A new Administration and Congress with new priorities and goals has many people wanting to take action on policy issues for the first time. People who have never before called a Senator or written to a member of Congress are now speaking up to make their voices heard. The level of civic discourse is a good sign for democracy — and it’s helped by the fact that lawmakers are more accessible than ever before.
In the past, visiting an elected official’s office was the only way for constituents to advocate on behalf of the issues that mattered to them. This rendered advocacy nearly impossible for many people. Today, lawmakers are active in the same channels that constituents are already using — including Twitter, Facebook, and email. Combined with making phone calls to political officials’ offices, this means that everybody has the opportunity to engage in the civic process.
How can your organization harness the power of this trend toward civic engagement, and how do you prepare newcomers to advocacy to be most effective? Here are a few tips for making sure your supporters are ready to engage with decision makers:
Make it Personal.
Advocacy is personal. People get involved in policy issues because the decisions made by leaders have real impacts on their lives. Connect the story of your cause to the advocates who may be engaging with it, and don’t be afraid to be authentic. For example, when the American Heart Association’s organizers lead campaigns they focus the stories they tell on volunteers who have been touched by an issue. Click here to hear a story about how one mother lost her child to sudden cardiac arrest – and how her story was leveraged to galvanize a movement.
Give Options. Not everyone is the same.
Some of your supporters may be comfortable tweeting at decision makers, while others may prefer to make a phone call. Still others may prefer to send an email. Provide different ways for people to participate, and allow them to choose their preferred method of taking action.
Let your supporters know exactly what is going to happen when they take action.
Supporters may be hesitant to make a phone call to a lawmaker unless you tell them what the process will be once they are connected. Assume your advocate has never taken an action like this before and help ease them into it. To reduce potential anxiety, provide a script or talking points they can use.
Public policy is mainstream.
Today, public policy debate is mainstream. Highly visible campaigns have raised awareness about the success that can be achieved through grassroots advocacy, making it a critical time to mobilize your supporters. If you show them who the decision makers are, help them connect to those people, and build their trust — you’ll be well-positioned to engage first-time advocates for future campaigns. From campaigns led by Lyft and Airbnb that make the local news to marches that happen in front of state capitals, people are clearly engaging on causes like never before.
Phone2Action tools meet people where they are.
By presenting new advocates with dynamic campaigns that give them the option to communicate with decision makers by social media, email, and phone, Phone2Action makes the transition into advocacy a smooth one for people at every level. Organizations and companies can decide what channels make the most sense for their issues and targets, and can create an appealing ask that makes civic engagement efficient and even fun.
Making advocacy accessible to everybody means that more voices will be heard on important policy decisions. More people than ever are interested in getting involved, and it’s time to welcome them to the civic engagement process.