With businesses shuttered, people quarantined in their homes and daily life peppered with news about COVID-19, it is easy to forget that we are also in the middle of a presidential election.
However, it is crucial that advocacy-heavy nonprofits not lose sight of November’s election and the opportunity it presents. For many nonprofits, it will be the main event this year: an event that can galvanize supporters like nothing else. Those that fail to capitalize on the election risk getting pushed aside by the COVID-19 crisis, their mission lost in the noise.
How can organizations break through and maximize engagement efforts during the pandemic? The answer lies in the data. Advocacy focused nonprofits can take inspiration from modern political campaigns and start making data-driven decisions.
Data-driven campaigning has become a primary weapon for modern political campaigns, allowing them to segment their audience and focus outreach efforts. This micro-targeted approach ensures that the right message gets to the right audience in the right geographic location. In some demographics, it can be even more powerful than television ads. It can be the difference that gets a campaign to victory.
Many credit President Trump’s success in 2016 to the use of Facebook advertisements, which the campaign used to send tailored messages to specific audiences based on data parameters. That’s a trick that nonprofits can play, too. And advocate acquisition—a crucial metric for just about any nonprofit—is a good place to start.
By leveraging Facebook Lead Ads, nonprofits can target electoral messages to a specific audience of people who are interested in the electoral process and willing to engage. They can identify that audience using the wealth of data available on Facebook, including age, interests, geography, platform activity and other factors.
Successful nonprofits will identify their audience and meet those people where they are, using the right medium and the right messaging.
The election also represents an incredible opportunity to engage your existing advocates. Again, the question arises as to how nonprofits can capture the attention of supporters who are focused on the COVID-19 crisis. And again, the answer is found in the data.
Much like how political campaigns look at past voting history to drive their outreach strategy, nonprofits can look at their existing database of advocates to see who has been most engaged in past campaigns. Those who have taken action in the past are far more likely to do so again.
Grassroots advocacy is all about walking advocates up a ladder of engagement, starting with simple requests and nurturing them toward more difficult forms of support, such as calling a lawmaker or making a donation. Electoral participation—getting out the vote—is just another step on that ladder.
Another way to capture attention in a noisy environment is to evaluate how effective your communication strategy has been in past months and years. If motivated advocates are ignoring your emails, another medium might be in order. In short, it may be time for text messaging.
At a time when email is growing ever more tired, text has a 99-percent open rate and click and conversion rates that routinely run to double digits. Both the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee have invested heavily in texting technology to ensure that voters read their messages.
Nonprofits can do the same. Using text to rally motivated supporters around National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 22, Vote Early Day on Oct. 24 or any event that is important to your audience can be a powerful strategy.
Normally, with just months to go before a presidential election, voter registration and GOTV efforts would be at the top of the priority list for issue-based nonprofits. While the COVID-19 crisis has understandably taken the limelight, the election should not be forgotten. Rather, nonprofits should adopt data-driven strategies to ensure they are sending the right message to the right people and maximizing the opportunity before Election Day.
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