Most large associations participate in the political process in some way. Whether it is through direct lobbying, financial support of candidates or political action committees (PACs), or even candidate endorsements, associations with a political agenda can find a way to influence the process. Even associations that wouldn’t appear to most as overtly political often find that getting involved in politics can help support their organization’s overall goals and agenda. =

Once lawmakers have been elected and report for duty, the type of influence wielded by associations, nonprofit groups and other organizations may shift to grassroots advocacy. After all, an association’s most powerful influence may not lie in its financial assets, but in its members. The daily business of getting legislation passed in Washington may seem remote to the average association member, but these issues affect us all, and rallying your members to act on an issue important to your association is one of the best ways to make a difference.

Rule #1: High Quality CRM =

If you’re interested in getting started with an advocacy program for your members, or if you’ve been conducting grassroots advocacy campaigns for years and are looking for ideas to fine-tune your efforts, we’ve got some tips to get you started. Rule #1: If your constituent relationship management (CRM) isn’t on point, your advocacy goals will be that much harder to reach. Before you get started with a new campaign, take a moment to review your CRM.

What sort of information are you gathering and maintaining about your members? You might be surprised how much valuable data you can cull from conducting a survey—the answers may contain information that will assist you in targeting communications and segmenting your audience. In other words, moving beyond the blast email to a more sophisticated approach to advocacy.

=Get Smart About Audience Targeting

If your association has thousands of members, it may be tempting to simply set up a take-action page on your website, send a mass email directing members to visit, and consider your advocacy efforts complete. While that simple approach may not take much time or effort, and while it may result in a few emails written to Congress or local officials, it’s not the smart approach. The smart approach takes far more effort, but will help you achieve your advocacy goals far more effectively. In short, you’ve got to focus on segmenting your audience and targeting your communications.

For example, if there’s a legislative issue you would like to influence, it may be far more effective in the long run to reach out to the 500 members you know have current relationships with the lawmakers working on the legislation than to send a blast email to 50,000 and cross your fingers.

Tailor Your Messaging

In a similar vein, once you have segmented your audience appropriately depending on your goals, their relationships, interests, and engagement levels, you should get to work on your messaging. Depending on the recipient, you should be creating multiple versions of communications of all kinds – email newsletters, social media posts, and other calls to action. If your campaign is a large-scale effort meant to have an impact on legislation at the national level, and your membership base is large and diverse, don’t be afraid to get specific!

Drilling down to the micro level with your messaging is one of the ways grassroots advocacy becomes successful. Do you have a group of members who are “power users” on social media? Make sure to include lots of opportunities in emails to them to share calls to action on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms. Is another group a member of a minority group that will be affected by the issue at hand? Include specific messages in your communications highlighting this point.

Stay tuned for part two of this series, where we will tackle more methods for using smart CRM to achieve advocacy goals.