publishes a DMARC policy (i.e., @Yahoo!, @Gmail, @Hotmail, etc.) also originate from an email service provider who publishes a DMARC policy for their domain and NOT through a third-party server.
As an association leader or executive director, your responsibilities are widespread and integral in driving your mission forward. If your association is looking to streamline internal processes and become a more effective, future-oriented organization, look to technology. The marketplace for association software and other technology tools is seemingly endless.
501(c)6 organizations operate within a wide fiscal spectrum. Large, national associations may enjoy multimillion dollar budgets, while small, state, and local level associations (which are just as an important for American citizens) may be bound by a tight budget. Regardless of budget, staff size, or issue area, utilizing savvy, cost-effective software within your association will boost your organization’s productivity and assist your staff maintain focus and effectiveness, helping to propel your association’s vision into reality.
Broadly defined as any organized effort to influence public perception/the policymaking process/particular legislators, political advocacy is evolving. New media platforms, social media channels, and smart mobile devices have together transformed the way that citizens connect with their representatives, reinventing how constituents can participate meaningfully in the legislative process.
For more resources on advocacy and outreach strategy, visit our Political Advocacy Resources Center.
Many nationals associations have main headquarters focused on federal-level advocacy and work closely with different state and local chapters dispersed around the country. This “business model” is an effective way to spread your association’s messages from coast-to-coast. Many of today’s largest associations are structured this way. If your association maintains a national headquarters and extends its mission through state-level chapters, here are 3 tips to best manage your affiliate organizations:
In an election year rife with partisanship, media mayhem, and emotional public reactions to both the Democratic and Republican (presumed) presidential nominees, what can trade associations do to drive advocacy progress in the current political landscape? Focus on policy.
Many nonprofits struggle to keep up in today’s ever-changing technology environment. However, even when organizations suffer glaring inefficiencies, investing in new technology to alleviate these issues is rarely a top priority. Your Board might argue that the learning curve for adopting new technologies is too steep or that your organization has exhausted its budget. After all, nonprofits have limited resources and Boards are quick to shoot down any investment that will not provide an immediate benefit to members. Improving your backend systems will lighten your staff’s workload and allow them to focus on the programs and projects that your members value. Presenting a comprehensive, well-thought-out proposal will force your Board to take you seriously and help you prepare for any objections. However, writing a formal proposal is a huge undertaking and many don’t know where to begin. Here are six steps to take:
There is a growing trend among advocacy organizations and Government Relations Professionals to incorporate social media as part of their digital strategy. In fact, a strong digital advocacy strategy often includes social media as a cornerstone of engagement. Social media can support
your advocacy campaign by extending the reach and influence of your mission-critical
agenda. Pushing your messaging out efficiently online will work to amplify public exposure
around your grassroots campaign. Take a look at these social media advocacy trends the Muster team has curated.
Nearly everyone, whether in the nonprofit world or not, has a vague idea of what constitutes the term "grassroots advocacy"; however, if somebody stopped you in the street and asked you to give an official definition, it may be difficult to spell out exactly what activities count as true grassroots advocacy. So here is a cheat sheet with the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of grassroots advocacy (disclaimer: not necessarily in that order).
In a report published by the technology “thinktank” Lincoln Initiative, innovators state that “if organizations don’t embrace a digital and analytics oriented strategy, their respective issue...will be left behind”. If your organization is not incorporating data (and analysis) to inform its staff’s decision-making process on advocacy strategy, it’s time to start. Digital advocacy efforts that lack a way to track and measure advocate engagement, email data, and other important metrics hinder your government relations team from making informed or strategic decisions. In a data-driven world, the analytics behind digital advocacy efforts are nearly as important as the initiatives themselves.
Fundraising. Let’s be honest -- fundraising can be difficult, it can require many phone calls and serve up a fair amount of rejection. You may have to reach out to potential nonprofit donors while they are at home or at work, and ask them to donate when they would rather not be on the phone with you. It can be a very impersonal and machine-like process if handled incorrectly, and one that can influence how your nonprofit donors percieve your organization. However, fundraising is often vital to sustaining an effective nonprofit organization. To this end, a creative and strategic approach approach to fundraising is necessary.
If you manage the communications program for a nonprofit or association, you have successfully accumulated supporters and members through a smart, well-designed email marketing strategy. Congratulations! But the work isn’t over. Now, you need to put the same amount of effort, if not more, into maintaining and engaging your membership that you worked so hard to build (just to clarify, your membership is the group of your supporters, not your internal employees).
