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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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!):