February 23, 2012

The best tools for advocacy campaigns


An advocacy campaign to save a state park in Big Sur, Calif. (Image by Patrick Smith)

A look at the most effective techniques to advocate for social change

Guest post by Kyle Henri Andrei
Idealware

Advocacy organizations often encourage their grassroots supporters to influence politicians and corporations using different methods, from promoting a cause or opposing legislation to challenging ad campaigns or policies. A large display of public opinion can have a powerful message, and advocacy groups often help to focus and channel this support to make the most impact.

This was traditionally done with mail. The sheer bulk of hundreds or thousands of letters was a strong visual stand-in for the people behind the cause. Today the tactic hasn’t changed, but the message is more likely to be delivered by email, telephone or social media, and the physical presence of the message replaced by the easy, constant barrage of communications

Let’s look at a few of the tools available to help advocacy groups direct grassroots communications to a target.

Email-based tools

While once a strong alternative to physically mailing letters, high-volume email campaigns have become more difficult at the national level. Most Congressional offices now use Web forms and other filters to restrict the flow of email to their in-boxes, minimizing their impact. The majority of mid-range and higher-end tools are able to navigate these roadblocks, but it’s a game of cat and mouse; as the email tools become more effective, so too do the defenses.

On the other hand, state and local politicians have lower email traffic and therefore tend to have fewer restrictions on the emails they receive. This makes them more effective targets. Corporations also tend to be more vulnerable to such efforts than Congress, and are more sensitive to attacks on their brand — and, in turn, more responsive to a campaign. Continue reading

July 19, 2011

How DoSomething engages young people

 

Make it easy to participate, make it mobile — and don’t forget the fun!

JD LasicaOne of the great success stories of online advocacy has been DoSomething.org, a not-for-profit that encourages young people to use the power of online to “do good stuff offline.”

Last fall I moderated a panel at BlogWorld Expo with DoSomething chief technology officer George Weiner, and last month I co-presented a Social Media for Social Good bootcamp at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service with George.

“This generation is far more engaged than anyone can possibly understand or measure due to the amount of conversations going on in social media.”
— George Weiner

So during a brief break in the action I got him to talk about how DoSomething spurs 1.2 million young people a year to take action on behalf of a social cause they care about.

“Young people have this amazing thing they can do that doesn’t require car, money or an adult,” he says. Simply put, any young person — 25 or younger, with a sweet spot of 16- to 17-year-olds — can launch a social cause campaign about any cause they feel passionately about.

The nation’s largest cause site for young people, DoSomething has about 30,000 cause projects started by young people.

Watch, embed or download the video on Vimeo

Success comes down to a combination of factors


The annual DoSomething Awards airs on VH1 in August.

The site’s success comes down to these factors:

• They make it easy to participate by lowering the barriers to entry.

• They’re laser-focused on catering to young people.

• They make it easy to take part in campaigns via mobile devices.

• They try to make causes fun by emphasizing use of participants’ social networks. Continue reading

March 9, 2011

How to connect online advocacy with fundraising

Knot

John HaydonIf your nonprofit conducts advocacy campaigns, maybe you’ve had a difficult time understanding how those efforts might align with your fundraising efforts. It might be even more difficult if these two efforts are located in different branches of your organizational tree.

But like Karate and Judo, both advocacy and fundraising are simply different ways your constituents fight for your cause.

Advocates are seven times more likely to donate

A new report, Connecting Online Advocacy and Fundraising by Mark Davis of Blackbaud (with help from M+R Strategic Services and Amnesty International USA) outlines how advocacy and fundraising work together.

Included is research by M&R Strategies and Care2 that shows activists are seven times more likely to donate, compared with supporters who did not participate in an advocacy campaign. This confirms what we all already know in our hearts.

A few other takeaways from the report:

Advocacy appeals blow away fundraising appeals

These two graphs from the report says everything you need to know:

How to align online advocacy with fundraising

Mark also offers the following steps to create an advocacy-led fundraising campaign:

  1. Identify a timely issue
  2. Set a goal that uses the issue to move your mission forward
  3. Develop a campaign around the issue that uses emails, social media and your website
  4. Develop a calendar to schedule multiple messages to your constituents over several months
  5. Plan actions that move from easy to hard
  6. Show movement and success
  7. Continue reading