At a time when advocacy numbers are booming, organizations of all stripes are looking for ways to cut through the noise. One effective strategy is to launch a phone call campaign.
Phone campaigns ask supporters to call lawmakers, governors or other public officials to discuss their views and argue for or against a policy position. While the common wisdom is that call campaigns have lower engagement rates because supporters would rather email, a call campaign using patch-through software has an edge in a noisy environment.
The primary advantage: lawmakers and staff cannot ignore constituent phone calls.
“The difference with calls is that staffers and lawmakers don’t have an option but to be responsive to that constituent and listen,” said Carson Eades, director of legislative advocacy at the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA).
The CCSA would know. The organization gained more than 5,000 new advocates last year, all from a single phone call campaign.
The CCSA Campaign
In June of 2020, the association created a campaign asking supporters to make calls to the California legislature about the state budget. The campaign, called “Restore Funding for Growing Nonclassroom-based Schools,” was sent to CCSA’s supporter list, who were asked to submit their phone number on a form to prompt a patch-through call.
More than 8,800 people responded, making 3,792 calls that resulted in about 100 hours of phone calls between supporters and lawmakers, according to Phone2Action’s State of Advocacy data. Advocates also shared the campaign on Facebook more than 500 times.
The result—a policy victory and thousands of new advocates—caused CCSA to shift their advocacy strategy and emphasize calls over other forms of communication. When CCSA launches campaigns, it now gives advocates only one option: to call their lawmaker.
“In the past, we offered email and call options and most people would just email,” Eades said. “By only giving the option to do calls, we are ‘conditioning our base’ and making them more comfortable calling their representatives.”
5 Tips for Strong Calling Campaigns
A strong calling program makes it easy for supporters to act and coaches them so that they feel confident enough to contact lawmakers and initiate a conversation. Here are some tips to ensure your campaign has maximum impact.
- Use Patch-Through Calling. You can give your advocates phone numbers and encourage them to call, but a patch-through calling system turns the interaction into a simple, friction-free request. Advocates are simply connected to the lawmaker who represents them.
- Record an Introduction. The CCSA records their own introduction with clear instructions for the advocate. This increases confidence and encourages supporters to dive in and make the call.
- Use a Script. A script, which is available for the advocate to read while making the call, gives advocates a blueprint to follow and boosts confidence further. It gives the caller the key points to emphasize. CCSA tells advocates to introduce themselves, explain that they are a constituent in the legislator’s district and share their address (a proof point that draws attention). They can then cover the points in the script.
- Share Personal Stories. Lawmakers need to know how their constituents are feeling and why. They also need anecdotes to support their policy positions. Personal stories provide all of the above. Nothing resonates like an authentic story that supports your organization’s position.
- Keep It Short. Lawmakers and staff are busy, so be respectful of their time. Make it clear to you supporters that they should not overstay their welcome.
Last year’s call campaign was only a portion of the CCSA’s larger strategy to influence legislators, but it had a major impact on how the organization conducts advocacy and how its audience responds.
“In the past we were lucky if we had 300 people making a call,” Eades said. “Now we get thousands.”
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