Citizen movements continue changing the world in the face of corruption, cronyism and unresponsive government. It’s a dynamic that needs to gain momentum now more than ever as the clash between public health, public property and public servants reaches new heights around the world. It’s up to citizens and nonprofit organizations to purge these threats to democracy and innocent people.
Most nonprofit organizations could boost their impact with more aggressive advocacy campaigns. Much of the sector needs to shift from just responding to problems to trying to address the root causes of those problems. They must build awareness, understanding and support from all stakeholder groups to influence public policy.
The power to share information and engage stakeholders has never been greater, but most organizations aren’t making the most of opportunities. These failures are costly. To help you avoid missed opportunities, here is a quick checklist of strategies and tactics that can help organize and optimize most campaigns.
All advocacy campaigns begin internally. Make sure that you notify, educate, motivate and empower your support structure first. Members, customers, employees, allies and others will help you start the parade and they can serve as spokespeople, recruiters, donors, volunteers and more. They will play instrumental roles of disseminating information and opinions via social media. Be sure to segment out these groups as much as possible for tailored messages and different calls to action.
Lobbying is when an organization tries to influence the outcome for proposed legislation through communications with legislators and their staff. All lobbying is advocacy, but not all advocacy is lobbying. Nonprofits can hire lobbyists and use staff for lobbying, but it’s important to know the rules to protect your campaign and the policymakers from violating procedural rules.
Legislator engagement and education can be different than lobbying, especially when the legislature is out of session. It’s important to build awareness, understanding and support for your issues outside of the legislative process. Be sure to target newly elected legislators, committee chairs, past allies, past foes and others who can hurt or help your cause. The pursuit of common ground can yield important alliances and neutralize the most challenging adversaries.
Elected officials respond best to messages from people they know well and from the people they represent, their constituents. While your top level (grass tops) advocates are talking with many different elected officials, support those efforts with you front line (grassroots) supporters should be mobilized and directed to the elected officials that represent their districts.
Public opinion still influences most public policy, but the battle for the hearts and minds of citizens, communities and leaders is fierce. Plus, people are being bombarded with issues at an accelerating rate, so gaining attention and keeping audiences engaged long enough to act is part of the challenge.
Every issue is different, which means that every campaign is different. However, the assessment and planning process is fairly standard. The following checklist is a simple overview of our process at Crossbow.
Read more about successful advocacy campaigns at http://crossbowcommunications.com/tips-tools-for-advocacy-campaigns/