Advocacy Campaign Tips to Help You Succeed

by Alice McLoughlin (She/Her)

Runner crossing finishing line on track

Advocacy Campaign Strategies to Accomplish Your Goals

Executing a successful and impactful advocacy campaign requires time, dedication, and organization. In today’s day and age, there is strong competition from various advocacy issues fighting for attention, so to run a successful campaign, you will need to be ready to hit the ground running. We have put together several tips to help ensure you can run an effective and winning advocacy campaign. 

Provide your campaign a clear and measurable goal.
Frequently, organizations that wish to run advocacy campaigns have goals that are hard to measure, making success hard to measure in turn. For example, how would an advocacy campaign determine if a goal such as “raising awareness” was actually impactful? It is difficult to determine the right quantifiable metrics to judge this goal by. 

Rather than having a goal that is hard to assess, you should try to find goals for your advocacy campaign that can be measured in hard numbers. Some common advocacy goals include:

•    Gaining a specific number of new supporters
•    Raising donations to your organization by a specific percentage
•    Receiving a specific number of signatures on a petition

One way to measure if your advocacy campaign has “raised awareness” is to run a paid digital ad campaign with a target number of impressions, or views. 

Prioritize one goal.
As mentioned, the success of advocacy campaigns can be tough to measure. While you can have secondary and tertiary goals, focusing on multiple things as your main goals can make it hard to accurately evaluate the success of your campaign. Having a specific, singular main objective can help you and your supporters focus and be more effective. 

Plan ahead.
While it’s common to have to run rapid-response campaigns these days, do your best to plan and organize as much as you can ahead of time to make sure you get the most out of your advocacy campaign. After you’ve determined what your primary goal is, take time to map out exactly what steps you will need to take to reach it. 
For example, if you’re trying to get a bill passed, consider which legislators you need to influence and what people and organizations can act as advocates to help you persuade them. In this example, there would likely be key lawmakers you would target and people like their constituents, your activists, or members of the press who they might listen to. Then you’ll have to work on organizing the people who would persuade those legislators as efficiently as possible. If there are any assets you need to create or gather, such user-generated testimonials, planning ahead can allow you to start pulling them together as soon as possible to avoid delays. Determine any important dates, like the day the bill will be voted on, and work backwards to allot how much time you can give yourself for each piece of your campaign plan. Then, let everyone else involved in your campaign know what that schedule is so you can stick to it.

This type of planning is possible for other types of advocacy campaigns too, not just ones attempting to get a bill passed. Look at your campaign’s specific goals and apply similar steps, customized depending on your needs. Develop a budget to make sure your finances are being used well. Create a plan for direct mail to help you stick to proper timelines. There are many actions you can map out to help make your campaign a success. 

Create urgency.
Nothing creates action for an advocacy campaign like an urgent deadline, and nothing promotes procrastination like a vague one. If you are lucky enough (I use “lucky” loosely here) to be working on an advocacy campaign that has a strict timeline (e.g., you are looking to get a governor to veto a bill before the end of the legislative session, or maybe you are trying to get a local city council to place a ballot question on the upcoming ballot), make sure your targets and advocates know what the deadlines are. This provides context to your measurable goals and gives your campaign gravity. Advocates tend to do their best work under tight deadlines.  

If, on the other hand, your advocacy campaign doesn’t have a strict timeline—and the urgency that comes with it—create one! For example, set a specific date for when you will send a petition to a legislator, file a ballot measure, or whatever else your specific campaign entails. It is helpful to do this during your planning stage while you are developing exact steps. Make sure your advocates and targets know and believe the urgency of your timeline. 

Make sure your advocates and supporters know how they can help.
Lay out clear and easy ways for your advocates and any new supporters to get involved. Can they sign a petition online? How about their legislator? Can they go around and collect petitions or signatures from their friends and neighbors? If there isn’t an official form, can they download a PDF from your website to collect the signatures? How can super-advocates tell their stories and get the word out about why this issue is important in their lives? Can they add their stories to a story bank, get in front of a legislator on lobby day, or maybe speak at a press event? 

Once you’ve figured out what your asks are of your advocates, make sure you communicate them clearly to your supporters. If you have a website (which I recommend), it should include a list of things supporters can do to help, and you should also communicate those items to them regularly via social media, email, and volunteer meetings.

Work with experts.
You don’t have to run your entire campaign all by yourself. Planning and managing an effective advocacy campaign isn’t easy, and getting assistance can ensure your campaign is successful. Make sure you’re in contact with other organizations that can act as allies to see if there are ways you can work together to divide and conquer. Plan regular meetings with these allied groups so everyone can go over each group’s role in the larger effort. This will also give everyone a better sense of which groups are getting communicated with and about which issues. Give your supporters opportunities to get involved as well.

You can also hire a consultant to help you take your campaign to the next level. They can help you plan and run your campaign or can train you to better manage it on your own. Trainings can teach you how to make a budget, build a coalition, and garner support for your issue. At The Campaign Workshop, we work on advocacy campaigns daily—big and small, federal and local, all over the country and even some around the world.

Do you have more questions about running a successful advocacy campaign? Reach out to our team here!