A fast-paced election year can be your advocacy organization’s time to shine, with ample opportunities to shine a spotlight on issues that matter to voters. With midterm elections right around the corner, it’s essential to be compelling, find community, and stay flexible.
Follow these best practices to tighten up your advocacy strategy during an election year to ensure your organization is as effective and impactful as possible.
Tell Compelling Stories
More than ever, compelling stories from members and advocates are critical during an election year when your issues need to get noticed and stand out in a sea of issues vying for attention. These stories can cut through the noise of the elections and quickly get to the heart of the matter.
“It’s important to remember who is benefiting from your advocacy efforts because at the heart of every good policy story is an individual,” said Angela Lee, manager of advocacy outreach and engagement at Goodwill Industries International, in a recent FiscalNote event. “Personal stories are much more memorable for anybody, not just lawmakers, and it gives elected officials a reason to become a champion.”
In an election year, it’s vital to spend time training advocates on how to tell a memorable story that is both concise and captivating. Not only can these stories stick in the minds of lawmakers, but “sometimes, if you’re lucky, these personal stories might be so memorable that they’ll become part of that elected official’s talking points whenever they speak on that issue,” Lee said.
”"Personal stories are much more memorable for anybody, not just lawmakers, and it gives elected officials a reason to become a champion."Angela LeeManager of advocacy outreach and engagement, Goodwill Industries International
Execute Standout Meetings
Emails, newsletters, and carefully crafted tweets can all make an impact, but nothing goes quite as far as a meeting with lawmakers. While the pandemic and busy, shifting schedules can make in-person meetings a hassle, virtual meetings can also pack a punch.
Whether you plan a hybrid fly-in event or conduct smaller-scale outreach, make sure advocates are thoroughly briefed on talking points and equipped with one-pagers before meeting with elected officials. Remember just because meetings with legislators are somewhat the norm for you, some of your advocates may not have had a similar experience before, so training is vital.
Especially during a busy election year, nailing the talking points and making a positive impression is critical. Consider creating fact sheets for advocates with talking points they can quickly refer to during conversations, and hold training sessions with those who may be interested but need to learn more about the most important points to emphasize so they don’t get off-topic.
“We prepare guides for [advocates], give them the opportunity to draft letters, and help them communicate directly with legislative assistants to develop a personal relationship,” says Julie Eller, director of patient-centered strategies at the Arthritis Foundation.
An election year is a great time to find organizations doing similar work as yours, join a coalition, or strengthen existing relationships. Whether you are coordinating advocacy days, fly-in events, or a social media hashtag campaign, greater numbers mean a greater result.
Consider building or joining a coalition of like-minded organizations or partnering with a similar organization to accomplish your goals. You can work on tailoring your message together, keep each other informed of important issues or pertinent election news, and have a network of allies to enlist for support in advocacy projects and campaigns.
Maintaining existing relationships is just as important as building new ones. Francesca O’Reilly, vice president of advocacy at the National PACE Association, said she puts yearly reminders on her calendar to reach out to organizations she has relationships with just to check-in. “See what their priorities are for the year, whether anything has changed, and what they’re working on at least once a year,” O’Reilly recommended. This enables you to keep your ear to the ground, leveraging relationships in your industry to make a greater impact.
Evaluate and Evolve as You Go
In an action-packed, ever-changing election year, flexibility is vital. You may need to adapt your strategy as you go based on new developments, changing relationships, or strategies just not resonating with your advocates. Monitor activity, conversion rates, dropoff points, and advocate engagement as a guide to know whether you’re on the right track or need to tweak things.
“When we have a campaign underway, we’re constantly monitoring the activity, the conversion rate, etc., and we’re adjusting,” said William DeVoe, director of communications and advocacy at the Cerebral Palsy Association of NYS. “If a particular type of ask didn’t resonate, we try something else.”
DeVoe also analyzes dropoff points to find out where advocates stop before taking action and asks, Why did that happen? Why don’t they care? What is it that they care about and are willing to act on? Paying close attention to the numbers and performance of your campaigns can show when it’s time to alter your strategy or try something else entirely.
”"When we have a campaign underway, we’re constantly monitoring the activity, the conversion rate, etc., and we’re adjusting. If a particular type of ask didn’t resonate, we try something else."William DeVoeDirector of communications and advocacy, Cerebral Palsy Association of NYS
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VoterVoice empowers your organization to send surveys, newsletters, polls, and updates year-round so that your base has all the information they need to cast their ballot. VoterVoice has everything you need to run a successful campaign, and everything your advocates need to stay in the know.
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See how our 360-degree approach to managing advocacy and policy issues can help you promote action, manage risk, as well as assess your impact and drive results.