New legislative sessions are starting all across the country and many organizations are beginning a new push to get people involved in their advocacy programs. We have found that many organizations do not have a formal process to “pull people to the forefront” from their overall support database. With no way to ask your “general audience” to step forward and join your advocacy efforts, you will not be able to distinguish those who want to help from those with a mild interest in your cause. This could cause you to assume everyone is going to respond when you ask for help in advocating a position which, unfortunately, is not a true scenario.
The best way to build a core audience of advocates that will respond to calls to action is with an initial Grassroots Invitation to encourage your audience to join your support network. The invitation email is often a point of first contact for your program, so creating a well-written, informative, and persuasive letter is imperative to the success of your ensuing grassroots campaigns. Each year our clients across the nation start to engage their advocates at the beginning of each session, and we have picked up on some tips that we can share to ensure your grassroots advocacy invitation is a success.
Explain Your Advocacy Network
Use your invitation text to explain what your organization is trying to do with advocacy, and how you want to use your support network. Make sure they understand it is free, and voluntary. Explain that with their support your organization can have a more effective voice at your state capitol or at the federal level. Let them know what to expect when they join the network. Will they be kept informed of issues? How frequently will you update them on what is happening at the capitol? Are there applications for them (such as noting their relationships with legislators) that they can use when they sign up for the network? If so, then ask them to fill out that information. Your invitation is your initial effort to engage people and find out who is interested in your work with legislators.
While it may be tempting to blast out an email invitation to your entire email list all at once we’ve learned that a slow, steady approach is more effective. When you have decided to roll out your new email invitation, pick a small subset of your database and target them first. Maybe break it up by district, or by city or even by letter of the alphabet. Starting small not only gives you the ability to better gauge your invitation’s success, it gives you the ability to work any kinks out of your process. The next invite that goes out can go to a slightly larger group, and so on until all of your contacts have received their invitation. Starting out small allows you to better monitor your invitation’s progress and success.
After sending your first few email invitations it is time to review your progress. Did people respond and sign up for your advocacy network? Did they relay their connections to legislators? Did they just sign up and not pass on any relationships with legislators? Take a look at the wording and design of your invitation email, is there anything that is missing or is there a better way to explain your message? Sending emails with a blast email tool gives you a chance to look over your email statistics to understand how your message is being received. You can see how many people opened your invitation and compare it to how many people signed up for your grassroots network. After reviewing these statistics it may be time to make some changes to your email. If too many people are not opening your email try changing the subject line. If people are opening the email but not enough are joining consider adjusting your message or simplifying your join process. After your small adjustments send out the email again, gauge the reaction, and make more adjustments. Simple things like the way you word a sentence or the images in your email may have an impact on the response rate of your email, so continue to improve your invitations to get the most from them.
Keep Inviting People
Your invitation campaign is not over once everyone on your list has received their invitation; you have to keep contacting them and inviting them throughout the year. A good advocacy process will keep a log of who joins your network, so you can easily get to that list. The invitation process will look at that log and not resend the invitation to people who have already joined. So you can keep resending it and not bother your responders. It is possible that your email went un-noticed the first time you sent it, or that the recipient did not have the time to join on that day. Redesign your invitation and send it again a few weeks later. Keep inviting people periodically to ensure that everyone that wants to join has the ability to do so, and keep building your list.
Ideally, every one of your organization’s members will join your advocacy network and 100% of people that receive your email invitation will join your cause; however, this is just not a realistic goal. We’ve found that only 5-10% of people that receive email invitations will complete the join process and become advocates. While this may not sound like a large amount of people, keep in mind that if you have an audience of 6000 association members, that is 300 to 600 people who want to help you at the capitol. A university with 100,000 alumni members can create an army of thousands of engaged advocates with a 5-10% response rate. Building your advocacy network takes time and dedication. Don’t be discouraged by a low turnout on the first wave of invitations.
A grassroots network of engaged, informed advocates can be a powerful tool to help your organization fight for your issues. To learn more about how a grassroots advocacy network can help you, download our eBook: Online Advocacy From Start to Finish.