With the New Year quickly approaching now is the time to lay out your game plan for the upcoming legislative session. An effective advocacy program is thought out and can maximize advocate engagement by designing an advocacy strategy that delivers the right message or call to action at the right time. How should you engage your advocates before the session or during crunch time? In the first part of our two part article we will help you layout the first two stages of your advocacy road map to hit the ground running and get the most out of the start of your legislative session.
Before the Legislative Session
That’s right, an effective advocacy program doesn’t start on the first day of the session, you need some time to bolster your numbers and prime your audience to participate. Start a few months ahead of your legislative session by sending out invitations to join your grassroots advocacy network. Make sure that you communicate the benefits of joining to your audience; they will receive news updates during the session, they can help support your cause through their participation in calls-to-action, and if you have a grassroots advocacy system that geo-codes their address they can create a profile and view their elected officials. Sending out invitations not only serves as a way to add more advocates, it is a way to raise awareness of your organization and the causes and issues that you are supporting.
As people join your network you need to keep them updated on the issues that will come up during the session. Your updates do not need to be as frequent as they are during the session, but a short email every couple of weeks to lay out what is on the horizon and to remind them of the upcoming legislative session can go a long way to keep your advocates informed. If your state pre-files bills you can find them using your legislative tracking system and publish them on your website. An important pre-filed bill that comes up prior to the session is a great rallying tool for your audience because it gets them excited about the upcoming session and gives them an idea of the type of legislation that will be coming down the pike.
The Start of the Legislative Session
Once the session has started its time to ramp up the frequency and substance of your updates. If you are using a legislative tracking system that enables you to dynamically create legislative reports then you can easily publish weekly updates on your advocacy site. Don’t just post the bills though, write summaries or analysis to lead your audience and help them understand why a certain bill is important. Many bills are written in language that would cause your audience’s eyes to glaze over, so demonstrate some value of being an advocate by breaking down the information so they can better understand how a bill would affect them.
Do your best to offer a wide variety of information to your advocates too. Instead of just posting bills you can publish news stories that pertain to your issues. If a certain important bill is moving through a committee you can publish profiles on the elected officials in that committee. The more information that your advocates have on not just the legislation, but on the legislative process and environment, the more likely they are to participate in your calls-to-action towards the end of the session.
The first half of your advocacy road map is designed to gather and inform your advocates to improve engagement and ultimately increase the likelihood that your advocates will participate when you really need them. In the final part of our Laying Out Your Advocacy Road Map article we will discuss the steps you can take during “crunch time” and after the session to effectively utilize your advocates and to begin work on next year’s battles.