Crafting your Advocacy Strategy for the 116th Congress | npENGAGE

A New Year, A New Congress: Crafting your Advocacy Strategy for the 116th Congress

By on Jan 3, 2019


Today is the first day for the 116th Congress. It’s a unique day – not just because Congress is being sworn in during a partial government shutdown, but because it is welcoming the largest Freshman class since 1993. This group is not only historic for its size but also for its diversity:

Freshman Class at a Glance:

  • 100 Freshmen: 66 Democrats, 44 Republicans
  • Average age: 49
  • 42 are women
  • 23 are people of color
  • 22 served in the military or CIA
  • 70% attended graduate school

The 116th Congress is also set to be one of division and fierce debate as Democrats take the House, dividing control of government. The shutdown over the funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall is likely to be just the first of many battles to be played out. Infrastructure, climate change and healthcare are poised to be equally large battles. And they will all be played out as the parties jockey for positioning for the 2020 Presidential elections.

What does this mean for advocacy in 2019? You have to jump in right now!

Say Hi!

With 100 new Members, January and February is a critical time for you to introduce your organization — and your issues — and begin cultivating new champions on Capitol Hill.

In person:

  • Set up informational meetings with new members and their staff
  • Make these visits stand out more by delivering welcome messages and/or statements of support for issues from your supporters in the Members’ home district


  • Use online advocacy web forms to send welcome messages
  • Create surveys to capture and share your supporters’ priorities
  • Build social media campaigns to welcome new members and start building relationships



The 116th Congress is an incredibly diverse group and to be successful you need to get to know these Members and what messages will resonate with them.

  • Listen to what Members are saying using news alerts and social media listening tools. These tools can help you monitor how, and if, they are talking about your issues. Listening to what Members are saying will position you to be able to engage immediately when they talk about your issues.
  • Follow popular hashtags that Members use. Start by going to Instagram and Twitter and simply scanning through the Members’ posts to see which hashtags they’re using. And you can search for trending hashtags to stay on top of what issues are socially relevant.


Get Loud & Be Heard

Expect a lot of political noise in 2019. To be heard in this climate, you need to turn up the volume. In addition to social listening and meeting your Members in person and online, use these strategies to amplify your voice:

  • Organize your influencers.
    Identify your most influential supporters and recruit them as ambassadors for your messages. Influencers can help broaden your audience and drive action.
  • Get Louder: Post-advocacy share kit
    A crucial part of engaging supporters is giving them relevant next steps so you can build momentum! Optimize your post-action alerts to include a share on social and donate buttons to drive more action in your advocacy alerts.
  • Be Multichannel: Use social media and call alerts to go beyond the petition
    • Create campaigns to “Tweet @ your Representative” to help supporters use Twitter to contact their reps.
    • Add Call Alerts to make it super easy for your supporters to call their Members. After placing a call, make sure constituents can log that call so you have a record of it.
  • Make sure your advocacy alerts are mobile responsive.
    Your alerts should look and work great on any device, from a mobile phone to a desktop computer.

If you invest the time and resources now to build these relationships, when the time is right you will be able to turn your relationships into impact to make your mark on the 116th Congress!


Get more outside of the box advocacy strategies with Engagement Strategies to Turn Nonprofit Board Members into Ambassadors for Your Cause.


Erik Leaver is a senior customer success manager at Blackbaud. Previous to joining Blackbaud, he spent over two decades working with social change nonprofits.

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