Advocacy managers need to have an arsenal of tools and tactics at their disposal. A grassroots email campaign can be an effective way to get your legislator’s attention on certain issues that your organization may be concerned about. However, using the same tactic to reach legislators over and over again can have diminishing returns. When you have exhausted your email list, what other tools can you use to get your legislators to listen?
One of our clients, a government affairs specialist at a state university, brought up an interesting strategy that he uses to build rapport with his state legislators by utilizing his grassroots system: online petitions. Our client has regular meetings with legislators to discuss the legislation the university has issues with. During these meetings, he was able to show the legislators a petition he created in his grassroots system to demonstrate that the university’s position is supported by its advocates.
The process for setting up a petition is nearly identical to that of setting up an email campaign in a grassroots advocacy system. Create a message to send to your supporters describing the issue at hand and indicate your stance on the subject. The call to action in an email campaign is to have your supporters send an email to their legislators; however, in a petition campaign your supporters only need to indicate that they support your stance. Have them log into your advocacy system and agree to electronically sign the petition. By collecting electronic signatures, you are building a list of supporters that have stepped forward to grow your organization’s voice about a particular issue. Send your petition request email to your entire advocacy network, or if you have a meeting with a specific legislator and your advocacy network is segmented by districts, send it out to just the particular legislator’s constituents.
Because our client’s petition application was connected to their main advocacy system, each supporter that signed the petition was geocoded to their legislator. Our client could have opened up the application to the public with a petition link. When potential supporters follow the link the advocacy system can ask anyone willing to sign the petition to enter their address. The system will dynamically geocode the address to supporter’s legislators. With the information that someone responded to the petition and because it knows who their legislator was, the system easily produces lists of petition signers by legislative district. The list also has email addresses so our client can provide the legislators with that information so the legislator has new names to communicate with about the issue.
The process worked well for our client and helped cement his relationship the legislators. Legislators want to know how constituents feel about issues and they want to be able to contact them. By handing over these petitions, our client was providing his legislators with valuable information they could use during their decision making process. The lobbyist isn’t just flooding the legislator with emails, he is helping the him.
Next time you want to get your message across to legislators, see if your advocacy technology system can develop a petition for you instead of an email campaign. You might just get a better response.