Rolling with the Political Punches: Advocacy in an Election Year | npENGAGE

Rolling with the Political Punches: Advocacy in an Election Year

By on Mar 31, 2016


Political Advocacy

It’s hard to avoid the buzz around the 2016 presidential election. Everywhere you look, it’s dominating news and social media— and it’s only March! We’re still eight very long months away from Election Day, but I’m sure many of you already feel like you’re competing for air time, inbox space and news feeds.

We’re all asking ourselves: are our supporters even going to engage with us during a big campaign year, or are they already overwhelmed with messages and asks?

Blackbaud just released a study on Giving in an Election Year that showed fascinating results from the 2012 election. The study found that political donors who donated in 2012 gave more to nonprofits in 2012 than they did the year before.

This is because a donor who is giving to a political campaign is an engaged citizen who wants to not only participate in our political system but also engage with nonprofits and causes they care about.

Here are 3 tips for running a successful advocacy campaign during an election year:

1. Have content prepared

With 24 hour news media coverage and breaking news on Twitter, you want to be prepared to insert your advocacy campaign and have your corresponding materials ready to go. Are you an environmental organization and you know you want to keep this issue at the forefront of your supporter’s minds and the candidates? Have a campaign ready to go, complete with emails, talking points, sharable graphics, videos and tweets. When and if the media takes up an issue, you will be ready.

2. Become a part of the debate

Debates will continue to be major part of this election. You will see more success and get more attention for your campaign if you tie it into a debate.

Be prepared for 2 scenarios:

  1. the candidates discussing your issues
  2. the candidates not discussing your issues.

Have pre-approved content for both scenarios. Example: The candidates are ignoring the climate during tonight’s event. Tell them that you care by taking action now [insert your CTA]. And don’t forget to use the hashtags for the debates.

3. Repeat the ask

Organizations should not be afraid to recycle posts or ask for supporters to take action more than once during an election cycle. There’s a lot going on right now, and it may take a few tries to get through to them. Make sure they understand the importance of taking action.

Do not shy from asking your supporters to donate or take action in an election year. Go at it! Bonus points if you are able to tie your communications with what is going on with the election.

Join us for our new podcast mini-series, Acquire & Convert, to learn how to find people who love your cause as much as you do!


Caroline Stuart-Freas has devoted her career to working with and for nonprofits about causes she cares about. Caroline worked for Blackbaud for a decade, helping countless organizations with online fundraising and advocacy. Most recently she was a senior member of the account team leading up the efforts to support Blackbaud’s advocacy-focused clients. Before Blackbaud, Caroline worked for progressive advocacy organizations as a field organizer and as a digital strategist. Caroline is currently working as a consultant, helping organizations develop their digital strategy. She serves on the board of Planned Parenthood of Metro Washington and Metro DC PFLAG. 

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