Earlier today I found myself wandering around the internet when I stumbled upon a blog post from Abila Product Partner, CQ Roll Call, summarizing the results from its 2015 special report, Increasing Engagement: How to Keep Members Active When Your Issues Aren’t Hot. According to the report, two out of three respondents say it’s somewhat difficult or very difficult to move members or supporters to participate in advocacy efforts. An equal percentage say they have trouble getting members to take action without an issue before Congress or an agency to motivate them.”
(This is the part where I start singing David Bowie’s “Changes.”)
All joking aside, we now find ourselves in a different reality, on the other side of what’s been a contentious election with significant implications for the American people and the nonprofit sector, in particular. As Abila notes in our 2017 Predictions for Associations, with changes to the political landscape, association professionals will see an opportunity to have their voices heard and perspectives shared in ways that will benefit their organizations and the members they serve. As political and regulatory agendas are shaped and defined, many associations will view 2017 as the best opportunity to engage in advocacy campaigns.
And apparently, we’re not the only ones who believe advocacy will emerge as a powerful tool in the coming year. Case in point: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan have hired a top political operative to lead the next phase of their philanthropic work at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, according to a January 10 New York Times article.
The couple is bringing in David Ploufee, who managed the 2008 Obama campaign, to serve as president of policy and advocacy for the initiative, established in 2015 to conduct charitable efforts. They’re also forming a public policy advisory board made up of past government officials and experts in the fields of education, science communications, and advocacy.
Understandably, most associations and nonprofits don’t have the resources to hire presidents of advocacy or form elite advisory boards. However, there are some actions you can take to energize and engage your staff and members in advocacy efforts.
Here are three tips to get you started:
- Put your data to work. I know, I know – we talk a lot about data at Abila. But your association management system (AMS) can be a goldmine when it comes to your advocacy efforts. Data can help focus your efforts and improve key performance metrics, both of which increase the likelihood of an advocacy win. In addition to understanding the trends most important to membership, you can also look to your data to identify potential advocates, increase action rates, target particular lawmakers, and help move their advocates up the engagement ladder.
- When it comes to storytelling, a picture can be worth a thousand words. You’ve identified key issues that could impact your organization and the sector you serve, positively or negatively, but how can you get the word out in a way that’s impactful to both your member advocates and legislators? In a world where the messaging landscape is growing more crowded while attention spans continue to shrink, successful use of visual storytelling can help you break through the noise. Compelling infographics, images, or video can greatly improve your chances of being heard and of your message sticking with your intended audience. Check out some great examples here.
- Feet (and tweets) on the street. The high visibility of new faces at the federal, state, and local level also creates the ideal time for organizations to mobilize their member base with advocacy actions. Making it easy for members is essential for enlisting them in your efforts, and many turn to email with good reason. According to CQ Roll Call, more than 80 percent of those surveyed say members are willing to write an email to a public official, but social media presents an opportunity to reach elected officials, journalists, and other thought leaders in a broader and often more efficient way. Leverage your social influence to result in a bigger advocacy voice, all while increasing engagement and awareness around the issue.
Interested in learning more about this and other trends impacting the association sector in 2017? Join us on Thursday, January 26, for our first webinar of the new year, “#TrendingNow: Association Trends to Watch in 2017.” We’ll not only discuss what’s new for the year ahead, you’ll get one hour of CAE credit just for attending. Click here to register.