Advocacy Campaigns: 5 Essential Tools to Support Your Cause

5 Key Advocacy Software Solutions: Digital Tools, Face-to-Face Communication, Canvassing, Website, Peer-to-Peer Support

November 17, 2021

Advocacy campaigns are an innovative way for nonprofits to engage their current supporters, attract new audiences, and fulfill their mission at the same time. An effective advocacy initiative can result in a series of successful, sustainable campaigns, helping your nonprofit appear both effective and professional to supporters, all while making a difference in the world.

However, before you can reap the many benefits of a successful advocacy campaign, your nonprofit will need to invest in the right advocacy software. Advocacy software comes in a variety of solutions, from messaging tools to bill tracking software. Plus, your nonprofit’s other software solutions, like your CRM or your website, can also be used to forward your advocacy efforts.

To help your nonprofit better leverage advocacy essentials and gain a deeper understanding of the variety of platforms available, this article will explore five key advocacy software solutions:

  1. Digital Advocacy Tools
  2. Face-to-Face Communication Tools
  3. Canvassing Software
  4. Your Website
  5. Peer-to-Peer Support

How much your nonprofit uses each of these tools will depend on both your organization and the type of campaign you are running. For example, a campaign that aims to spread awareness may not have as much interest in bill tracking software as a campaign devoted to influencing a specific piece of legislation.

As you read through each software solution, consider how it can fit into your campaign’s unique setup to help your nonprofit achieve your advocacy goals. Let’s get started.

1. Digital Advocacy Tools

Advocacy campaigns can be conducted through traditional means, online, or through a combination of both approaches. Digital advocacy campaigns refer to campaigns that are run almost exclusively online. These campaigns may involve phone calls or occasional events and demonstrations, but most advocacy work will be conducted through virtual means.

Digital campaigns can be an effective way to spread the word about your cause quickly to a wide audience of supporters. Of course, there are several challenges to getting noticed online. Your nonprofit can overcome these hurdles with digital advocacy tools and best practice, such as:

  • Automatic communication tools. During your advocacy campaign, supporters will take actions that you should have an automatic email response for. These messages can include thank yous for their participation, new supporter onboarding messages, reminders to complete a task such as contacting their representative before a specific deadline, and more.
  • Message templates. Templates help you stay in touch with all of your supporters without writing individual messages to each one. Be sure to customize your message templates before sending them out to address every supporter by name, reference their previous engagement, and add other personal touches to tailor your communication to each individual.
  • Posting calendars. Maintaining an active social media presence, especially on multiple platforms, can easily be a full time job. Establish a posting calendar, whether with manual or automatic uploads, to help you schedule and coordinate your content.

Digital advocacy campaigns rely heavily on your volunteers interacting with your messages and sending out messages themselves to engage their personal networks in your cause. Before sending your volunteers out to start advocating, set up a volunteer management program and ensure that part of it includes training on how to represent your nonprofit’s brand.

2. Face-to-Face Communication Tools

Virtual communication can help your nonprofit spread your advocacy campaign quickly and to a much larger audience than traditional methods. However, with the rise of online and digital marketing, it can be more difficult to make personal connections.

Face-to-face communication and conferencing tools can help your nonprofit overcome this hurdle, allowing you to make personal connections even with remote supporters.

When assessing advocacy software, look for solutions that offer a video conferencing component to improve your communication. Some software will offer integrations with popular third-party software, like Zoom, while others will have their own solutions that create a unique conferencing experience.

If your volunteers are conducting face-to-face meetings with potential supporters, be sure to go over proper meeting protocol with them ahead of time to ensure they present your brand appropriately and professionally.

3. Canvassing Software

Canvassing has been a core component of advocacy campaigns for centuries, but today’s canvassing methods are a step above traditional paper forms and clipboards. Modern canvassing software allows your organization to go paperless, providing a more streamlined experience.

Grassroots Unwired’s article on canvassing software walks through several key features of upgrading your canvassing tools:

  • Virtual canvassing. Virtual canvassing allows your volunteers to canvass from the comfort of their own homes. These canvassers can still connect with specific neighborhoods as if you were managing turf for a traditional canvassing campaign. However, instead of ringing doorbells, they will video conference, text, or call individuals to tell them about your campaign. This means that your volunteers will never need to worry about wasting time walking up to empty houses.
  • Script-branching. Canvassing requires your volunteers to relay several pieces of key information while representing your campaign and brand. You can ensure your canvassers never miss core points about your campaign with script-branching tools that allow for a naturally flowing dialogue while moving the conversation forward.
  • Real-time reporting. Even with scripts and designated canvassing areas, your volunteers are likely to still encounter both unexpected opportunities and challenges. With real-time reporting, your canvassers will be able to get in touch with their supervisors quickly, allowing you to navigate obstacles and make the most of sudden windfalls.

