How To Make State Advocacy A Year Round Activity

Discover the importance of year-round state advocacy and how to maintain momentum when legislatures adjourn. From grassroots campaigns to building a coalition, learn how to make your advocacy efforts a marathon, not a sprint.

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If you're familiar with state-level advocacy, then you know it can make the first three months of the year an absolute whirlwind. From running grassroots campaigns to organizing lobby days, it's a burst of activity in a tiny window that requires a sound strategy and near-flawless execution to get the outcomes your organization desires. 

However, organizations running high-level advocacy programs have shifted their perspective on what state advocacy looks like. It's no longer a sprint. Continued success in government relations and grassroots advocacy at the state level needs a sustained effort—a marathon.

In this article, we'll not only cover why year-round state advocacy is essential but also how to keep momentum when legislatures adjourn for the year.

In Session: January - March

The year gets off to a fast start for government relations and advocacy professionals across the country with state legislatures convening for their regular session. It can be all-consuming for teams tasked with putting into motion various pieces of strategies, often simultaneously. 

Whether your session is a few weeks long or 2 to 3 months, fear not, we have some tips and insights into how to make the most of this crucial period of time.

  • Identify Budget Priorities

    • With Governors often delivering a draft of the state budget before sessions convene there's often a little more lead-time. Getting ahead of any state budget issues your organization may have identified and creating an action plan around them ahead of time can take some of the load off your team's shoulders. 

  • Introduce Legislation ASAP

    • The sooner you get your bills in the system, the more time you give you and your team, and most importantly your advocates to act. You give your organization a longer runway to draw support and co-sponsors for your legislation and ample opportunity to start educating and activating advocates.

  • Launch Advocacy Campaigns

  • Grow Your Grassroots Network

    • This first quarter is the most opportune time to capture new advocates and expand your organization's reach. Publishing op-eds that drive awareness, running ads on social media, and creating advocacy campaigns that give people a way to act are all fantastic ways to grow your grassroots network.

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Evaluate, Re-engage, and Share: April-June

Depending on the year and the state, your session may have adjourned or be on the cusp of adjourning, but as you know all too well, the work doesn't stop there.

  • Continue Taking Meetings

    • If your state is still in session, this is a great time to have a lobby day or book meetings between advocates and lawmakers. Tools like Muster make it easy to find grasstops relationships between your advocates and lawmakers, and put those advocates into action. Muster also has meeting logging capabilities to capture how those meetings went.
  • Evaluate Grassroots Performance

  • Share Results With Advocates and Stakeholders

    • You've evaluated your performance, now what? Sharing the wins, losses, and overall efforts of your advocacy program is vital to keeping advocates in the loop and feeling engaged. As July and the dog days of summer start to creep close, consider sending out a recap email, hosting an online advocacy event to talk about what occurred over session and how it impacts your organization. 


Build Connections and Make Improvements: July-September

At this point, most state sessions are closed, but that doesn't mean you just pack it up. There's a lot of important work to be done during this time. This is a period of time where you can really set your organization and its state-level advocacy up for success in the future.

  • Work On Coalitions

    • This is a great time of year to connect and collaborate with like-minded organizations. If there are shared policy goals and initiatives, consider building out a coalition to create a more united front for future advocacy efforts.
  • Evaluate New Tools

    • Whether your contract is up, you're unhappy with the level or quality of service, or you just want to see what's out there, it doesn't hurt to evaluate your options and see what new tools on the market your organization could benefit from using. This a great time to take a look at grassroots advocacy software, make a list of your needs, priority items you want from a vendor or product, and figure out a rough budget for tools.
  • Build Your Budget

    • This is a great time of year to get started on your budget. What worked last year that you invested in and what didn't? Think about what your team needs for success and what you want to invest in which could be anything from lobbyist to new technology. 


Plan and Ramp-Up: October-December

The end of the year always feels like a sprint, whether it's an election year or not, it's important to get your plans in place, execute on some things, and start ramping up your advocacy efforts.

  • Data Hygiene

    • The last few months of the year is a great time to scrub your contact lists. Ensure advocates in your CRM are engaged and take action in your campaigns. Clean up, append, and add data where needed. This is a great time to organize your contacts as well. Build lists using districts and other parameters to set yourself up for the next state session.
  • Events and Education for Advocates

    • This is the perfect time to prime your advocates. Create educational email and social media campaigns around policy initiatives you know are going to be a priority in the upcoming year. Events are great this time of year as well, connect your advocates with candidates and sitting officials (online or in-person). 
  • Get Trained Up On New Technology

    • Whether you're implementing new technology or someone on your team is, it's important to get a head start and ensure your organization is ready for the upcoming state session. With Muster's industry-leading support and easy-to-use platform, we make it easy to migrate data and get started fast. 

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  • Plan... And Then Plan Again

    • Planning is critical for heading into the upcoming session, but what's involved in all that planning? Here are some things to consider in your plan:
        • Setting the legislative agenda
        • Get a grasp on pre-filled bills
        • Start organizing your lobby days and planning your outreach strategy
        • Coordinate with your lobbyist or a firm you've hired to nail down objectives, expectations, and more.

Taking a year-round approach to your state advocacy as opposed to viewing it as a 3-month sprint can transform the potential of your advocacy program. Putting systems in place that operate all year long keep advocates engaged and educated and take the burden off of burnt out professionals who put all their energy into those few months of session. A year-round approach creates various touchpoints throughout the year where you can grow, evaluate, and adjust what's happening in your state level advocacy. 

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