Advocacy campaigns have the potential to make a tangible difference in the lives of everyday people. But whether it’s targeting a specific piece of legislation or bringing attention to an under-addressed issue, a well-run advocacy campaign doesn’t happen overnight.
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
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?
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:
The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Water is wet. Social media trends come and go. These are three undeniable truths. So, in 2020, how does one use social media to support their advocacy campaigns? Is it feasible? While trends change, we have five sound strategies that you can use today, and beyond to ensure your advocacy thrives on social media channels.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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 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?
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.
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:
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!):