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:
Grassroots advocacy software is a key component to any nonprofit's public policy efforts and they give organizations a leg up in engaging their member and supporter networks with elected officials. As the advocacy software space continues to grow nonprofits will have access to newer and better tools.
We've put together a list (in no particular order) of some of the top available options for nonprofits:
(Blog Updated 10/28/2019 to reflect changes in grassroots advocacy software market)
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.
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.
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.
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!):