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Engaging your activists: 5 strategies for advocate retention

May 24, 2023
A diverse group of adults smiles and laughs together at a GivingTuesday event.

There are key moments when your nonprofit organization might acquire thousands or hundreds of thousands of email addresses and phone numbers, all from new supporters ready to take action and help fulfill your purpose. But how do you keep those supporters active and invested in your nonprofit for the long haul? Will they be interested in supporting your broader efforts?

By implementing the right strategies, you can build a sense of connection with your newly-acquired advocates to keep them engaged in supporting your nonprofit’s goals. Let’s dive into five of those strategies you can implement today!

1. Move quickly in key moments.

When a crisis or breaking news puts a spotlight on your nonprofit, it’s important to move quickly. Use mobile messaging, otherwise known as SMS or texting, for rapid response messaging. Get a head start with this communication channel by collecting phone numbers through your homepage, donation forms, or newsletter, so your supporters are ready to hear from you in critical moments.

Keep your advocates at the forefront of your communications by having a clearly-laid plan, with systems set up in advance, that allows you to move quickly in key moments.

2. Keep the language accessible.

For some nonprofits, advocacy work can be steeped in complex policy—legislative actions that drive real, critical change may have policy names that can be confusing for supporters. To help your advocates understand and feel comfortable with getting involved, lead with impact and explain the relevance of policy challenges they may be less familiar with.

This is especially true for advocates who became supporters of your nonprofit due to a major federal policy. You may need to spend some extra attention on relevant local policy changes to get everyone up to speed. Helping your supporters understand the real impact their actions can have can build an overarching affinity for the larger cause you’re fighting for.

3. Implement one-click petitions.

To retain your active advocates and keep them engaged, build one-click petitions that make demonstrating support for a cause as easy as possible. These quick, low-effort asks will keep your advocates informed of new developments in your work and help to build momentum in their own participation and sense of connectedness to your organization.

When you target your active list of donors and audience members first with quick engagement asks, you’ll be able to maintain a longer list of advocates to have at the ready for your next advocacy call to action.

4. Target closely, then build affinity.

Targeting can go a long way toward retaining advocates who may have gotten involved with your nonprofit in response to a single issue. Start by sending communications with a strong focus on the issue that drew them to your organization. Then, gradually move into sharing more about your nonprofit’s broader work to help cultivate your advocate’s affinity for your larger purpose.

With this priming, your advocates will be more responsive to broader appeals to take action and may even make donations to further your purpose.

5. Get some name recognition.

Many nonprofits doing work in advocacy have key leadership at the front of their critical policy efforts. By building up these leaders’ name recognition among members of your audience, you can create a sense of momentum during big moments. You can do this by sending communications that include messages from a recognized member of your leadership team. This can dramatically boost your results and inspire your advocates to respond.

The importance of advocate retention

When your nonprofit’s purpose is relevant to current affairs, you may see an influx of new supporters that are willing to help your cause. Leverage moments like these by having a dedicated advocate retention strategy to ensure your supporters’ continued involvement. Keep them engaged with your nonprofit and give them additional opportunities to learn more about what you do!

This post was contributed by Jack Valor, Associate Vice President at MissionWired, a direct marketing agency for nonprofits and political campaigns.

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    Supporter Engagement
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