So now begs the question: How often is too often to email your members and supporters?
Whether you are a senior-level association professional looking for a career switch or a young professional just beginning your job search, the association world offers engaging and exciting job opportunities for professionals with different educational backgrounds, expertise, and interests. From marketing, member development, media relations and finance to legislative affairs, associations need savvy people with different skills to support an association's mission and membership. Good luck with your association job search!
The use of digital advocacy tools and grassroots advocacy software is on the rise. Increasingly, association professionals and those involved in government relations are using advocacy software to supplement their traditional public policy strategies.
Perhaps you and your contract lobbyist are going to meet with a specific lawmaker or perhaps you’ve organized a Lobby Day and fifty of your members will be joining you. Whatever the case may be, if you are going to a face-to-face meeting with a legislator on behalf of your nonprofit organization on an advocacy mission, provide the lawmaker with a policy brief. Leaving this informative and persuasive report with the lawmakers is a strategic move to provide key decision-makers with important material about your policy stance.
In an article entitled, “Creating High-Impact Nonprofits”, Stanford researchers Heather McLeod Grant & Leslie Crutchfield identified key characteristics of high-performing nonprofits. They found that successful nonprofits were able to effectively mobilize citizens around their mission by implementing robust public policy programs and advocacy initiatives. Here's a brief excerpt:
“The secret to their success lies in how high-impact nonprofits mobilize every sector of society – government, business, nonprofits, and the public – to be a force for good. In other words, greatness has more to do with how nonprofits work outside the boundaries of their organizations than with how they manage their own internal operations.”
As the name suggests, a Lobby Day (also referred to as a “legislative day” or “advocacy day”) is an organized day where participating members of your association convene and meet with lawmakers (state or federal) to promote your association’s policy objectives. Lobby Days require meticulous planning months in advance in order to handle all logistics, such as scheduling meetings with lawmakers and arranging all member activities.
Mobilizing membership and supporters on advocacy issues is becoming increasingly important to public affairs and legislative teams all over the country. Often, online advocacy supplements an organization’s government relations strategy; however, the cost of the software is often a deciding factor in which advocacy software an organization selects. The decision to purchase any advocacy software almost always involves a discussion with board members and key stakeholders within the organization because advocacy software can be an investment.
Muster has been selected as a Finalist for the Emerging Small Business Award presented by the Richmond Technology Council. The team at Muster is honored to be named Finalist and excited to be recognized for building a Richmond-based company in the civic technology space. To read more about Muster's nomination, click here.
Do you use social media? You can help us win the People's Choice Award for the RichTech Gala by using the hashtag #GeekProm and mentioning us (Muster) in your social media posts. Thank you!
New digital tools, social media platforms, and mobile devices have transformed the way that citizens connect with lawmakers, reinventing how constituents can participate meaningfully in the legislative process. Political advocacy is broadly defined as any organized effort to influence public perception of an issue, the policymaking process, or particular legislators.
Image Source: HowToStartABlogOnline.net
Amplifying grassroots and media attention around your advocacy campaign requires a multi-faceted approach. Aside from traditional grassroots tactics (such as email broadcasts, door-to-door strategies, phone calls, etc.) social mediacan support your advocacy campaign by extending the reach and influence of your mission-critical agenda.
Just as we read our local newspapers to keep up-to-date with community events, keeping up with nonprofit trends and/or association industry news helps us stay better informed professionally. Learning from innovative nonprofit leaders and influencers equips us to excel in our careers by bringing new thinking and leadership to the sectors we work in. We’ve compiled a list of 5 thought leaders in the nonprofit, nonprofit technology, and grassroots space to inspire you:
Legislative lingo is as familiar as a native language to government relations professionals. For those newly involved in the association advocacy arena, reviewing a comprehensive glossary of legislative terms may be helpful. While vocabulary may differ slightly between different state legislatures, we’ve put together a brief glossary of frequently-used terms in public affairs:
Zen is often defined as ‘complete and absolute peace’. In the fast-moving nonprofit world, finding any peace can be challenging, but it’s not out of reach with the right nonprofit technology tools. Great nonprofit online tools afford those who use them correctly more time and energy to apply elsewhere. When people possess this extra time and energy, they have the opportunity to find some personal zen.
In a democratic society, citizens have the freedom to organize and form social networks, movements, and cause-oriented groups.
Social capital refers to the collective importance of relationships among individuals, and the beneficial effect of these social networks on the greater good. It’s not strictly a general assessment about how friendly a group of people can be -- social capital is important.
