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:
Associations have powerful potential to change local, state, and even federal policies through the collective voice of their supporters and nonprofit advocacy. An association's public policy strategy and grassroots advocacy should go hand-in-hand
Here are 10 things an association should do to prepare for the state legislative session:
"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 organizations and lobbyists looking to determine which legislators represent their constituents, location-based data is the engine of the constituent matching machine. When it comes to advocacy software, the technological parameters behind the platform directly influence the accuracy of constituent matching. Constituent matching becomes
When it comes to effective government relations and working with lawmakers, the Chamber of Digital Commerce is a great example of a trade association that has become an influential voice in its industry through member-driven advocacy. The chamber was founded in 2014 and received its 501(c)6 designation from the IRS shortly thereafter. In the five years since its establishment, the association has become the leading voice of business advocacy for digital currencies and blockchain technology1.
An online advocacy initiative is only as successful as the advocate engagement strategy motivating supporters to participate. Encouraging grassroots involvement requires an approach that speaks to supporters who may feel different levels of concern regarding the issue. For example, your organization likely has supporters who feel like their policy input doesn't matter and also advocates who have become evangelists through their constant contributions and support. How does an association overcome this disconnect and motivate someone to participate in the legislative process?
The rise of online advocacy can be attributed to the digital age in which we live. While our focus at Muster is in the development of advocacy software, grassroots tools are one piece of the puzzle required to build a campaign that spreads awareness. The key to effective digital advocacy revolves around integrating your grassroots advocacy software into a broader online advocacy strategy. Depending on the focus of the advocacy initiative, microsites can be a key component to expanding influence and inspiring civic engagement.
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:
“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.
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:
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 pain points 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:
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:
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.
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:
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 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.
Updated 12/12/2019 to reflect new additions to the market
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:
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:
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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
Any organized effort to influence public perception of an issue, the policy-making process, or particular legislators is considered political advocacy. Nowadays, digital apps, social media, and the transition to mobile have together transformed the way that citizens connect with lawmakers, reinventing how constituents participate in the legislative process. Digital advocacy is the result of this innovation.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!):