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Grassroots advocacy: 6 strategies for a successful campaign

August 03, 2020
These nonprofit supporters are marching with signs and megaphones to advocate for the nonprofit's cause.

Although the best-known advocacy movements occur primarily at the state or national level, many successful campaigns get their start at the local—or grassroots—level. Nonprofit organizations like yours can use grassroots advocacy to bring your supporters together and effect lasting change that is relevant to your purpose or projects.

Grassroots advocacy campaigns rely on a strong supporter base and an organized approach. In this guide, we’ll walk through six strategies your organization can use to advocate for issues in your community. Let’s get started.

1. Online petitions

Online petitions amplify community members’ voices and often expedite the process of effecting change by quantifying widespread support for a cause. Plus, they’re an easy way for new supporters to get involved with your organization.

When creating an online petition, make sure to:

  • Clarify its purpose in the title and description.
  • Include compelling visuals to encourage signing.
  • Add a progress thermometer showing how close you are to your signature goal.
  • Send a thank-you email to each supporter after they sign.

To call for even stronger support, include a link to your donation page or a registration form for an upcoming event. This way, supporters are prompted to take an additional step to participate in your advocacy campaign right away if they’re ready.

2. Social media advocacy

Of the communication methods you could use in your advocacy campaign, social media stands out because of its interactive nature. Your supporters can not only receive real-time updates and links to campaign resources from your nonprofit in their feeds, but also interact with you and other community members in the comment section of each post.

When posting on social media, make sure all advocacy-related content is shareable. This way, supporters can spread the word about your cause to their followers, furthering your digital advocacy efforts with no additional work on your organization’s end.

3. Targeted messages

One of the most effective ways to draw attention to your advocacy efforts is by having supporters directly contact local policymakers such as city council members or state legislators. With specialized grassroots advocacy software, your supporters can send an email or Facebook message to their representatives to call for policy change related to your organization’s cause.

Keep in mind that there are some restrictions on nonprofit advocacy when it comes to influencing political decisions. Nonprofits aren’t legally permitted to advocate for partisan issues, such as endorsing specific candidates for office. However, any nonpartisan legislation is fair game for your organization to publicly support or oppose.

4. Click-to-call

In addition to written messages, click-to-call campaigns enable supporters to easily contact policymakers by phone regarding your grassroots advocacy efforts. To make click-to-call as effective as possible, try these tips:

  • Give clear instructions for the campaign.
  • Draft a script with detailed talking points about your campaign.
  • Leave space for supporters to discuss their personal involvement with your cause if they want.

For both click-to-call campaigns and targeted messages, embed a tool where supporters can look up who their representatives are in the state legislature and city council. This not only ensures they contact the correct policymakers but also allows them to learn more about the person they’re calling before they reach out.

5. Action alerts

While planning out your nonprofit’s advocacy strategies in advance is important to your campaign’s success, you also need to be prepared to pivot. Your community’s sociopolitical situation is bound to change over time, so your grassroots advocacy efforts need to evolve as well.

Leveraging action alerts ensures supporters always know the latest updates on your campaign and cause. The topic of these alerts can range from last-minute changes in an advocacy event’s logistics to the results of major legislative decisions. No matter what supporters need to know, action alerts delivered directly to their mobile devices will immediately tell them what happened and what they need to do next.

6. Reporting and analytics

In order to know whether your grassroots advocacy campaign has been successful, you’ll need to track and analyze supporter engagement data. Some helpful points to consider include:

  • Email open and click-through rates.
  • Likes, comments, and shares on social media.
  • Petition signatures and next actions taken.
  • Participation rates in targeted messaging and click-to-call campaigns.
  • Online fundraising revenue from advocacy-related efforts.

Your advocacy software should also integrate with your constituent relationship management system so that you can easily transfer supporter information to your donor database. Software like the Bonterra Supporter Engagement Advocacy solution (formerly EveryAction) can perform these functions in addition to creating custom reports for your organization.

Use grassroots advocacy to impact your community

Just because your nonprofit’s advocacy efforts focus on causes that affect your local community rather than national-level issues doesn’t mean you aren’t making a meaningful difference! When you implement the six strategies listed above, your grassroots advocacy efforts can greatly impact the lives of community members and further your organization’s purpose.

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