Advocacy campaigns have evolved over the past few years, dramatically changing how nonprofit advocacy is conducted. While traditional methods can still impact supporters, more and more organizations interested in starting an advocacy initiative look to virtual campaigns first. Whether your nonprofit is interested in spreading awareness or influencing how their supporters might vote, virtual campaigns have the potential to reach a large audience, fast.
Before launching a virtual advocacy campaign, your nonprofit’s leadership should be familiar both with current trends in the advocacy space and digital advocacy best practices. A well-run advocacy campaign can spread your nonprofit’s message, give your organization another way to engage supporters, and further your cause by rallying your supporters to influence legislation.
Many grassroots advocacy campaigns start with groups of concerned individuals coming together over a common cause. To expand your grassroots network further online, have your nonprofit implement the following tips:
- Use technology with a face-to-face component.
- Stay in touch with supporters.
- Make campaigning convenient for your supporters.
- Stay up to date on online advocacy trends.
Keep in mind that a virtual advocacy campaign starts with the right software. Take the time to evaluate your current technology and determine how it can be used to further your campaign. Some organizations may need to invest in new platforms to accomplish their advocacy goals, while others will be able to adapt their techstack to overcome common challenges with these tips.
1. Use technology with a face-to-face component.
Online advocacy has a larger potential reach than traditional, in-person advocacy, but it can be more difficult to form the personal connections that come with face-to-face interactions. Fortunately, modern advocacy technology is aware of this potential shortcoming and has solutions.
When researching advocacy software, look for platforms with a face-to-face component. With the right best practices, video conferencing can allow your team to forge personal connections with supporters, no matter how remote. Make sure everyone representing your nonprofit, from volunteers to board members, follows video conferencing software etiquette such as:
- Having a professional, uncluttered background.
- Limiting background noise.
- Wearing appropriate attire.
Additionally, you may need to implement other guidelines based on your conferencing needs. For example, if there are multiple people in a call, make sure to have everyone unmute themselves when speaking and turn off their microphones when listening to help reduce potential noise interference. Doing so will help your team come across as professional and make for a better video calling experience.
2. Stay in touch with supporters.
Your supporters are likely busy people, and those outside of your nonprofit’s immediate proximity may start to drift away from your cause. Additionally, advocacy campaigns can span months, if not years, which means you’ll need to create a strategy for holding your supporters’ interest long-term.
Digital advocacy allows for fast communication, meaning you can theoretically get in touch with your supporters at any time during your campaign. Make sure all of your messages have a specific purpose and help to promote your campaign’s goals. For most campaigns, communication with supporters will generally occur in three stages:
- Initial recruitment. When you first launch your digital advocacy campaign, gaining momentum online and attracting your first supporters should be one of your top priorities. Messages during this time will primarily focus around educating your supporters as you explain your mission, share motivational stories, and provide directions for how supporters can get involved with your campaign.
- Calls to action. Many advocacy campaigns, especially those concerned with specific pieces of legislation, will lead up to a big push for your cause. This will look different for different advocacy groups but often involves large rallies, mass messaging elected officials, and other public shows of support. Your messages during this period should be both instructive and motivational, explaining to supporters what they should do to make a difference and when.
- Down period between campaigns. After your big call to action, you may experience a slump in activity until closer to the lead-up to your next campaign. This often happens during the summer, but it can occur at different times based on your campaign’s target issues. This is the period of time when your campaign may start losing supporters. Get ahead of this potential decline by keeping up a regular communication cadence that shows your organization is still active and promoting your cause.
Get creative about how you can continue to engage supporters during periods of reduced activity. Hosting online events, encouraging them to volunteer with your nonprofit in other ways, and sharing news of ongoing events in your field are all ways to encourage supporters to stay connected.
Maintaining support reduces the number of supporters you’ll need to re-recruit during your next campaign, allowing your team to hit the ground running and focus on other vital components of your campaign. Plus, long-term supporters might qualify for volunteer grants, which are extra donations for your nonprofit at no additional cost.
3. Make campaigning convenient for your supporters.
Your supporters are invested in your cause, but many of them likely have limited time to devote to your campaign. To attract the widest audience possible, make sure that supporting your cause is as easy as possible. Fortunately, the right digital advocacy tools should help you accomplish this.
Grassroots Unwired’s guide to advocacy software shows the range of available software tools for advocacy groups and how each of them can make your campaign more efficient, organized, and supporter-friendly. For example, here are a few ways that advocacy software can make campaigning convenient for supporters:
- Scripts and templates. While unique, personal messages are often more effective than pre-written ones, templates can help give your supporters a starting point for composing their thoughts. Additionally, if you are running a canvassing campaign, providing scripts will ensure that your canvassers cover all of your key points and represent your nonprofit accurately.
- Elected official matching. If your campaign relies on your supporters reaching out to their representatives, help them find who their elected official is. Districts change, and sometimes matching elected officials can be confusing. Do the research for your supporters or give them the tools to find their elected official quickly, allowing them to focus their time and efforts on their message.
- Automatic reminders. As mentioned, your advocacy campaign will likely have a few key moments in which you’ll want to instruct all of your supporters to act. Coordinating these efforts can become quite complicated and relies on your supporters marking their calendars ahead of time. Once your supporters sign up for your cause, consider putting automatic messages in place to send them reminder emails with detailed instructions when the time is right.
Remember that different supporters will want to participate in your campaign to different levels. While passionate supporters are vital for your cause’s success, you should still strive to make your campaign as accessible as possible to more casual supporters so you can make a bigger impact than you could with only a handful of volunteers.
4. Stay up to date on online advocacy trends.
Advocacy trends change over time, and your campaign’s leadership should be aware of them. Staying in touch with current events in both your industry and nonprofit advocacy in general will help your nonprofit learn about new strategies and potential challenges, allowing you to plan for both.
Stay up to date with current advocacy news by subscribing to newsletters, reading blog posts, and following other campaigns’ social media accounts. Doing so will help you gain a better understanding of the larger advocacy landscape and how your campaign fits into it.
As your campaign evolves, you may need to test and implement new strategies to better advance your cause. For example, you might test your messaging strategy against a new outreach method that’s gaining traction in the advocacy space. Make sure to have the right analytics tools in place before doing so to help you collect data to inform your decision about which approach to continue using.
Virtual advocacy campaigns can give your nonprofit a new way to connect with supporters while furthering your mission. Before launching your campaign, make sure to research and invest in the right advocacy tools that can help you overcome limitations and make the most of the natural advantages of digital campaigns.