One common problem in advocacy is that professionals cannot see what’s going on outside their field. How does someone in healthcare learn from a colleague in energy? How does a person working at a nonprofit take inspiration from a corporate advocacy strategy?
To address that problem, Phone2Action convened experts from the corporate, trade association and nonprofit worlds to discuss advocacy. Industry Intersections: Creating Winning Advocacy Campaigns explained successful, real-world campaigns, including the tools that were used and the tactics that made a difference.
The panelists included Jeanne L. Slade, director of political affairs/NEMPAC and grassroots advocacy at the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP); Nicole Beckett, co-founder and CEO of SameSide, a platform that promotes advocacy at everyday locales; Dena Battle, co-founder and president of KCCure, which fights kidney cancer; and Camryn Peterson, digital advocacy manager at Shared Hope International, which works to end the conditions that promote sex trafficking.
“These organizations are very different, but they all have a great deal to teach us,” said Scott Morrison, the customer success manager at Phone2Action who moderated the panel. “That was our goal: to promote learning across industries.”
The panel discussed a variety of strategies. For example, many organizations could take a lesson from the American College of Emergency Physicians and its nationwide campaign to curtail surprise medical billing.
The association engaged in traditional advocacy, establishing a coalition, sending lobbyists to meet with congressional staff and engaging lawmakers in their districts. It also launched a grassroots campaign, activating more than 7,100 of its U.S. members—fully one in five—and generating more than 27,000 emails to Congress.
But it did not stop there. ACEP also reached out directly to the public, a strategy that is not part of its traditional game plan. Using a dedicated website and highly targeted digital advertising, it acquired more than 5,000 new public advocates who made more than 22,000 connections with Congress.
“The more people we spoke with, the more told us they had an experience and received a surprise bill,” Slade said. “It became a way for us to educate the public and The Hill.”
Shared Hope International has also been pushing boundaries. The nonprofit launched its digital grassroots advocacy system in November of 2018 and saw substantial results by May. In more than 40 campaigns, the nonprofit engaged almost 6,900 advocates and generated roughly 5,900 connections with lawmakers.
But the organization wanted to do more. Specifically, it wanted to launch digital campaigns around its Protected Innocence Challenge Toolkit, an annual report card that issues each state a letter grade on its efforts to prevent sex trafficking.
“We’ve always done this great research but we haven’t ever given anybody an opportunity to do anything with it,” Peterson said. “We realized we weren’t really putting into the hands of advocates and allowing them to rise up.”
Now, the organization conducts state-by-state campaigns, as well as “evergreen” campaigns that target multiple states. “We decided that it’s time for us to start giving people this information and allowing them to take action themselves,” she said.
While some organizations are going broader, others are getting more personal. SameSide, for example, is a for-profit company that created an events platform to promote advocacy at everyday locales, from restaurants to yoga studios. “We want to meet people where they’re at and give them the tools to engage and take action beyond giving money,” Beckett said.
The strategy is extremely effective, a point underlined when SameSide supported Colorado’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Act. The company and its partners held more than 40 events statewide. One venue alone, Wild Women Winery, did 14 events, holding wine tastings where supporters could also take action. The campaign attracted more than 570 supporters who completed more than 1,600 actions.
SameSide also engaged in what might be called “analog advocacy,” printing colorful postcards that advocates could fill out and send to lawmakers. In an age of digital communication, it stood out (it also made a nice visual for Instagram).
The bill ultimately passed. As Beckett put it, “bringing people together is pretty powerful.”
KCCure also uses personal appeals in its fight against kidney cancer. The nonprofit took up digital advocacy last year and it had an immediate impact. In a matter of weeks, more than 600 advocates took action and sent more than 2,000 messages urging lawmakers to increase funding for research. When Congress created the budget for fiscal year 2020, it contained $40 million—double the amount in the previous year.
Now, KCCure is focused on collecting patient stories and supporters have again responded. The organization has collected more than 200 stories, some of which will be used in its advocacy campaigns. In March, for example, it will release one story every day for Kidney Cancer Awareness Month.
Stories like this often resonate with lawmakers and staff who are inundated with reports, statistics and data. “Working in policy, those are definitely the things you remember, that real, raw honesty about what people are going through,” Battle said. “That’s what you never forget.”
Subscribe for Updates
Get the latest civic engagement trends, best practices, and news, right in your inbox.