Fueled by the pandemic, protests over racial injustice and the most divisive election in a generation, grassroots advocacy exploded in the first half of 2020, producing more digital activism than America has ever seen.
Such are the findings of Phone2Action’s annual State of Advocacy 2020 report, which was released this week. The 100-page report, based on millions of actions taken on the Phone2Action platform, shows a new advocacy landscape in which Americans are more willing to take action and organizations are increasingly relying on digital tools to communicate with public officials.
“Citizens are making their voices heard in new ways and at a new volume,” said Jeb Ory, CEO of Phone2Action. “These citizens have completely transformed the advocacy landscape, using every digital tool at their disposal from advocacy software to WhatsApp—even dating apps and gaming systems—to shape policy when it matters most. The world of Washington influence will never be the same.”
The State of Advocacy 2020 report shows the growth in digital advocacy between January and June of 2020; the surge in activity caused by the pandemic, which was a primary driver of the increase in advocacy; and the rise of the “new citizen,” whose actions this year drove American action to record heights
It also contains actionable information, such as the most effective days and times to launch a campaign, and success stories from more than 50 top companies, associations and nonprofits, including the National Restaurant Association, the American Nurses Association, Expedia Group, Consumer Reports, Headcount, Black Futures Lab and many others. To learn more, read on.
Digital Grassroots Advocacy is Booming
Digital grassroots advocacy set records in almost all major metrics in the first half of 2020.
- Activity. 14 million actions were taken on the Phone2Action platform from January to June, eight times the number in 2016 (the last presidential election year). This includes email, phone calls and social media posts directed at public officials.
- Participation. 3.4 million people participated in advocacy on the Phone2Action platform for the first time between January and June of 2020, more than ever before. That’s a 121-percent increase over a comparable period in 2018 and a 306-percent increase over 2016, the last two election years.
- Connection. 12.6 million connections were made between activists and elected officials—emails, tweets and phone calls—between January and June, more than in any other period since Phone2Action began collecting data. The connections were a 78-percent increase over a comparable period in 2018 and a 952-percent increase over 2016. The volume of advocacy email alone went from 7 million in the last half of 2019 to 12.4 million in the first half of 2020.
Ximena Hartsock, co-founder of Phone2Action, said that 2020 amounted to a perfect storm for organizations who cout public affairs and government relations as part of their mission.
“The tech adoption that was accelerated in recent months, paired with a sense of urgency around the issues, created a perfect storm for activism,” Hartsock said. “This is a moment in time.”
COVID Was a Major Driver
When the White House declared a state of emergency over the pandemic March 13, it marked the beginning of a dramatic increase in digital advocacy on the Phone2Action platform. We call the activity between March 13 and May 30 “The COVID Effect.”
A total of 52,000 people took action every day during the peak period (March 13th to April 20th)—roughly 36 people every minute. That’s 20,000 more each day than in a comparable period before the emergency declaration. Some additional highlights:
- Activity. 2.3 million people took action March 13 to May 30, a 56-percent increase over the same period in 2019.
- Participation. 2 million people participated in advocacy on the Phone2Action platform for the first time from March 13 to May 30, a 41-percent increase over 2019. The growth was most prominent in associations, which saw new advocates increase 363 percent.
- Connection. 7 million total messages were sent to elected officials at the federal, state and local level from March 13 to May 30, a 41-percent increase over 2019.
- Conversion. Conversion rates, meaning the percentage of supporters who took action on an advocacy request, almost tripled, growing from 6 percent before March 13 to 16 percent after.
“While the boom in 2020 is built upon years of steady growth in digital advocacy, the events of 2020 have accelerated citizen activism at a rate we could never have anticipated,” Ory said. “People want to be heard and to have a say in the decisions that impact them, particularly during this challenging year.”
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