Like other virtual platforms, when properly integrated with your other databases, your canvassing software will dramatically cut down on data entry and other repetitive tasks. This allows you to streamline administrative responsibilities and focus on what your reports mean rather than just assembling them.

4. Your Website

Your website has several objectives it must accomplish. It needs to be both eye-catching and informative, while also helping guide visitors to complete key tasks for your nonprofit, such as donating or signing up to volunteer. Additionally, your website is also one of your most powerful marketing tools for getting the word out about your advocacy campaign.

Nonprofits that are serious about launching long-standing advocacy initiatives should consider creating a dedicated section on their website for their advocacy campaign. The exact content of this section will vary based on the nonprofit and their advocacy objectives but will likely include the following core elements:

  • Information about current campaigns. For each of your campaigns, make sure your website lays out clearly what your nonprofit’s objective is and how it will advance your overall mission. Additionally, this can be a place to share specific goals, whether they are to influence a specific piece of legislation or to spread awareness to a certain number of people.
  • Links to ways supporters can get involved. Website visitors interested in learning more about your advocacy campaign are at a critical point in their engagement. A strong call to action, straightforward directions for how they can get involved, and links to the appropriate signup pages often make the difference in whether visitors decide to support your cause.
  • Campaign updates. You can keep your current supporters motivated and engaged by providing them with regular updates on your campaign’s progress. Some organizations send their supporters direct emails to keep them up to date, but others go the extra mile and also run a campaign blog, creating a public log of each of your campaign’s accomplishments.

If you’re unsure about how to expand your website, look to other nonprofits with advocacy initiatives for inspiration. For instance, Loop’s guide to the best nonprofit websites can be a strong starting point for finding inspirational designs and making decisions about what would and would not work for your website.

5. Peer-to-Peer Support

The most effective advocacy campaigns encourage your supporters to become advocates on your organization’s behalf, spreading the word about your cause to their personal networks. This means that advocacy campaigns work well with nonprofit peer-to-peer campaign strategies.

You’re likely familiar with peer-to-peer fundraisers, and advocacy campaigns take a similar approach but with an additional focus on spreading awareness. Just like your nonprofit’s usual peer-to-peer campaigns, your advocacy campaigns will need:

  • Peer-to-peer software. Peer-to-peer software comes in a variety of solutions, including advocacy-based platforms. Find a solution that empowers your volunteers to present their own personal stories and connections to your cause, while also helping your nonprofit stay organized and present a united front.
  • Volunteer management tools. Peer-to-peer campaigns require managing many volunteers at once, all of whom are running their own small fundraisers. This makes it easy to get disorganized without the proper oversight. Use your communication and volunteer management tools to keep track of your volunteers and reach out to them with assistance as needed.
  • Event management software. Many peer-to-peer campaigns are held in the lead-up to an event to generate interest and raise revenue at the same time. Make sure your peer-to-peer software and event management tools are compatible to create a streamlined experience for both your supporters and your staff. Or, look for peer-to-peer tools that already have event management features, such as ticket scanning and check-in capabilities.

When marketed effectively, peer-to-peer campaigns can also get your current supporters involved in your cause. Only being asked to donate again and again can make supporters feel disconnected, but offering them new, engaging ways to get involved that don’t require reaching back into their wallets can solidify your supporters’ investment in your organization.

Advocacy campaigns can be an investment of time and energy, but with the right resources, your nonprofit will be able to automate key processes, connect with supporters, and spread the word about your cause. Take inventory of your current techstack to see what you already have and what tools could be improved on. Then, start exploring the world of advocacy software to find the right tools for your campaign.

About the Author

Russ Oster, Founder of Grassroots Unwired

Russ’ first experience in the world of grassroots organizing came when he was an infant and his mother pushed him in a stroller door to door to collect signatures for the Impeach Nixon movement. Eighteen years later he embarked on his college career in Washington, DC and during that time developed a passion for campaigns and elections that started with an internship on the campaign of the first woman ever elected to Congress from the State of Virginia.

For the next 15 years Russ lived and breathed campaigns, running field operations in a wide range of races and for a number of coordinated campaign efforts. When it became obvious to Russ that the technology existed to make field efforts drastically more efficient and accountable but the solutions did not, he launched Grassroots Unwired and has worked every day since to keep GU on the cutting edge, pushing new features and enhancements to meet the needs of every evolving grassroots organizing efforts.


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