Ultimate Guide to Advocacy

What is Advocacy?

In simple terms, advocacy is the public support of a particular cause, policy or position. However, when placed in an online perspective, advocacy takes on a much more specific meaning. Online advocacy is the use of the internet, social media, and email to spread the word about your cause or put the spotlight on a particular candidate.

Why is Advocacy Important?

Advocacy in general is vital to effecting change at the local, national, or global level. Online advocacy, in particular, is important because it harnesses the power of the internet to swiftly enact change and promote positive causes. Online advocacy allows you to spread your message in an effective and efficient way to your supporters and advocates.

Advocacy and Fundraising

Advocacy and fundraising can go hand in hand if you properly plan and communicate with your supporters. Luckily, there are no shortage of tools and resources available that can help you reach out to your biggest advocates and ask them for their monetary support. Advocacy and fundraising can be a match made in heaven when paired correctly.

All About Advocacy

It’s important to have a solid understanding of advocacy before delving into more in-depth topics related to online advocacy and fundraising for an advocacy campaign. We’ve got all the basics right here for you!

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The Basics of Advocacy

For simplicity’s sake, we’re going to break advocacy up into three main groups:

  • Peer Advocacy: Peer advocacy involves individuals advocating and supporting someone other than themselves.
  • Cause Advocacy: Cause advocacy is the championing of a particular issue or cause that supporters feel strongly about.
  • Systems Advocacy: Systems advocacy is essentially cause advocacy on a larger scale. It is a form of advocating that seeks to affect social, economic, or political institutions.

Advocacy boils down to the education and promotion of a certain topic that people feel strongly about. It is often used to spur social, political, economic, or religious change at different levels.

Advocacy campaigns can be run by a single person or by an entire organization and are promoted through various communication channels including:

  • Television ads
  • Radio ads
  • Newspaper and other print media
  • Word of mouth
  • Email
  • On your website
  • Social media
  • And more!

There are many ways to get the word out about the cause you are advocating for. It’s up to you and your organization to determine which advertising methods are most appropriate and effective at reaching your audience.

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Lessons from a Lifelong Advocate

There are some people that build a life and career around being an advocate for others or for particular causes. They are often willing to share their advice and tips for advocacy campaigns that others are promoting.

Some of these lessons include:

  • Speak up for those who can’t be heard.
  • Pursue meaningful work.
  • Do what’s right, even when it’s difficult.
  • Recognize the commonalities that we all share.

Being part of an advocacy campaign will require these four tips and many, many more. Make sure that as your promote your cause to your supporters they understand what it means to be an advocate.

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Planning an Advocacy Campaign

Planning an advocacy campaign is similar to planning a fundraising event for a nonprofit or starting a new advertising campaign for a company. Each one is obviously different in its own way, of course, but if your organization is familiar with the steps that are necessary for one, it can easily transfer to the other.

Some of the more general steps involved in an advocacy campaign include:

  1. Setting attainable goals. Just like you wouldn’t overestimate the efficacy of a fundraising event, you should be conscientious and realistic of what your advocacy campaign can accomplish. If you need a certain number of signatures for a petition, give yourself a reasonable amount of time to reach that goal. Change doesn’t happen overnight, and you can’t expect people to rally around your cause immediately.
  2. Determining which communication methods to use. This will likely become more advanced over time, but you can start by examining which methods have been effective in the past. Did you send out emails to supporters that received a high amount of feedback? Was your direct mail campaign found to be a little lacking? Analyze your past strategies and determine which ones worked and which ones didn’t. Then, plan accordingly.
  3. Thanking supporters. One of the biggest components of advocacy is continuing to deepen the connections you have with your supporters. The first step in forming those relationships is acknowledging your supporters’ work. This step is more of an ongoing process and should be practiced regularly.

Planning an online advocacy campaign will follow these same steps. Naturally, you will have to narrow down your available communication methods to digital and online channels, but the other steps will remain the same.

Online advocacy is a great opportunity to reach out to new supporters that are across the country and around the world. Advocacy campaigns that rely on traditional advertising methods are still effective, but they reach nowhere near the same amount of people that online advocacy campaigns do.

Advocacy Best Practices

Every advocacy campaign is different and has its own unique traits. However, there are a few best practices that should be observed across the board.

