Digital Advocacy Consultant: Do You Need One?

by Joe Fuld (He/Him)

one woman advising another at a business setting - digital advocacy consultant

Digital Advocacy Consultant: Is It Worth the Cost To Hire a Online Campaign Consultant to Manage Your Digital Presence?

Digital advocacy seems to be the term of the moment, but achieving real online advocacy results can be tough in both execution and budget.  If you are at a nonprofit where money is tight, (when is it not?), spending money on hiring a digital advocacy consultant to manage your digital and online presence can seem like an easy line item to cut. But don’t be so quick to count digital advocacy consultants out. Depending on your nonprofit’s size and goals, a digital advocacy consultant could be extremely beneficial. Here are some things to consider when hiring a digital advocacy consultant.

Large non-profits 
Nonprofits on the larger side can often afford to have people in-house to manage their digital presence. This can include everything from social media accounts to digital advertising. A consultant can help prioritize and focus work in-house as well as take on projects that can’t be completed in-house.  

Small nonprofits
On the other hand, small non-profits often do not have the budget or staff capacity for large or quick turn-around digital projects. In this case, hiring an online advocacy campaign consultant to manage your digital advocacy brand can garner great results – as long as goals are clear and agreed upon.

Advocacy Experience
Digital advocacy consultants have many advantages that they can pass along to their clients. They have the benefit of working with multiple clients and seeing what works and what doesn’t work. They have real experience from hundreds of campaigns to craft the best digital advocacy campaign for your nonprofit. They also generally are able to get better deals with publications and ad networks because of ongoing relationships they have with them. This will help your non-profits bottom line.

Test out digital advocacy
If you are new to online advocacy advertising but want to try it out, hiring a digital advocacy consultant is a great idea. Instead of investing the money and time into hiring a full-time staff person to manage the process in-house or crushing your staff that may already be stretched thin, you can test out different campaigns with a consultant for a few months to see what gets you the best results and if it’s something your organization wants to continue investing in.

The Cost of a Digital Advocacy Consultant
Prices for online advocacy consultants vary greatly.  Some charge retainers, some based on hours, some charge based on the ad buy and commission, many do all of the above. So, before you hire a digital advocacy consultant understand how much of the fees are a part of your total budget and ask to get a real understanding of what you are paying for and how much time you are actually getting from your digital advocacy consultant.

Questions for Non-Profits: 

Do you have clear goals? Folks often think they have goals for their advocacy program, but having a clear understanding of your vision is important. The right advocacy consultant can help you figure out your goals and make sure you have the right tactics and budget to achieve them.
Do you have a clear budget? All advocacy does not cost the same. Understanding what you can and cannot afford is important and will help you hire the right folks and get the guidance you need.  

Do you know what your targets are? The bigger the targets, the more expensive the campaign. Sometimes you may need to reduce targets to fit your budget. 

What resources do you have? Think beyond money. Stories, emails, membership, coalition partners, etc. What are things you can leverage for greater engagement and connection

What tactics are working for you? There are many digital tactics your organizations can use: digital town halls, AMAs, Facebook Lives, online petitions, content marketing, search ads, user generated ads, static digital ads, podcast advertising, digital radio, SMS, Relational organizing, native ads, geo fencing, among others. Keep track of the ones that fit best for your goals.
What is not working for you? What mistakes has your organization made? What did your organization learn from them?  Can you show assets from previous campaigns? How will this endeavor be different?

Are you open to different tactics? Just because you have used certain tactics in the past does not mean they are the right tactics now. Work with your digital advocacy consultant. 

What are the tactics the digital advocacy consultant specializes in? Different digital advocacy consultants specialize in different areas. If your goal is fundraising, you should prioritize that over advocacy, and hire a fundraising consultant. 

What is your timing? How fast do you really need to move? Are you planning around a session or a committee vote, or accountability after-session? Make sure you don’t hire in a rush to meet a false deadline, but down put off planning either. More time is usually helpful to get your advocacy goals and plan on the right track. 

What are your legal restrictions? Have clear legal guidance on what you can and cannot do with your resources and the timing of when you are allowed to communicate.
What buy in do you need? You need real buy-in from other folks in the organization make sure you know the process of bringing someone on and have a clear picture of what success looks like. 

You have to decide what makes the most sense for your nonprofit in terms of your budget and goals. Hiring an online and digital advocacy consultant can often help you get the results you want in a cost-effective way.