After working in politics for 20 years, I’ve learned many lessons—the most important being that if you want to get something done, you need to engage your top supporters, and you need to engage them early and often. Any political candidate, whether for the local school board or the U.S. Senate, will agree that keeping your most loyal advocates informed and feeling valued is a key strategy for a successful campaign.
This is especially true if you’re leading a Political Action Committee (PAC) at a trade association or a corporation. By treating your top donors like they are key stakeholders on a major political campaign, you’ll ensure they feel like they’re receiving a return on their personal investment of time and money in your organization—and you’ll keep them around for the long haul while increasing your organization’s overall advocacy efforts.
So, just how do you do that? Tried-and-true tactics like sending donors a monthly political briefing, having quarterly town hall updates, and hosting fly-ins in Washington are still effective. But with limitations in both budget and bandwidth, PAC coordinators need new ways to engage. Here are a few simple strategies you can implement that will benefit your initiative in the long term.
Empower Your Donors to Take Action
Your donors are your best potential top advocates. They have already shown that they’re invested in your cause, know your issues, and are civically engaged. So why not mobilize them to contact their elected officials when key legislation is being decided? When I helped run a U.S. Senate campaign, it was always our top donors who stepped up when called upon to make a speech, send an email, or make a call. They are also the people who are generally willing to recruit others to join or support the cause.
To successfully empower donors to become advocates, you need to proactively educate them in detail about your legislative and political agendas and engage them regularly with short communications. It’s important to enlist donors well ahead of when you need them to take action, so they are included from the beginning and don’t feel like just a cog in the machine.
Engage Your Donors Using Text
Current advocacy trends show that one of the best ways to communicate with supporters is by texting (SMS). Texts have a 98% open rate, virtually no unsubscribes, and higher conversion rates than emails. It takes 90 minutes for the average person to respond to an email, while it takes only 90 seconds for the average person to respond to a text message. Text messages are also more likely than emails to get to the intended recipient, because a person rarely changes their mobile number.
Texting allows you to cut through the clutter and noise and conveys a level of urgency. Through text messages, you can send your donors invitations to upcoming events, get them to take an action of support, or remind them to donate. Your top advocates won’t mind receiving texts, especially for high-priority issues. I’ve personally seen the success of leveraging texting to drive supporters to take action time after time. I’m very proud of the work my team did at the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) to collect thousands of supporters’ mobile numbers in key manufacturing states. These people became our biggest advocates.
If you haven’t already, start collecting mobile numbers so you can begin texting your donors. As a PAC coordinator, I would rather be able to text thousands of my key supporters in the right states and Congressional districts than email millions of people who are largely unengaged.
Arm Your Donors with Information During Election Season
Elections should be the Super Bowl of activity for PACs. It’s an easy way to engage your donors. Why? Contributors are making donations to elect officials who care about your organization’s top issues. Further, the elections are already top of mind, and your supporters are looking for information on candidates and want to confirm their voting locations.
A great Get-Out-the-Vote (GOTV) campaign is the most effective way to communicate this information. I’m always blown away by the amount of activity that a good GOTV program creates in the final month before an election. By providing your supporters with information they’re actively seeking, a GOTV campaign will drive more traffic to your site. Your supporters will be grateful to have easy access to accurate materials that they need to be informed on Election Day.
A GOTV campaign also allows you to expand your advocacy database quickly and cost-effectively. If you promote your site broadly, you can attract new supporters who are willing to provide their personal contact information to get the materials they need— whether that’s a legally-approved voter guide to make informed decisions at the polls or just the location of their precinct.
Take Small Steps for Lasting Momentum
If you engage with your donors through texting and GOTV tools, your supporters will get more involved. This creates a snowball effect, first by attracting new supporters, then by increasing the impact of your efforts to pass your legislative agenda, and then by increasing future contributions. When supporters see a return on their investment and feel like they participated in a win, they’ll be even more excited to get involved and donate again. This cycle builds on itself indefinitely, and it can be a winning long-term strategy to reach your PAC goals.
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