These best practices include:

  1. Determine your audience. Not everyone will identify with your cause or mission. Your job is to find the people that do.
  2. Build networks. Capitalize on the existing connections you have and encourage your dedicated supporters to reach out to their friends and family members.
  3. Define the issue. Communicating clearly and effectively to your supporters and the general public is key when launching an advocacy campaign.
  4. Provide updates. People will want to know the progress of your advocacy campaign. Make sure that you keep your supporters in the loop via your communication methods.
  5. Highlight your biggest supporters. Displaying your biggest hitters will encourage others to join the campaign. If a local politician or celebrity becomes an advocate for your issue, make sure that you let people know!

There are, of course, many more best practices that make an advocacy campaign successful, but these five tips should be enough to put you on the right track.

Online Advocacy

With the ubiquitous presence of the internet, it makes sense that even advocacy would find an online niche. Whether you harness the power of social media or send out emails that link to your online petition, online advocacy can be used to further your cause and accomplish your mission.

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Advocacy and Emails

It’s been shown that people who take action via advocacy emails are seven times more likely to donate.

With numbers like that, your advocacy campaign can’t afford to ignore the power of emails as part of your promotion.

And just in case you needed more reasons to start using emails as a way to advocate for your cause, emails allow you to:

  • Have more control over how you engage your audience.
  • Segment recipients according to their relationship with your advocacy campaign.
  • Convert more donors and supporters.
  • And more!

Make sure that your emails are engaging and timely. For instance, if there is a news event that is pertinent to your advocacy campaign, send your supporters an email letting them know about it and encourage them to continue contributing to your campaign.

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Advocacy and Social Media

Social media is used for a variety of reasons by everyone ranging from individuals to nonprofits to large corporations. Your advocacy campaign can benefit from using social media to promote your cause to your dedicated supporters and their existing networks of friends and family members.

Whichever site you’re using to promote your cause, you can help rally your supporters around a specific issue or news item by posting a status or picture.

Take a look at some of these examples:

  • Facebook. Not only can you post updates, pictures, and videos, but Facebook ads are effective and they provide metrics and insights. Additionally, posts that are paired with images tend to perform better than others.
  • Instagram. If your advocacy campaign hosted an event, received a certain number of petition signatures, or reached a milestone, post a picture on Instagram! The visual aspect of this social media site will prove successful for your advocacy campaign.
  • Twitter. If you need to update your followers on an ongoing project in live time, Twitter is the perfect site for you! Twitter tends to have a high conversion rate and is useful for quick posts and fast updates.

The important thing to remember about any social media strategy is that your advocacy campaign is that the interaction has to go both ways. Your supporters will have questions, post comments, and add their own opinions.

Your campaign has to respond and communicate with those supporters in order to create a deeper connection with them and grow your base. You can’t effect change without the help of your supporters. Use social media to reach out to individuals and create those meaningful relationships with them.

Online Advocacy and Petitions

It wasn’t long ago that petitions took the form of multiple sheets of paper containing hundreds or thousands of names of people who wanted to help support a cause that someone else was advocating for.

But today, online petitions are the easier and more efficient way to demonstrate the number of people who support your mission.

Online petitions can take many forms:

  • A pledge to vote (or not vote)
  • A pledge to not buy a particular product or support a certain company
  • A decision to support or oppose legislation, a particular policy, or funding

Whatever your advocacy campaign is seeking to accomplish, petitions can be a great way to grow your base and rally strong supporters. Plus, a strongly formatted petition can show donors how your organization can solve the problems that supporters care about.

Some general tips for online petitions include:

  • Create an impact with your title. Your petition title should draw supporters to action. Encourage your supporters to “Demand justice” or “Save the planet.” Use second person to speak directly to your supporters.
  • Explain your mission well. Individuals will be hesitant to support a cause they aren’t familiar with or don’t care about. Use the first paragraph of your petition to explain what you’re advocating for and how the petition will help.
  • Spread the word. People can’t sign your online petition if they don’t know where it is. Include a link in your emails to supporters and post about it on your social media accounts.
  • Encourage people to share. One of the benefits of using an online petition instead of a physical one is the inherent shareability of them. Once your supporters have signed the petition, give them ways to share it with their friends and family members. Your petition will reach more people than you ever thought possible!

Online petitions can be an effective and efficient way to rally your supporters around a specific cause within a short amount of time.

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Online and Offline Advocacy

While online advocacy is no doubt important to any successful advocacy campaign, don’t forget about other, more traditional strategies.

Additionally, you shouldn’t think of online and offline advocacy as mutually exclusive. You can use one to boost the other.

