3 Keys to a Successful Advocacy Effort

Over the past 10 years, our team here at SparkInfluence has helped to launch more than 500 grassroots advocacy and PAC websites. The ugly truth, not all efforts launch have been winners. But, we’ve learned a lesson or two in that time about the key concepts that translate to a successful effort.

More to the point, we’ve watched grassroots and issue advocacy transition from simple letter-writing one-offs to complex integrated campaigns leveraging social media, phone calls and more.

So what works and what doesn’t? I’m not going to tell you to tweet at this time, or send emails at that time – what we’re talking about today are 3 concepts that, done right, will help you build or strengthen your effort from day 1.

1. Educate, Engage & Empower

How many of us have opened our mailboxes at the end of the year to find an envelope with mailing labels peeking out? You know the one I’m talking about – a group that I’ve never heard of sent me a stack of mailing labels and a request for a donation. I’ll honest, most of the time I don’t even look who sent the letter before it goes in the trash. Why? Because the organization sending me the request failed. They didn’t check to see if I was interested in their issue, or convince me of their authority to solve it before blindly sending me a letter,

Unfortunately, this happens far too often in issue advocacy. A grassroots effort decides it’s time for a call-to-action, fires up their email platform of choice and sends a generic email to their entire database. An email goes out with no personalized connection and very little reason to take action other than a “Take Action Today” message.

Instead, we as owners of these grassroots efforts have to understand how we educate, engage and empower our end users. What content are they looking for? What message strikes a chord? What method is best for reaching out to them – Twitter, Email, Facebook? What are our stakeholders most comfortable doing – Writing, Calling, Tweeting? Through effective content, timely calls-to-action and the right, personalized, messaging we can educate our users on the effort, we can engage them in the discussion and finally, we can empower them to action. How we get to that point, well, see #2 below. It’s about the data.

2. Track, Manage & Encourage

Data is key to any effort. And we’ll continue to be a broken record about it, but every (in)action your community takes with your grassroots or PAC program is a data point that can only help moving forward. The opening of an email, the clicking of an advertisement on Facebook, the Klout score of a particular user, all of these are data points that you can and should use to better your messaging, your ad targeting and, more importantly, your organization as a whole.

Imagine a quick example. As we send out an email about our effort. Now personalized to the user based on the information and data they’ve provided to us – what they do with the email is a treasure trove of data points. For example, details we can use include:

  • Opens, unopens, bounces, clicks, conversions
  • For those that opened: Time of day, email client, location, subject lines that worked and messaging.
  • For those that clicked: All of the above plus page email call-to-action messaging, issue subject, email format.
  • For those that converted: All of the above plus page success data, browser, device, time on page
  • Finally, for those that bounced: A chance to re-engage through a live meeting or phone call to get a new email address, find out why their membership possibly lapsed

And that’s just a single email call-to-action. Imagine the data points that we can gather during a typical day?

Now we have to be able to sort through that data for insights that will help us improve our effort. And, just as important, we need to be able to let others know the impact of our effort. How we do that, see #3.

3. Convey Results

Part of the job of running an advocacy or PAC effort will always be delivering a status of your effort. Whether that’s to your board of directors or the legislator you’ve been targeting, conveying the real impact of the issue and your effort’s work is key. But how do you it effectively?

Hopefully, now that you’ve educated, engaged and empowered your base, you have the quantity and quality of stories to really show that you’ve made a difference. From stories, to videos, to tweets, all of these messages put a real faces to the names that you’ve collected.

Key here is organizing the user generated content alongside the industry information crucial to legislators and their staff. Jobs, payroll, taxes, community influence – all of these are key indicators that will help staff, executive committees and others truly understand the depth and breadth of the issue.

Remember, legislators want to highlight how they help constituents – it plays well in reelection campaigns. Giving them a quick view into the stories you’ve collected, the impact of the issue and clear next steps makes it that much easier to move the needle and affect change.

Finally, don’t forget to convey those results back to your audience. Transparency with your stakeholders will only further help to build trust and drive thought leadership. You’ll be surprised by your community’s reaction when you let them know just how many letters you’ve collected, or the real stories of people just like them affected by the issue. 9 times out of 10 we’ve seen this help to invigorate stakeholders to further invest in the effort and double-down on their interactions now and in the future.


A: Start in whichever circle you feel comfortable. Soon enough you’ll be transitioning in the lifecycle.

B: Find what works for your audience and go with it. Educating and engaging your audience could be messaging on Facebook, mobile, Twitter, email or a layered approach of all of the above. Let the data guide you on platform and message.

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