Advocacy involves taking a stand for a particular cause to create change. Advocates fight to make the world a better place, many times hand-in-hand (or for) nonprofits in order to establish a greater good.
Nonprofit advocacy builds on the idea that although no individual can save the world by themself, people who work together can create real change.
Advocacy campaigns differ from traditional nonprofit-run campaigns because the main objective is typically not to raise funds. However, donations may be welcomed to build on other objectives such as increased awareness or policy change.
Whether you’re already in the middle of a fight for social change or you’re considering launching an advocacy campaign in the future, it’s important to establish a solid foundation for your mission— that is, effectively defining and relaying your worthwhile cause1 and offering a relevant solution for the issue.
Check out these 7 tips to get started with your advocacy campaign (and take it even further):
- Gather supporters.
- Use the right tools.
- Try new methods.
- Ensure user-friendliness.
- Be persuasive.
- Leverage current events.
- Keep your heart in it.
Ready to get started? Let’s jump in!
1. Motivate supporters.
The first step to launch an effective advocacy campaign is to find other enthusiastic individuals who share your passion for the mission. This is vital, going back to the idea that no one person can do it all. Finding a group of advocates allows you to divide the workload, amplify your voice, and generate new ideas.
You can reach like-minded individuals through:
- Social media: Using social media as an advocacy tool is an excellent way to explore and grow your network. Hashtags can help you find others talking about the same issues and gather inspiration from other passionate advocates. Take notice of how people interact with similar accounts, which can provide valuable insights.
- Community events: Whether it’s an event hosted by your nonprofit or by a partner in your community, using events as a way to get the word out is a great strategy. Consider making a widespread announcement, hanging posters, or distributing flyers to the crowd with a call-to-action for them to get involved.
- Word-of-mouth: This is a classic grassroots strategy. Find a few supporters, encourage them to invite their own friends and families to participate in advocacy activities. When combined with social media, this strategy will encourage your supporters to share posts through their own networks, further increasing your reach.
Besides these key strategies to attract new supporters for the cause, don’t forget to leverage your current donors, volunteers, and constituents and encourage them to get involved as well. With a solid mix of new and established supporters, you create the voice you need to be heard.
2. Diversify your types of campaigns.
It’s important to keep things fresh and exciting by continuously introducing new ideas. Even the most dedicated supporters get bored with seeing the same repetitive campaigns.
Try out different types of fundraising campaigns to add some variation5 for your supporters in order to keep them engaged.
You may consider advocacy campaign types such as:
- Click-to-call campaigns: If your campaign is focused on bringing about policy change, a great way to get the attention of local legislators is through click-to-call campaigns. Click-to-call software automatically connects a user to the correct representative and provides callers with a script that guides them through the call.
- Tweet-a-rep campaigns: Similar to click-to-call, these campaigns provide users with a recommended script to copy over to Twitter (or other social networking platforms) and tag their representatives. This grabs the attention of representatives, with the added benefit that the user’s friends and followers are exposed to the message as well.
- Petitions: Digital petitions often circulate online and collect signatures from interested supporters. Petitions demonstrate to representatives that a particular concern is of importance to hundreds or thousands of supporters, so it is a great way of amplifying the voice behind your cause.
- Advocacy events: Hosting an event is a great way to boost awareness surrounding your cause. Gathering community members at an exciting event for a good cause creates a platform for sharing key background information on the cause, while also attracting outside attention ( from your legislators or the press!).
When you use different methods of advocacy, take note of which are the most successful with your particular audience and which are not as engaging. Keep track of not only initial engagement but on-going engagement. For example, you might get thousands of signatures on a petition but significantly fewer calls to representatives— but some of those petition signers will continue to engage with your organization. Try to understand which events and channels truly drive the most engagement. These insights will assist in the planning of your next campaigns!
3. Use the right tools.
Get started by taking an inventory of your current resources and compare that with the tools you might need for a successful campaign. Having the correct tools available goes a long way for ensuring the efficiency of your campaign— lacking key tools would be like eating soup with a fork!
Consider these 4 types of tools:
- Fundraising software: Although fundraising may not be the main objective of your campaign, it’s always a good idea to keep the line open for donations from generous supporters. Fundraising software and mobile apps designed to boost nonprofit advocacy2 provide a streamlined donation process for the donor and lead to increased donations.
- Automated messaging: When you automate much of your communication with supporters, you free up time for other important tasks. Emails and text messages will still go out but the digital tools take on a lot of the grunt work. Using customizable templates is an excellent practice because you can still address each individual by name!
- CRM: Your CRM, or constituent relationship management,3 system is a vital tool in your advocacy campaign. This software provides easy access to pertinent information about your supporters, which allows you to easily engage with each individual.
- Advertisements: Ad placements get the word out further than your own network of supporters that tend to interact with your posts. Buying Facebook ads4 or sponsored Instagram posts can substantially increase the impressions for your message.