Strengthening the bond with your membership is not only important for maximizing your relationship with them, but additionally members who are involved and passionate about your mission are more likely to take action for you when you release advocacy campaigns. So, let’s review some valuable (and easy!) ways to boost engagement:
While the process of taking the 501(h) election might seem confusing, it is actually quite simple. Nonprofits elect to be covered by the newer regulations simply by filling out Form 5768 and sending it to the IRS.
Nonprofits play an important role in our society. These organizations address the needs of vulnerable communities and build awareness around issues that are often neglected. Given the nature of their work, it is crucial that nonprofits work to inform the public policy debate and advocate on behalf of the communities they serve.
For leaders of advocacy organizations, no matter what issue you are advocating for, your supporters are crucial to your success. To build your supporter base, you have probably sent your fair share of emails educating citizens about relevant issues, asking them to join your advocacy group. So, why are a majority of your recipients still not opening your emails? One possibility is that your subject lines just aren’t working. In fact, 69% of email recipients report email as spam based solely on the subject line.
But there is good news! Subject lines are extremely easy to change and make heavily influence open-rates. Here are some tips and examples of effective subject lines for advocacy.
At Muster, we’re passionate about building the newest and greatest technology to bridge the gap between policymakers and mission-oriented organizations and associations. Our product development process is greatly informed by discussing digital advocacy ideas with the amazing association and nonprofit leaders we work with. Thanks to their insight and feedback, we've been hard at work improving Muster, as we strive to be the best digital advocacy tool for our clients. We are happy to announce these exciting new features that will supplement our new software we released earlier this month:
Muster’s client base encompasses a wide range of organizations from charitable organizations to trade and professional associations. Our online advocacy and communications tools provide an affordable and effective way for organizations to engage their members on legislative initiatives.
Constituent communication is an essential part of the policymaking process. Legislators rely on receiving feedback and requests from their voters in order to craft policy that reflects the wishes and needs of the community they serve. Successful grassroots campaigns can effectively shape lawmaker behavior and legislative outcomes. However, grassroots campaigns can also be unsuccessful if executed without considering several important factors, as this blog post outlines below. The single most important piece of advice to remember when developing a grassroots campaign is to aim for authenticity. Constituent communication derives its power from the sincerity behind genuine citizen engagement. It is vital that a massive grassroots campaign doesn’t bury authenticity and that individual constituent voices are not lost in the noise.
If you are the leader in your organization facilitating grassroots campaigns, there are several measures you can take to increase your advocacy efforts' influence.
Guest Blog: An Inside Look at the State Legislative Process with a Government Relations Professional
The Virginia General Assembly is commonly known as the as the “oldest continuous legislative body in the New World.” As the 140 members of the General Assembly returned to Richmond on January 13 to start this year’s Session, much of the process has remained the same since the 1776 Constitution which confirmed our bicameral legislature of the House of Delegates and Senate of Virginia.
In a study conducted by Adrian Sergeant, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, nonprofit donors who stopped donating to an organization (during the preceding eighteen-months) explained why they stopped giving. The study found the following top 3 reasons for the discontinuation of financial support:
Reasons nonprofit donors stop donating:
In 2002, the Oakland Athletics baseball team tied the prestigious New York Yankees for the most wins in Major League Baseball. This might not seem too extraordinary- until you consider that the Athletics did it with a budget of almost $90 million less than the Yankees. This feat was so remarkable that its story was later turned into a New York Times bestseller and a blockbuster hollywood movie: Moneyball.
Moneyball gives an in-depth look into how the Oakland Athletics partnered with a Yale economist to manipulate ‘big data’ and create a winning franchise with a small bank account. In many ways, Moneyball’s story laid the groundwork for a massive shift in how we look at and use data - and not just in sports.
What does this data trend mean for nonprofits?
Finding a great high quality, royalty-free image for no cost is often a challenge, especially for nonprofits seeking specific photographs. When it comes to engaging membership and supporters in online advocacy alerts, successful communications include images and visual details motivating your supporters to act. We put together a list of useful websites for nonprofits and associations that offer free, public domain images! Here’s a list we put together of great online resources for nonprofits to use:
Christina Bonini, Marketing and Development Associate with the James River Association, guest blogs today, sharing insight as to how digital advocacy helps nonprofit organizations achieve their mission.
Nonprofit Executive Directors have to manage their time and wear several different hats in order to be effective. Nonprofit leaders need to have a deep understanding of what motivates their base, understand financial drivers, be persuasive, and know how to get the most out of a staff with limited resources. Not only that, but they need to do this in an environment that is constantly changing. Nonprofit organizations are consistently confronted by new technology, new ideas, and stiff competition for donor and supporters money and attention.
