Even though nonprofits can’t directly influence political campaigns or elections, they can drive important political change through advocacy. Whether you create and share petitions, host a voter registration drive, or spread awareness of key political issues, your nonprofit can successfully advocate for mission-critical causes.

But advocacy isn’t as straightforward as fundraising, so how do you know if your work truly makes a difference? Traditional nonprofit metrics like volunteer participation and email open rates won’t give you the full picture. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of six metrics you can use to evaluate the performance of your political advocacy campaigns.

1. Number of petition signatures

Creating, sharing, and delivering petitions have long been part of in-person advocacy efforts. Petitions are one of the best ways to generate action and prove to political leaders that their constituents care about a specific issue. In the last decade, petitions have become a staple of virtual advocacy, too, making them a natural place to start evaluating your nonprofit’s results.

The number of petition signatures you secure compared to your signature goal is a clear success indicator. However, you can also monitor other metrics related to your petitions, such as:

  • Number of no’s received when petitioning in person
  • Number of online shares
  • Number of online comments
  • Donation revenue attributed to the petition
  • Engagement metrics for communications about the petition

For instance, say that your nonprofit creates a petition advocating for Congress to send more humanitarian aid to a country in need. You surpass your signature goal, but you want to dig deeper into how people found out about the petition. In this case, you might compare the number of online shares to the click-through rate (CTR) and conversion rate of the emails your nonprofit sent.

2. Number of supporters who contact lawmakers

Another one of the most common calls to action in grassroots advocacy campaigns is to contact a legislator to advocate for or against a certain issue or law.

While it can be more challenging to get an accurate count of the number of calls made, you can track the number of supporters who contact lawmakers via email using your CRM, email marketing tools, website, or advocacy software. For instance, if your campaign asks supporters to send a templated email using a form on your website, you would track the number of successful form submissions.

If possible, compare the number of emails sent to any data you have about calls made and messages delivered via social media. You might ask supporters to fill out a quick form after calling their representative to notify your organization. In this form, they could also provide details about how the call went and whether they left a message or spoke to a live person.

For example, say that you ask supporters to contact a Senator about their political endorsement of a candidate who has a history of supporting discriminatory policies. You could track the number of emails sent via your online form, calls reported, and Facebook messages sent to the Senator after clicking a link on your website.

3. Legislation passed or blocked

This metric is a simple yet very clear key performance indicator (KPI)—did the legislation your organization advocated for get passed or not?

This shouldn’t be the only metric you track by any means, since so many factors play into legislative decisions and it may not accurately reflect the efficacy of your advocacy. However, it is important to track and report on this metric since passing or stopping certain legislation is often a major goal of political advocacy work.

If your animal shelter asked supporters to make their voices heard in support of a proposed policy that would regulate animal hoarding, for example, you would celebrate the policy’s passage and let supporters know that their advocacy efforts made a difference. Then, explore other metrics specific to your nonprofit to determine exactly how much action you inspired to influence this decision.

4. Number of new voters registered

If part of your nonprofit’s advocacy relates to increasing voter access, you should track how many new voters your nonprofit helps register. You might help individuals register to vote by:

  • Hosting an in-person voter registration drive.
  • Sharing voter registration information and links on your website.
  • Personally registering people at an advocacy event.
  • Hosting virtual information sessions about how to register to vote.
  • Emailing supporters about voter registration deadlines and encouraging them to register by following a link to more resources.
  • Translating important voter registration information and sharing it with voters who speak other languages.

This metric can also be difficult to track accurately, since you may not know how many people used your resources to follow through with voter registration.

However, you can monitor the CTR of links on your website and within emails. Additionally, communicate with your voter registration event volunteers about the importance of tracking the number of voter registrations they facilitate. Equip them with all the tools they need to do so, such as physical ticket counters or advocacy software.

5. Voter turnout rates

Similar to increasing the number of registered voters, advocacy groups may aim to increase voter turnout in elections to make more community voices heard. You can do this by running get out the vote (GOTV) campaigns, posting voting information on social media, or providing services or resources that help voters get to the polls.

This isn’t a metric you track yourself—rather, you can find voter turnout rates after elections in publications by the Census Bureau and other public databases and research centers.

While voter turnout won’t directly tell you if your advocacy campaign was impactful, it can point to the role your nonprofit’s work played in encouraging voters to exercise their voting rights. Don’t attribute especially high or low turnout rates to your campaign alone, but use this metric as a starting point for examining the wider influence of your work.

6. Engagement with advocacy communications

Finally, monitoring supporters’ engagement with your nonprofit’s advocacy-related communications will directly reveal how engaging your messages are. Whether you run email marketing campaigns, send text messages, or post calls to action on social media, you should track how supporters interact with your appeals and informational messages.

Monitor a variety of relevant engagement metrics like:

  • Email and text message open rates
  • CTRs of individual messages and web pages
  • Social media likes, comments, follows, and shares
  • Conversion rates of emails, texts, and social media posts
  • Number of responses to your outreach messages

Your nonprofit’s marketing tools should automatically track these metrics and simplify the reporting process, but it’s up to you to analyze that data and use it to improve your advocacy strategies. Investigate these metrics further to determine why certain messages perform better or inspire more action, and zero in on the tactics you used to repeat them in the future.

Political advocacy is an important part of many nonprofits’ missions, so it’s important to know how to measure your campaigns’ success. Choose the metrics that make the most sense for your advocacy efforts, and define a clear process for tracking them to ensure you can monitor the metrics that matter to your strategy and decision-making down the line.