Creating Advocacy from Scratch: Inviting Guests

Alright, alright.  You are cooking up MORE than just instant rice. You have all of your advocates lined up, aimed in the right direction….. now what?

You need to have some guests over for dinner!

Glasses on a Table
flickr photo by design-gate

In advocacy, it can be very intimidating when trying to reach out to guests.  Whether they are legislators or staffers, one big mental road block is that those in control of our government are smarter, more powerful and intimidating human beings.

Get past that road block.  There are some dumb, lacking control and weak legislators out there.  [Okay, I am not attacking legislators here, sorry.. just had to look for opposites to my previous sentence.] But seriously, as an advocate, you should look at legislators as co-workers.  You need to be in constant contact with them, emailing staffers on the regular, cultivating relationships, and extending invitations to dinner parties!

Being able to invite guests to your advocacy efforts is VERY important.  And here are three instances where they MUST be invited:
  1. Touring your facility or services | Constantly
    Whenever your legislators are home from Washington, D.C., or local legislators are on recess see if they wanna come check out your newest building, success story or program! Any excuse you can come up withfor them to come out, meet your staff and experience the good work your organization is doing is worth the invitation. 
  2. Meeting at their office | After your petition or letter drive
    If you just held a petition drive to garner support for your cause, then you need to set up an appointment to meet with a staffer at the very least.  Being able to hand them a stack of signatures with names and zip codes – muy importante – can physically show them how many potential voters support your cause and how many potential votersthey will upset if they do anything to oppose your cause. 
  3. Have them speak | During your community event
    If you are having trouble getting a legislator to tour your building or see your program, then team up with another local group to hold a community event.  Invite your congressman to speak.  They will be able to be in front of potential voters, and it will give you an “in” to talk to them about the work you do.

The more, the merrier. Invite guests to dinner, and you will surely have a good time.  Invite legislators to your advocacy efforts and you will surely have success in sending your message.

What are some effective ways that YOU have invited guests over for dinner?

Creating Advocacy from Scratch: Don’t forget the flavor

Last post, I talked about just adding water to create your advocacy.  But, who really likes JUST rice for dinner?  You need some flavor to add to that instant rice.  Adding flavor to your advocacy efforts means…

creating the direction that you want your advocates to take.

The message I heard from discouraged advocates was – “I just don’t know where to start.”  But, the message I hear all the time from organizations that are struggling with advocacy is…

I just can’t get my advocates to move in the same direction at the same time.

The tools are there, and your advocates are most likely taking it upon themselves to act as they see fit.  But I have heard it said well from Dan Hawkins at NACHCIf 100 signatures are good, then 1000 signatures are better.  When an organization’s advocates work apart from each other, then they may be doing some good work, but as an organization, you want that work to be better.

Adding flavor means
adding incentive.

Having an incentive allows you to create guidelines for your advocates to earn it.  Incentives vary depending on what your advocates like, how much you can spend, and what will garner the effort.  The decision is ultimately up to you.  But here are three ways to keep your audience engaged and attracted to your incentive.

  1. Make it achievable – Even when you create goals for yourself, you may shoot for the stars but create achievable steps in completing this.  According to your cause’s goal – what are some achievable steps that individual advocates or teams of advocates can achieve?
  2. Keep them updated – there are A LOT of online techniques to keep your advocates up to date on how well they are doing as a whole (read: website dashboards).  But the most important tool to use here is email.  Underrated in the game mentality, if you send individual advocates milestone emails thanking them, then you will keep them energized and pleased knowing that they are on  the right track.
  3. Highlight successes publicly – This can do one of two things for advocates who did not get their story highlighted.  A competitive spirit will take over making them want to be the one in the spotlight or a more academic spirit will take over, and they will learn something from the person who was successful.

So go ahead and add a little flavoring to your advocacy campaign… you may even catch yourself saying this in your office –

Creating Advocacy from Scratch: Just add water

Often when I speak to people about standing up for issues that they believe in, I hear the same reason for why they are NOT currently advocating for the organizations and causes that are in line with these issues…

I just don’t know where to start.

It can be really intimidating to think about calling Congress in support of an issue, meeting with others who could help, or even tweeting about your beliefsWhat if I actually speak to the Senator?  What if they ask me questions? What exactly do I say? What if someone disagrees?

All of these questions are fair… they are questions that run through the head of every advocate no matter if they have been doing it for years or weeks.  But these questions are GREAT to ask yourself because it means you want to be prepared.

[insert water here]

Water splash
flickr photo by dr_relling

Just like instant rice, an advocate isjust waiting for the water (or tools) to start advocating.  There are plenty of ways to distribute these tools, but the first step is creating your toolkit.

So do it! Create tools for your supporters to share information about the work your organization is doing.  Check and see if there is a national association that is leading the way in advocacy with regards to the issues your organization is trying to tackle.

Here are 4 questions to get you brainstorming on what to include in your advocacy toolkit…

  1. If I had 5 minutes with a legislator, what would be the message I want to leave them with?
  2. If there were 3 success stories that exemplify the core of my organization’s mission who or what would they be?
  3. Can I fit my organization’s mission, history and strategic plan on one page? If so, do it.
  4. If advocates are active on social media, do I have a place for them to go to find short advocacy messages to share on their networks?

Through the next couple of months, I will be implementing an advocacy campaign for an organization that has had little organized advocacy.  Subscribe to this blog here and walk through the process with me!