Communicating with your membership solely through email and newsletters isn’t enough in the digital age we live in. Members expect more. Sharing important news and messages online are absolutely key to maintaining good relationships with your members, strengthening your organization’s online presence and sharing online advocacy action centers.The four main social media platforms that your association should be utilizing are: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.
Need some inspiration first? Check out how digital tools are changing the association world:
We're thrilled to share advice from Bob Ramsey, CAE, who is the current executive director for the Virginia College of Emergency Physicians. He provides insight into his experience in the association world and gives us two important tips for effective association leadership.
Nonprofits and associations have powerful potential to change city, state, and even federal policies through the collective voice of their supporters and nonprofit advocacy. Often, policy or nonprofit advocacy comes hand-in-hand with an association’s strategic plan.
Here are 10 things an association should do to prepare for the state legislative session:
When it comes down to it, engagement is all about attracting and retaining members with the goal of motivating them to stay active in the organization. Associations with multigenerational members need to be aware of the challenges associated with appealing to a diverse audience and how to reach millennials effectively (full disclosure: this article is written by a millennial).
Here are a few tips to engaging the younger demographic:
No matter the staff size, budget or interstate reach, every association seeks to keep its membership actively engaged in its mission. In terms of advocacy, an engaged membership means a strong network of advocates when the legislative sessions begin- and a much easier process for the association to activate its membership when navigating policy challenges. Many members want to be actively engaged in their association and want to participate in advancing policy goals, they just don’t know how. It’s the duty of the association to keep close contact with its members and provide them with actionable ways, like Calls to Action and email updates, that let them participate in the legislative process. After working closing with CEOs and directors of membership-driven organizations, we’ve found that keeping members engaged is strongly dependent on the following action items:
Often, we’ll receive emails from staff at 501c (3) organizations stating that because of their IRS classification, they cannot and do not engage in any advocacy. This is a misperception. Be advoca-savvy (ok, so this word doesn’t quite work…but you get the idea! Be savvy about advocacy and you won’t run into IRS tax dilemmas).
As a civic technology company working at the intersection of technology and public policy, it is both rewarding and exciting to operate in the heart of government relations. When our team is traveling across the country and sharing Muster with associations, nonprofits and consulting firms, we’re often asked “how is Muster different from similar advocacy software products in the marketplace?"
We’ve worked extensively with both association and nonprofit professionals, learning how these leaders engage their members and supporters in their organization's legislative and political advocacy initiatives.
As we continue to speak with professionals involved in government relations with nonprofit organizations, the more we understand how significant the method is that they use to execute their advocacy strategy. Here are four reasons why using an online advocacy service can improve your method to approaching advocacy and net greater legislative results:
The civic technology sector is an emerging marketplace in the United States. Technology advancements, new social media platforms, and the increased use of mobile platforms are key factors influencing how citizens and organizations communicate with their legislators and participate in politics. The government relations space has been transformed by the emergence of digital tools in recent years, both in the hands of constituents and elected officials themselves. In terms of public policy and nonprofit advocacy, online advocacy channels provide a meaningful way for associations, charitable organizations, and other advocacy groups to participate in the legislative process.
“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” -Aristotle
Why is a blog dedicated to association and nonprofit advocacy is quoting Aristote? Consider this post a reminder that an association’s grassroots advocacy efforts are only as strong as the individual efforts of its membership. Transforming political advocacy into an empowering experience for your membership is the key to successful government relations.
Selecting the right advocacy software for your organization is an investment that pays big dividends for your organization’s influence on public policy. Here are 5 important factors to consider before choosing the software platform that will help you accomplish your legislative goals.
Has your association's staff been faced with the challenge of motivating members to "take action" on behalf of the association? Some members may feel like their policy input will not matter in a polarized political landscape or they may simply feel they don’t have the time to be an advocate. How does an association overcome this disconnect and motivate someone to participate in the legislative process?
Association executives, directors and other stakeholders gather at national conferences every year to learn about available software products that fill a need for their organizations. Participating in an association or nonprofit conference as an exhibitor is a significant and exhilarating opportunity to share our product with a diverse audience of interested attendees from different industries. Similarly, if you are an association professional attending a conference or trade show, these events offer great opportunities to advance your organization by checking out the newest technologies on the market.
Analytics will always be instrumental to those of us involved in advocacy initiatives and government relations. Understanding and measuring the success of your Action Alerts is critical in learning how to best activate your grassroots base for future campaigns. Effective digital advocacy programs rely on compelling content, so let’s talk a bit about how to get analytics where you want them to be.
