Advocacy Online: Being an Advocacy Leader in the Digital Era

By Corey Vaughn, Chief Marketing Officer at Muster

Reaching supporters online has become more important for nonprofit leaders than ever in recent years. To attract new audiences, make deeper connections with supporters, and further their mission, many nonprofits have launched digital advocacy campaigns. However, the digital skills necessary for being an advocacy leader rarely develop over night.

Almost all modern advocacy campaigns have an online component. While you may be physically distant from your supporters, the right online strategies can still inspire them and cement your nonprofit as a leader in your sector.

To help your nonprofit launch a successful online grassroots campaign, this article will first explain the benefits of nonprofit advocacy, then explore a few strategies you can leverage to spread your message online.
 

Why should nonprofits invest in online advocacy?

Some nonprofits hesitate to get involved with advocacy campaigns out of fear of losing their 501(c)(3) status. However, nonprofits only actually risk their tax exempt status if they spend an excessive amount of funds on lobbying. While the exact number that qualifies as “excessive” will vary based on each nonprofit’s size, for most nonprofit organizations, an online advocacy campaign will not jeopardize their 501(c)(3) status.

In fact, nonprofit advocacy campaigns offer several benefits, including:

  • Increased outreach. An online advocacy campaign gives potential supporters a new way to find your cause. Plus, virtual outreach allows you to connect with supporters who live outside of your nonprofit’s community.

  • Furthering your mission. Whether you’re advocating for or against specific legislation or just spreading awareness, your online advocacy campaign can help your nonprofit make real strides towards fulfilling your mission.

  • More engagement opportunities. Supporters want to engage with your nonprofit in more ways than just donating. Online advocacy campaigns give them another opportunity to support your cause, deepening their relationship with your organization and leading to increases in donations.

Effective online advocacy campaigns are an investment of time and resources, so take the time to assess the potential benefits and decide which resources you’re willing to allocate to your online campaign.


Spread your cause through online advocacy.

Online advocacy has a relatively low investment cost and allows your organization to reach supporters with elected officials alike. Plus, with it’s low barrier to entry for supporters, you’ll have access to a wide potential audience. Of course, there are many other great causes out there also using digital channels to gain support, meaning you will need to take steps to differentiate your cause.

To help your nonprofit stand out, consider how you’ll present your message, engage your supporters in your advocacy efforts, and maintain strong leadership throughout your campaign. With the aid of advocacy software, most nonprofits will be able to answer these questions with their website and digital outreach methods.


Website

Your website is the central hub of your nonprofit and should include comprehensive information about your advocacy efforts. When setting up pages dedicated to your advocacy campaign, make sure to include the following features:

  • Your campaign’s mission. Your campaign’s mission statement should both engage supporters and explain how your advocacy efforts fit into your nonprofit’s overall philanthropic goals.

  • Details about your campaign. Provide detailed information about the issues your nonprofit’s advocacy campaign target. Conduct research to present supporters with relevant facts and statistics and keep them updated about your advocacy campaign’s recent activities.

  • Ways to get involved. Encourage your website’s visitors to get involved immediately by presenting them with a call to action. Make advocating on your nonprofit’s behalf as easy as possible by providing them with templates, helping connect them to their representatives, and advising them on when to send their messages to elected officials.

Consider investing in advocacy software that can help improve your website’s outreach capabilities. For example, some advocacy software solutions allow organizations to create “Action Centers,” embedded forms that allow supporters to send elected officials emails straight from the website, which can help boost your supporters’ participation in your advocacy campaigns.


Social Media, Email, and Other Digital Outreach

Most supporters will first discover your nonprofit’s advocacy campaign through your presence on social media and other online marketing channels. While some nonprofits have public forums on their websites, most will use social media, email, text, and other online communication tools to speak one-on-one with supporters and lead them during their advocacy campaign.

Here are a few ways you can leverage these channels and direct your advocacy campaign online:

  • Craft a message that considers all of your stakeholders. You’ll need a condensed, online friendly version of your mission statement to share with supporters online. Consider who you are trying to reach with your message on each platform as you reframe your message for different audiences. Resources like Muster’s collected advocacy examples can provide insight into how different past campaigns have adjusted their messaging overtime to accommodate new audiences, challenges, and campaign developments.

  • Create a united but personalized front. Successful online advocacy campaigns encourage their advocates to reach out to their elected representatives with personal stories. However, make sure to touch base with your supporters to establish what your overall goal is first. This way, you can present a united front while still letting each supporter personalize their message.

  • Stay updated on current advocacy practices. As a leader of an advocacy campaign, you should stay up to date on current trends that might impact your campaign. You can also use your communication channels to share resources and relevant information with your supporters, helping them learn more while also establishing your own expertise.

Additionally, remember to track your engagement with your audiences to tailor your communication to them. Doing so will help you support their individual advocacy efforts, while also showing that your nonprofit appreciates their unique contributions. Plus, you’ll be able to refer back to their support in your advocacy campaigns when reaching out to them about other engagement opportunities.

 

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Corey Vaughn is Chief Marketing Officer at Muster, where he has spent the last five years driving growth through lead generation, content creation, and product education. He also works closely with nonprofits to help improve and scale their advocacy efforts through digital campaigns. Connect with him on LinkedIn for the latest in nonprofit advocacy. 

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