For instance, let’s say you’re trying to host a rally in your community. Instead of just putting flyers up and going door to door, try creating a Facebook event and inviting your friends. You can also send out tweets via Twitter and post pictures of the rally on Instagram.

Using social media to give attention to your traditional advocacy events can be a great way to rally more people to your cause.

Online advocacy can by no means replace the on-the-ground advocates who work hard to bring about real change, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Use the two in conjunction with one another and watch your advocacy campaign reach more people than you thought possible!

Fundraising for Your Advocacy Campaign

Advocacy campaigns have the power of people behind them, but sometimes even that is not enough. If you need to raise money for your advocacy campaign, then you’ve come to the right place! Between fundraising events and online donation tools, you’ll be well prepared to raise money for your cause.

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Online Advocacy and Fundraising

Online advocacy is the perfect vessel for fundraising. Many advocacy campaigns require money to properly effect the change that their supporters are promoting.

This means that your online advocacy campaign should do more than educate people about the problem and offer solutions. Not everyone is able to spend their time advocating for specific causes.

People do, however, enjoy donating money to campaigns that they feel strongly about.

This is where the tie between online advocacy and fundraising is apparent. Think about the ways in which you reach your supporters via online communication methods.

It’s probably a combination of:

  • Social media
  • Emails
  • Information on your website
  • Online petitions

You’re already using these outreach strategies to talk to your supporters about your cause. Use them to ask people to donate!

For instance, after someone signs an online petition, your acknowledgement page should:

  1. Thank them for their support.
  2. Give them information about your progress and update them on the advocacy campaign.
  3. Ask them to donate!

Whenever you ask for money for an advocacy campaign, it must be specific. Unlike nonprofits who ask for donations for their annual fund, advocacy campaigns need immediate action.

Therefore, you have to show supporters why you need their donations and what those donations will go toward.

Specific and direct appeals for online advocacy campaigns will result in more donations for your cause.

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Online Advocacy and Matching Gifts

Many of the people who support your cause with their donations work for companies that will match those contributions.

Matching gift programs are corporate giving initiatives that companies implement to reward their employees’ charitable contributions. Your advocacy campaign can benefit from these programs by marketing matching gifts to your supporters.

While not every single supporter will work for a company that will match their donation, your advocacy campaign might be able to bring in twice as many donations if just let your supporters know that such programs exist.

You can also incorporate a matching gift tool (like Double the Donation’s!) on your online donation pages or on your website.

Donors who feel strongly enough about your cause to give their money will be more than willing to take a few extra minutes to submit a matching gift request to their employers.

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Advocacy and Events

Fundraising events can be a great way for nonprofits and other organizations to raise money for the various projects that they try to accomplish. Whether a church needs a new building or a school needs to help pay for the senior prom, fundraisers can help!

But did you know that they can also be extremely useful when tied to online advocacy campaigns?

You can use the same communication methods you utilize for your online advocacy campaign to let supporters know about a fundraising event. These events can range from raffles and auctions to car washes and community clean ups.

Depending on what cause you’re advocating for, you can tailor your fundraising events to suit your needs. For instance, if you are advocating for fair treatment of animals, your fundraising event can be held in a local dog park or animal shelter. The options are endless; you just have to be creative!

Online advocacy and fundraising events can go hand in hand when you actively promote your event using the same online communication strategies that you use to advocate for your cause.

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Asking Companies for Donations

Your online advocacy campaign can also benefit from corporate donations or contributions from local businesses.

Asking businesses and corporations for donations is an often overlooked way to raise money for an advocacy campaign, but if the issue affects a local business or company, they will be more likely to contribute to your cause.

Make sure that you’re making your case to businesses and clearly communicate why you need their donations. Vague requests for contributions will likely be turned down.

Additional Advocacy Resources

Advocacy Advertising

Advocacy advertising for nonprofits

Need your supporters and members of your community to take action for your cause?

Learn more about how you can use advocacy advertising to get the word out and recruit more people to support your mission.

Planning an Advocacy Campaign

Amazing advocacy campaigns can take a lot of time and effort to plan correctly.

Instead of going in blind, check out this article that details the steps you need to take to plan and execute your next advocacy campaign.

Mobile Fundraising + Advocacy

You likely already know how effective mobile fundraising and text-to-give can be.

But have you wondered how you can combine them with your advocacy campaigns? This article will tell you how to pair the two!

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