How valuable is your advocacy program? More importantly, do you know how to effectively communicate that value?
Whether communicating value to advocates on your list or the executives in your C-suite, statistics show it’s an area where many organizations can use help.
According to the 2019 Advocacy Survey, which asked advocacy professionals about their work, more than a third (34 percent) say it is tough to communicate the value of their program and almost half (45 percent) say it is an area where they would like assistance.
“Advocacy work can be challenging” said Jeb Ory, CEO of Phone2action. “The organizations that are the most effective always remember to communicate the value of the work they do to all constituencies, whether that is your members, your advocates or your boss.”
The Business Case
Communicating value both externally and internally is essential for many reasons, all of which relate to your core business.
When it comes to your audience, advocates want to know that the activity they undertake is yielding results. If you ask them to sign a petition or contact a lawmaker, they want to know that the efforts you undertake together are making a difference. When you report progress, you encourage more, and repeat, participation.
This is even more true at membership organizations, where people or organizations are paying to be part of your program. For these organizations, advocacy is part of the organization’s value proposition. Part of what members receive when they pay their dues is political representation. The organization devotes resources to ensuring that policies that help the profession are considered by lawmakers. Your membership will be more likely to renew year after year if that representation is effective.
Communicating value internally is also essential. Unlike departments dealing with membership, events, products or publications, which often generate revenue, advocacy can be viewed as a cost center. That view is deeply flawed—advocacy is integral to the mission at most organizations—but unfortunately, it is prevalent.
More than one in 10 organizations (12 percent) say they don’t always get support from their leadership, according to the survey, and almost one in five (16.5 percent) say they need help boosting that support. Communicating the value of your program effectively can do exactly that.
Value in Practice
The truth is that there is much that advocacy professionals can do to communicate the value of what they do. Here are some ideas:
- Celebrate Success. When you have success, whether that’s gaining support from a key decision maker, completing an effective campaign or some other victory, make sure all of your constituents know. Internally, this shows that the money spent on your department is producing results. Externally, this tells advocates that the efforts they have made were effective.
- Report Regularly. Don’t wait for a major policy victory to tell your internal and external constituents what you are doing. Make a commitment to communicate regularly. This is especially important when it comes to your organization’s leadership. Whether you deliver a report electronically or make an in-person presentation, your C-suite will be more likely to invest resources in a department that is keeping them briefed and reporting success regularly
- Use Effective Metrics. When you report activity to your leadership, use metrics that matter to the organization. While likes and shares are helpful, it is far better to report the number of people who took tangible action, such as contacting a lawmaker or commenting on regulations. Organizations that are using modern tactics, such as text messaging and SMS short codes, will have an easier time because these tactics are more effective and post higher numbers—sometimes much higher. To learn more about how effective text messaging can be, read the 2019 State of Advocacy report.
Of course, all of this is easier for organizations that are using professional advocacy tools. Modern advocacy software is optimized to make it simpler for your audience to take action, increasing the efficacy of your program. To learn more, read The Case for Professional Advocacy Software.
More important to the conversation about value, professional solutions provide metrics and reporting in a format that is easy to use and simple to export, making it easier to communicate progress to your leadership.
“Few things are more important than clear, compelling reporting on activity when it comes to communicating value,” Ory said. “Advocacy is critical to the mission at most organizations. It’s vital to make the connection between advocacy efforts, engagement, and outcome clear.”
To hear our panel of experts discuss the survey results, download the 2019 Advocacy Survey webinar.
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