With online activity becoming the norm in so many associations’ operations, virtual advocacy to get the word out about your cause just makes sense.
You can use the large reach of the internet to educate and engage thousands of members and donors. Plus, you’ll be able to increase membership while pursuing change that will benefit the community.
But what precisely is virtual advocacy? How do you foster it in your association?
What is virtual advocacy for associations?
Virtual advocacy for associations is all the activities you use to spread the word about your cause online. These include:
- Mobilizing members online to contact legislators
- Creating fly-in days to facilitate communication between your association executives and lawmakers
- Hosting virtual events to boost engagement
Digital advocacy is not politics but can influence political decisions. It doesn’t only involve lawyers and lobbyists, though it can include lobbying to influence legislative bodies.
You should view virtual advocacy as an engagement tool that, like event activities, helps educate and engage members and donors about your mission. The big difference, though, is that digital advocacy is more accessible.
Members and donors can more easily fit virtual advocacy into their normal schedules, so they’ll be more inclined to engage. The key is to offer the right mix of engagement options that appeal to diverse segments of your membership.
5 virtual advocacy tips for associations
Here are five virtual advocacy tips to better educate and engage with your members and donors.
1. Empower your members on social media
Many associations will use social media as part of their multichannel marketing strategies to help amplify their message because of its large reach, broad appeal, and the potential shareability of messages. Any lawmakers you may want to contact are also easily reachable via their social media handles.
Top social media platforms you can use for virtual advocacy include Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Facebook is ideal for posting messages accompanied by images. Twitter works for quick, short messages and updates on campaigns in real-time.
Instagram is perfect for pictures and celebrating certain milestones. For instance, if you get a certain number of signatures on a petition, consider posting a photo celebrating this milestone and encourage members to do the same.
When using these channels for virtual advocacy, provide members with the resources and information to properly advocate for your cause. This means:
- Communicating your cause’s goals, so messages members post align with yours.
- Providing them with the design collateral for social media (e.g. infographics and other images).
- Creating designated hashtags to reach potential donors, spread the word about your cause, and track what people are saying about it.
2. Launch a peer-to-peer fundraising and online petition campaign
Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns work because they help you build connections with your members and raise funds for your cause. Members can also make a difference without reaching into their back pockets.
Petitions, in turn, are one of the oldest forms of advocacy associations have used. They work in building your association’s profile, engaging existing members, and growing your donor base.
When creating a fundraising campaign, plan early to organize logistics and create marketing materials. Also, make sure you have an intuitive, easy-to-use advocacy website with an online donation form.
When creating an online petition, choose an impactful title and create a clear mission statement to help members and potential donors connect with your cause. Also, make it accessible and shareable through social media by providing a link that takes people to the online petition page. Once someone completes the petition, they should be prompted to share it on social media.
Remember: These methods may effectively educate members and raise money, but you need to incentivize participation. Consider tying participation to a referral program or member benefits like contests, discounts, and free virtual events.
3. Organize an email-writing and call campaign
You can encourage members to devote some free time to contact legislators via email and phone to push for change. These campaigns are an excellent way to get legislators to take notice of your association and specific causes relative to others.
Draft email and call templates your members can use to contact legislators. Templates help achieve efficiency while ensuring the content of the message remains uniform.
The potential downside of templates can be the perceived lack of personalization. So, make sure members know how to provide some personalization to each template, beyond addressing the legislator by name.
Members should try to localize the issue as much as possible by showing how it affects a specific legislator or district. Tailoring the template may require practice at first, so work with members so they understand how to do it.
4. Intentionally promote your advocacy work on your website
Your website is another tool for spreading the word about your advocacy efforts. A well-designed website also adds a layer of legitimacy to your actions, with potential donors taking you more seriously.
Create a dedicated advocacy page on your site if you don’t already have one. It should include:
- Background information on the cause
- A clear mission statement
- Your advocacy goals
- Legislator lookup tools
- A prominent call-to-action button like “Donate”
5. Attend tele-town halls and organize virtual meetings
Many lawmakers host tele-town halls or other virtual meetings with stakeholders and decision-makers around various topics and causes. Callers can call in to ask questions and engage around the specific causes or issues.
The big benefit of these events is that they’re accessible to a large audience who can tune in from the comfort of their home. So, look out for these town halls or virtual meetings and promote them internally to your members to encourage engagement.
You can also organize your own virtual events for members, partners, and other associations where you invite leaders to join and speak. Just make sure you properly plan by choosing an event format, recruiting volunteers, managing the logistics, and marketing it.
Review the MemberClicks Virtual Event Playbook to learn how to successfully host a virtual association event.
Start Fostering Virtual Advocacy at Your Association Today
Virtual advocacy is a great option for associations that opens you up to a large audience you can educate and engage with.
As you start to integrate it into your association, pay attention to opportunities to empower members on social media, promote your advocacy work on your website, and attend tele-town halls. Use your association management software to intentionally track engagement and the performance of your new advocacy strategies.
Do that, and you’ll be well on your way to getting the most out of your virtual advocacy