On this date in 1970, Earth Day was celebrated for the very first time. Since then, people all over the world take part in honoring the Earth on this annual holiday. Today, the Muster team took some time to show our support for protecting the environment, and we hope you do too! Here are a few ways your office can celebrate Earth Day:
What technology or software-related terms should you know to give your association an edge? Technology is a constantly evolving industry. Because of this, association and nonprofit professionals need to stay aware of technology trends and buzzwords in order to stay ahead of the curve. Chances are, most of these terms apply to digital and marketing strategies you currently employ. We’ve compiled a basic of list of terms that are frequently used across various industries that rely on technology.
Often, advocacy organizations and associations aim their grassroots strategy directly at federal level officials because Congress bears the most political clout. However, these organizations are usually engaged in policy issues at not only the national level, but state and local levels as well. From City Council to Congress, there are thousands of elected officials holding public office today in various levels of government. Organizations with strong grassroots programs have an incredible capacity to influence legislation at local and state levels, because these legislators are often more approachable than federal representatives. Additionally, influencing legislation at a state and/or local level may be more realistic, because these representatives have a more limited political scope than federal politicians who draft policy that is on behalf of the entire nation. Below are some tips to optimize your advocacy strategies for state legislatures and local governments:
A key step in creating an effective advocacy campaign is an intriguing email subject line. Powerful subject lines compel recipients to open an email upon receiving it, meaning that subject lines are essentially the lifeblood of an advocacy campaign. Unopened emails = no actions taken, so we curated a list of important tips to assist you in creating effective subject lines to increase open rates, specifically when pushing out advocacy alerts.
Technology has greatly augmented how advocacy organizations are able to connect with their supporters, and subsequently reach out to policymakers. But, how do you motivate your supporters to become fervent advocates supporting your cause? The answer lies in the content you weave into your online advocacy campaigns. Creating engaging content means crafting language that is not only inspiring, but actionable. Successful online advocacy campaigns include information and details motivating your supporters to act. on The text used in an online advocacy campaign should be calling upon your supporters to advocate by including motivation and detail. Here are a few tips to perfecting inspiring online advocacy content:
When was the last time you reached out to your most active members and thanked them for their active participation in your organization's political advocacy efforts? Recognizing and thanking your “five star” advocates is a win-win strategy. Not only does shining a light on your most active advocates strengthen your relationship with them, but it also increases the likelihood that they will continue to engage in your association or nonprofit's advocacy initiatives.
Have you ever heard of “slacktivism”? The idea of slacktivism “posits that people who support a cause by performing simple measures are not truly engaged or devoted to making a change”, according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. The term implies that signing a petition, or digitally engaging in advocacy suggests that someone is a slacker because taking action only took a few seconds to perform. The word itself is composed of “slacker” and “activism”.
“Political mobilization is seldom spontaneous” - Jack Walker
Many organizations exist for the purpose of political advocacy. Their lifeblood is the promotion of a particular cause in the public sector. Therefore, it is of critical importance that these organizations have a strategic approach to advocacy that allows these groups to be efficient and successful year round. Digital advocacy is a key component in motivating supporter action by engaging them through online platforms. We’ve put together a simple checklist to help highlight the important consideration in developing a digital advocacy strategy.
While it is easy to believe that snail mail is irrelevant in the digital age, old-fashioned postal mail continues to be one of the most powerful mediums of congressional communication. Heaps of constituent letters articulating different concerns arrive in each congressional office every single day, and each item of correspondence is reviewed. Our Federal representatives value and respond to constituent communication, and because of this, every congressional office has its own protocol for organizing constituent communications, and its own method to respond to constituent mail. Congressional interns spend hours each day reading and sorting these letters, to make sure that the Congressional representative hears what his/her constituents are most concerned with.
In the increasingly digital world where all nonprofits and associations operate, technology has dramatically changed the way that advocacy is conducted. Gone are the days when grassroots advocacy meant canvassing door-to-door or wielding megaphones to amplify one’s voice. Innovation in technology has not only enhanced organizations’ general effectiveness in achieving their policy goals, but also completely transformed the way that communication occurs between an organization and its contacts. To this end, groups on a mission to influence public policy need to integrate digital tools into their advocacy strategies. We’ve created a three-pronged approach to evaluating the reasons why it is vital to leverage new technology as a key to affecting social change (as you can tell, we LOVE the intersection between advocacy and technology!):