Combining the necessary tools is a great way to personalize your campaign and bring about the results you wish to see.
4. Ensure user-friendliness.
To see the greatest impact of your advocacy, make sure user-friendliness is a top priority. Supporters have their own busy lives with thousands of other tasks on their to-do lists, so they won’t spend a lot of time figuring out how to take part in your campaign.
Important things to keep in mind include:
- Simplify requests: Functions like click-to-call and tweet-a-rep are both excellent examples of simplifying your requests with streamlined communication opportunities. With software doing much of the prep work ahead of time, supporters are automatically connected with the appropriate representative and even provided with a script to use. You’ll get more willing participants this way, as opposed to complicated directions and tons of required background research.
- Mobile optimization: With your audience constantly on the go, it’s crucial to make sure everything is accessible for mobile users. Supporters should be able to sign your petition on their daily commute in a spare second rather than requiring a whole ideal with a desktop computer that is less likely to be carried through.
- Donation page: With your fundraising software in tow, you should already have a well-designed donation page for your campaign. With clear calls-to-action, straightforward navigation, and an overall engaging website you can drive traffic right to your optimized donation page.6
When you design your advocacy campaign around what’s best for your supporters, you greatly boost audience engagement with your campaign. Get to know your supporters better so that you can cater to their needs more effectively.
5. Be persuasive.
Persuasion7 is key when it comes to marketing your nonprofit’s advocacy campaign. You need to make sure your supporters care about the cause, trust in your organization, and feel good about their contribution right away.
Here are a few tricks to harness persuasion in a positive way:
- Return the favor: Offering a small gift in response to a supporter participating in your advocacy campaign, such as making a donation, signing a petition, or phoning a representative, is an effective way to increase conversions. People love getting rewards— even if that reward is something small like a pen or a sticker.
- Use the bandwagon method: Encouraging individuals to participate in your campaign by pointing out that thousands of others are doing it too, is a great way to take advantage of human nature and the fear of missing out. Consider taglines such as “Thousands in your neighborhood have signed this petition. Will you?”
- Prove your credibility: Earn supporters’ trust before you ask them to help. You can point to your years of experience as a nonprofit, to specific success stories, or your overall authority in the area of your mission. When the public trusts you, they’ll be more willing to take action.
Persuasion isn’t meant to be a trick or manipulation of any sort. It’s simply all about showing your supporters that your organization is credible and able to make a difference. Be open, honest, and share the information necessary to demonstrate your commitment to your cause.
6. Leverage current events.
When your advocacy aligns with current events in the news or other global happenings,8 you can use that to your advantage.
Often, individuals become extremely engaged around a current event but don’t know how to get involved. Emotions can run high; find a way to direct those emotions towards your worthwhile cause. Link to news stories and your organization’s responses, use trending hashtags on your social channels, and make sure your organization is part of the conversation!
A recent trend in giving is referred to as rage giving, which is when supporters decide to steer their outrage toward a good cause to avoid feeling helpless at the hand of current events. For example, a significant number of donations to Planned Parenthood were made in Mike Pence’s name following specific comments he made in 2016.
Motivate your supporters to participate and be a force for change!
7. Keep your heart in it.
As nonprofits automate workloads in order to increase efficiency, they sometimes lose the valuable personal aspect that attracts (and retains) so many of your donors and supporters. However, there is a way to do both!
Automate your workflows with the best tech, but don’t forget to add back in those little activities and personal touches to show your supporters you care about the cause and about them. When you show supporters the passion behind the project,9 others will be obliged to get involved as well. Don’t be afraid to add more personal interactions with your larger donors or more active supporters.
Here are three strategies to re-personalize your campaign:
- Donate to your own campaign. When you and your team donate to your own campaign (and sign your petitions, share your posts, etc.) it shows the public that your cause is an important one that you also personally support.
- Share your personal connection. Is there a story behind your passion for the cause, and is it something you can share with your network? Sharing your personal reasons for involvement encourages others to consider their own connections.
- Promote success stories. If your team fought for a successful policy change in the past, leverage that as proof that advocacy really does make a difference.
By keeping your heart in the campaign, new supporters will become attracted to the authenticity and personal reasoning behind the fight for change.
Taking advantage of these 7 tips will start your advocacy campaign and bring it to the next level as you attract other dedicated supporters and make real change. Work together with your supporters to make the world a better place!
If you’re looking for additional information about advocacy campaigns for nonprofits or any of the other topics discussed in this article, check out the links below:
Guest author: Gerard Tonti
Gerard Tonti is the Senior Creative Developer at Salsa Labs, the premier fundraising software company for growth-focused nonprofits.
Gerard’s marketing focus on content creation, conversion optimization, and modern marketing technology helps him coach nonprofit development teams on digital fundraising best practices.