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5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Launching a Digital Advocacy Campaign

Digital advocacy efforts are vital for enabling nonprofit organizations to cut through the noise and win campaigns.

By Hammad HassanPublished 4 months ago 6 min read
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5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Launching a Digital Advocacy Campaign
Photo by Kanhaiya Sharma on Unsplash

Without digital advocacy, it can be difficult to measure the success of your campaigns — or even know if you're winning, at all. In fact, 94% of advocacy campaigners believe the opposing side is winning, and 86% believe they should embrace more impactful tactics.

It is time we step up our digital advocacy efforts.

Whether you're a seasoned campaigner looking to go back to basics or are completely new to digital organizing and don't know where to start — you're in the right place.

Here, let's explore five questions you'll want to ask when starting a digital advocacy campaign.

5 Questions to Ask for a Successful Digital Advocacy Campaign

1. What is your goal?

Before starting any digital campaign, it's important to understand what you're trying to achieve.

Think about what you want to accomplish. Do you want to turn the tides on a policy decision currently on the table? Do you want to help de-stigmatize an issue in your community? Do you want to mobilize your supporters to publicly support your issue ahead of an upcoming election?

Marshall Ganz is a scholar at Harvard and activist who has studied powerful movements and what led to their success. Through his research he found a framework for setting goals.

Ganz determined that effective campaign goals should:

Be measurable and tangible to improve the lives of your supporters. You should be able to clearly measure the incremental progress towards the goal.

Focus resources strategically to achieve your goal. Consider what you have in your back pocket– can you put your organization's skills and strengths to use to achieve a single outcome?

Build capacity for your organization internally. For example, when working towards this goal will you recruit and engage volunteers? Will you gain valuable experience or resources, exposure and clout that will help you with your next goal?

Use points of leverage where you can use your communities strengths and/or capitalize off of your opposition's weakness

Focus on a single motivational issue that has a direct impact on your supporters' lives.

2. What is your theory of change?

It is incredibly important to show your supporters that their actions can have an enormous impact.

In our research report on Full Spectrum Engagement, we found that it's essential to show how change is possible. Providing a blueprint for that path — and showing how you get from A to B — will help supporters understand the steps it takes to win, and they'll directly see their role in that change.

Google's research into civic engagement attitudes shows that those who do not take action are held back in part because they didn't believe their actions would have an impact. When people see how their small action plays into a larger strategic plan, they will be more likely to join.

3. Who are your targets?

Now that you have a goal, ask yourself, who are the key decision-makers in charge of making your goal become a reality? Who do you need on your side to make it happen? A good exercise for narrowing in on decision-makers is called power mapping.

To conduct power mapping, follow these steps:

  • Brainstorm: List all of the people involved in your campaign, including stakeholders, influencers, decision-makers, and constituents who are directly affected by the issue.
  • Power Map: Next, place them on a grid and map them based on how much power they have over your issue, and how sympathetic they are to your cause.
  • Pick a Target: Once everything is on the grid, you can see who might be the best person to target in your campaign. Remember — it doesn't have to be the most powerful person. Depending on how long you have, you may go for a more sympathetic person first, or even do an assessment of the most powerful person's network. You need to analyze the pathways and relationships that can get you access to these decision-makers, and how to put pressure on them through a larger network.

4. How will you reach your goal?

You have determined your goal and your theory of change … but how will you put this plan into action?

New/Mode provides a platform for supporters to reach decision-makers and for their voices to be heard. We offer multiple avenues and channels to reach decision-makers.

Reaching a CEO or a bank? Perhaps they would be more receptive to the public and a hashtag on Twitter calling them out.

Need to reach a local representative? They have staff dedicated to opening, reading, and responding to their constituents. New/Mode has built-in datasets that automatically match supporters with their elected officials so none of the manual work falls on your shoulders.

Check out the types of digital advocacy tools you can use to achieve your goals:

Tweet Storm

Use Tweets to build a powerful public narrative, grow support, and make your campaign go viral.

Learn how the Regional Transportation Authority used the tweet storm to win funding for transit.

Letters to the Editor

Make the headlines! Encourage supporters to write letters to local publications and provide a platform for your collective story... decision-makers will be sure to notice!

Learn how organizations such as the Warren Democrats, Stand Up America, and New Hampshire Democratic Party have used this great tool.

Targeted Emails

Input multiple email subject lines and messages into the system to increase deliverability and open rates. Create conditional messages that are dependent on the decision-maker's current vote or position. Give your supporters an appropriate script for the given situation.

Personalized Calls

Call your local, state/provincial, and federal officials, and candidates and tell them what matters most.

Learn how BattleForTheNet used the call tool to advocate for open internet for all.

Petitions

Give your supporters something to believe in! Provide an easy way for them to take action and get in touch with local decision-makers.

Learn how Safe Passage used a combination of the petition, tweet and letter to the editor tool to reunite families.

5. What is your follow-up plan?

Campaigning is a long and dedicated effort. In your digital advocacy campaign you are developing and furthering a relationship with both your supporters and decision-makers. You must have a plan for both of these relationships.

How to Nurture your Relationships with Supporters

You will have a list of supporters who take part in your advocacy campaign and you will have an opportunity to deepen your relationship with them.

Using New/Mode in tandem with a customer relationship management software is really effective to keep track of and nurture relationships. Once an action-taker uses New/Mode, their contact information will sync to HubSpot. In HubSpot you can see who has taken an action, and how many actions they've taken.

With this information you can start to follow-up with those people every couple of months and ask them to participate in an action they're ready to take. For example, if someone starts with a low-barrier action such as a petition, you could ask them to do another simple action like sending an email to a representative or ask them to escalate their action and ask them to Tweet at their representative.

A helpful way to visualize this is a pyramid of engagement/ladder of engagement which is used by campaigners and organizers to define a series of tasks for supporters, usually escalating in difficulty or commitment required.

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