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 you 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 helped you layout the first stages of your advocacy road map; before the session and at the start of the session. In this article we will get you the rest of the way and layout what you can do during crunch time and at the end of the session to get the most from your advocacy efforts.
With the session in swing there will inevitably be a time when you need to activate your audience and get in the ear of elected officials. If you followed our “Before the Legislative Session” advice, then you already have a network of advocates that are geo-coded to their legislators. Being able to look at your database of advocates and see which legislators have constituents in your organization enables you to segment your database and target specific legislators with their own constituents. Many legislators only care to hear from constituents, and if you have even a small number of advocates that live in a key legislator’s district they can be more valuable than a large number of advocates from across the state. If your grassroots advocacy system has a grassroots email campaign tool you can target specific legislative officials in a committee and have your members send them emails to encourage them to support your issue. If your grassroots advocacy system enables you to track the key political relationships of your advocates then you can have a third segment you can utilize to reach elected officials. The only thing more effective at getting to a legislative than a letter from a constituent is a phone call from a friend. While the session is going continue to publish your weekly updates and push out the latest news from the capitol. There will be lots of great information that comes in during these last few weeks, make sure your audience is kept up to date.
After the Session
The final stop on your advocacy road map is not the end of the session. Many grassroots managers miss out on a perfect opportunity to reach legislators when they are more likely to be a captive audience; after the session. Once the session is over the messages you send legislators should be less issue oriented and more about thanking them for their support. Remind them of how many constituents they have in their district that support your organization and let them know that they helped their constituents by supporting your issues. Reaching legislators is easier after the session than during crunch time.
In addition to reaching out to legislators the after-the-session period is the perfect time to recap your efforts to your audience and get them ready for next year. Advocates that answer your calls to action need to know if their time and effort paid off, so let your advocates know how successful their efforts were and encourage them to participate in the next session. You may be your advocates’ only source of information about what goes on at the capitol, so keep them informed by writing reports on some of the big pieces of legislation that passed or failed and the impact those bills will have on your issues. Use the few weeks after the session to pass along this information and extend the amount of time your advocates continue to be engaged. If you have a grassroots advocacy system that can provide statistics on the open rates of your emails you can see how many people are reading your emails and use that information to gauge your audience’s interest level. When interest starts to die down cut back on the frequency of your emails and start thinking about next year’s battles.