Small teams with tight budgets are all too common among advocacy organizations — especially at the state and local levels. If you’re operating with a small advocacy team (or if you are the team), you’re not alone: 58 percent of government affairs and advocacy professionals work on teams of just 1-3 people, according to a recent FiscalNote Industry report.
Working on a small team as an advocacy professional represents a unique set of challenges and opportunities to navigate. Read on to learn about those challenges, how to take advantage of opportunities, and practical tips for success.
Biggest Challenges of Small Advocacy Teams
By far the two biggest challenges are budgetary and time constraints. Most small advocacy teams are stretched too thin and don’t have the financial or human capital to achieve mission-critical goals. When faced with these challenges, advocacy practitioners often feel like they’re trying to stay above water.
When your government affairs, advocacy, and communications teams are working together, you can increase campaign effectiveness and goal outcomes, and establish an advocacy reputation that goes far beyond your budget. Using technology such as a data-driven grassroots advocacy tool can allow small teams to maximize output without increasing headcount — and often, that tech can be more affordable than a new hire. AI tools are another way you can expand your advocacy outreach without hiring additional staff. For example, AI tools can edit videos, generate text, and edit copy, and many of these tools are free, allowing you to get more done with a lean team.
Managing Your Time
Avoid letting perfectionism and distractions set you back. Focus on achievable goals and have a clear division of labor within your team or your broader organization’s staff.
“Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good,” said William DeVoe, director of communications and advocacy for the Cerebral Palsy Association of New York, at a recent FiscalNote event on maximizing results for small advocacy teams. “Done trumps anything. The best release or piece of content is the one that you can use effectively, even if it’s not the most perfect piece of content.”
Advantages of Small Advocacy Teams
Small advocacy teams are positioned with inherent strengths and opportunities because of, rather than despite, their size. Large organizations often have more hoops to jump through, meaning minor initiatives can take a long time to get approved. Organizations and advocacy teams that are smaller are better equipped for rapid response and getting a message out immediately.
At a moment’s notice, advocacy organizations need to quickly launch a campaign to fight legislation or a regulation, and rally supporters and stakeholders to take action with informed messaging and issue alerts. Small advocacy teams that leverage technology to do the heavy lifting can be nimble, have less bureaucracy, and accomplish tasks with haste. These teams can often afford the opportunity to engage more directly with members, stakeholders, and employees, developing more meaningful relationships.
Leveraging Free Media
When it comes to media, the advantage of a lean and nimble team means organizations can get communications out faster than larger trade groups, corporations, or coalitions that possess more financial resources and employees.
“I think you can never get away from the power of free media,” said Rachel Coffman, president of Coffman Collaborative. “One of the things that West Virginia struggles with is the media companies also are doing budget cuts, so we don’t have as many reporters to cover things as we used to. But a key thing that I’ve talked about with some of the reporters is that they will take video that’s made on your phone. If you record your own interviews and B-roll, package that up, and send it over, half of the time they will put that on their online services or their Facebook page.”
Many media outlets need content to maintain a stream of communication with their audience. Using the right technology coupled with personal professional relationships can help achieve your objectives.
10 Quick Tips to Streamline Your Advocacy Processes
- Set clear, concise, and achievable expectations
- Communicate complete objectives, progress, and failures with a comprehensive reporting strategy
- Establish a chain of command, approval process, and flow of communication
- Develop clear budgets and timelines
- Use tools and technology, like AI, to maximize results
- Establish leads for different layers of government — federal, state, local, and international
- Build coalitions and fill in gaps where your organization or staff is deficient
- Leverage volunteer and organization leadership to complement staff initiatives
- Create a strategic plan that accounts for growth and scaling of resources
- Use third-party vendors to bolster advocacy efficiency
How an Advocacy Software Solution Can Help Your Small Team
Leverage cutting-edge technology and fuel your advocacy efforts with VoterVoice, the only data-driven advocacy platform on the market that integrates with Chat GPT. Thanks to that injection of AI, VoterVoice makes it easier to take action with pre-populated contact details, understand your campaign successes (and opportunities for improvement) with peer benchmarking, and drive engagement with AI-powered suggestions.
With VoterVoice, your organization can more easily educate and activate stakeholders, target efforts, and work more productively with greater results, at every stage, from a single system.
Joshua Habursky is the Deputy Executive Director and Chief Lobbyist at Premium Cigar Association.
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