Advocacy groups steadily acquired more advocates and generated more connections with public officials in the three years between 2016 and 2018, and they did so using fewer campaigns.
Phone2Action’s first State of Advocacy report followed hundreds of organizations and their trends in advocacy in order to show how companies, nonprofits, and associations build movements, energize advocates, and carry their message to government leaders at all levels.
The report, which Phone2Action will generate annually, suggests that advocacy groups may be growing more efficient over time: increasing their advocate lists at faster rates and generating more communications to lawmakers from their advocacy campaigns. Identifying trends in advocacy like these helps organizations benchmark their performance and improve over time.
“When I was in advocacy before Phone2Action, I wished I had a playbook of research and data that I could look at and study that was specifically designed for people in advocacy,” Ximena Hartsock, co-founder and COO of Phone2Action, said in a webinar discussing the report. “This data set is based on people actually participating and taking action.”
Trends in Advocacy Point to Better Efficacy
Advocate acquisition is increasing annually at the 260 organizations involved in the study, all of which have used Phone2Action’s platform to carry out their programs for the last three years. Among those organizations, 40 percent of advocates were acquired in 2018, compared to 35 percent in 2017 and 25 percent in 2016, according to the report.
Similarly, communications with lawmakers, regulatory agencies and others making policy decisions increased each year. Advocates working with the organizations involved in the study made almost 10 million connections with decision makers via phone, email, Twitter and Facebook in 2018, according to the study. That’s more than double the number in 2016, when communications were fewer than 5 million.
Of course, the number of advocates and the number of communications are likely to be linked. As the report put it, “Advocate acquisition growth … was likely a major driver in the consistent increase in connections to decision makers seen year-over-year.”
Interestingly, the actual number of advocacy campaigns dropped by roughly 30 percent between 2017 and 2018 to just more than 4,000, according to the report.
“This shows that organizations drove more connections to decision-makers with fewer campaigns—indicating an increase in the eﬃcacy of their mobilization eﬀorts from 2017 to 2018,” the report said.
Another contributing factor may have been that 2017 marked the first year of the Trump administration and the swearing in of a new Congress. “Organizations might have kicked oﬀ a ﬂurry of new campaigns in 2017 riding the energy following the election and then reﬁned their strategies with fewer, more-targeted campaigns in 2018,” the report said.
Local and Regulatory Advocacy is Increasing
While connections between advocacy groups and decision makers dropped slightly at the state level between 2017 and 2018, they increased at all other levels in the last three years—and sometimes dramatically so.
For example, contact between advocates and regulatory agencies at all levels, which write the rules that govern most industries, grew seven-fold between 2016 and 2018. Regulatory agencies often present an alternative to advocacy groups cannot get legislation passed. They also make advocacy efforts highly transparent.
“Comments submitted to regulatory agencies are public,” the report said. “This can create a powerful amplifying eﬀect when a large number of advocates have taken action on a regulatory campaign. Supporters can see all of the comments previous advocates have already made and organizations can leverage this to build momentum and inspire more supporters.”
Contact between advocates and decision makers at the local level is also on the rise, tripling in size between 2017 and 2018.
Local advocacy is important to many major industries, from airlines and construction firms to ride-sharing companies and retailers. Organizations may have put more attention toward local legislation in 2018 because it can be easier to pass than federal-level legislation, and oftentimes it has a more direct or immediate impact on advocates.
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