Friday was the last day of the legislative session in Georgia. As the clock ticked down to midnight, many advocates waited with baited breath as some big profile legislation stalled on the way to the finish line. The night concluded as representatives threw the contents of their briefcases in the air to celebrate the end of the 2014 Regular Session. Many bills with huge support behind them did not pass, and this left advocates wondering “What do we do now?”
The end of one legislative session is just the beginning of the long road ahead to the next. Here are a few things you can do starting today to ensure your next session will be a success.
Ride the Wave
The end of the legislative session is often a time where advocacy managers take time off and stop their information campaigns. However, the end of the session is the time when advocates want to know the outcome of their efforts and whether their push was successful or not. As a result, the end of the legislative session is often the peak time of advocate engagement and attention. Now is the time to continue to inform your audience on the issues. Continue sending out emails and posting news articles as frequently as you were during the session. The next two weeks are critical to set the stage for upcoming sessions. Keep an eye on the open rates of your emails and continue your communications until things begin to drop off. You may be surprised to find that people are interested in what you have to say beyond the last legislative day.
As interest begins to fade from the past legislative session it is time to set your sights on the upcoming session. The time between sessions should be spent not only informing existing advocates, but finding new people. With an Online Advocacy Network, identifying and collecting new advocates can be done online by sending out emails and publishing recent news. Enabling people to find you on their own and sign up without jumping through hoops is the most effective way at cultivating new advocates. An Advocacy Network can enable you to collect more than just a new advocate’s email address, you can ask questions about what issues they are interested in, you can ask what their level of commitment is, and if they fill in their home address you can even match them to their legislators so you know exactly how many constituents you have for each elected official. Gathering this information from not only new advocates that join, but existing advocates that haven’t given you this information, is perhaps the most effective way to spend the off-season to ensure your success in future sessions.
Identify Paths to Key Players
Some bills that don’t quite make it to law are often held up by a few individual legislators. Whether a bill fell a few votes shy on the floor or never make it out of a particular committee chances are there are a small handful of legislators that could have made the difference. In the time between sessions it is valuable to begin to find pathways to these key individuals in order to better connect to them when they stand in the way of your bills. We’ve found that the most effective way of getting to a legislator is by having someone that they know contact them on your behalf. Politics is a business of relationships, and because state legislators live in the districts that they represent, chances are some of your advocates have a relationship with legislators. By identifying these relationships in your army of advocates you can find new, more effective ways to get in touch with legislators. Having even a small handful of key relationships could be the deciding factor when a bill hangs in the balance.
Whether your session was a huge success or a staggering defeat these steps can help you effectively utilize your captive audience at the end of the session and continue to build towards next year. Don’t let this opportunity to reach out to advocates go to waste, your next issue could depend on it!