Three tips for setting your organization up for success
Does the thought of starting a political action committee or hosting your first voter registration drive make you shudder? Maybe your board has decided to disclose personal political activity for the first time, which can cause some jitters. But political advocacy is a must for any organization: Trade associations, corporations, nonprofits and issue-based campaigns all rely on it, and they depend on the engagement of their stakeholders for the success of political initiatives.
Whether you’re asking people to write to Congress for the first time or introducing a PAC to your company leaders, there are three foolproof strategies to guarantee a flawless rollout of your new political program. Read on!
1) Tell People What to Expect
In the weeks leading up to your campaign rollout, consider your target audience, the level of knowledge people may have about advocacy and how to best prepare them to take action. And always remember: K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple, Stupid – and state the obvious.
The ABC Corporation is forming a Political Action Committee that will allow us to support elected officials and legislators who understand our industry and the regulations we face every day. In the coming weeks, you will receive more information about the decision to form a PAC, our guiding principals and leadership structure. As a leader in ABC Corporation, you will also be asked to join the PAC by making a contribution. Stay tuned for more information and contact XXX with questions.
The XYZ Association is, for the first time, expecting federal legislation that will limit our ability to thrive in our communities. Occasionally, we will reach out to ask you to contact your House and Senate members and tell them where you stand on these critical issues. Taking action will be quick and easy – you will be able to send a letter in just a few simple steps. We will always provide background on the issue and talking points to help you craft your message. Learn more by becoming an advocate and registering for updates today.
Consider unique and creative ways to reach your audience as you tell them about your new campaign. Maybe a pre-recorded voicemail from a leader or a flyer insert with employee pay stubs will encourage people to pay attention. And don’t underestimate the value of the old reliable recruiting table, stocked with food and giveaways in high-traffic areas like a cafeteria or building entrance.
2) Be Transparent and Assertive
Let’s take a look at the issue of a board of directors or a leadership team beginning to proactively disclose their political activity. We already know that in many cases, this information is publicly available. A next step might include capturing and reporting this information in a membership update or corporate social responsibility report. Transparency, especially when it comes to political activity, has become a touchstone for all organizations, and you won’t want to be an outlier on this trend. For example, take a look at the Center for Political Accountability CPA-Zicklin Index, which ranks the entire S&P 500 based on various categories of political disclosures.
Transparency doesn’t preclude you from being assertive. Tell your audience what you’re doing and why. And remember: don’t apologize, explain.
The board of directors at ABC Corporation has decided to voluntarily disclose its personal political activity in the 2016 annual shareholder report. Board members have a long history of participating in the political process, whether by voting, forming relationships with elected officials or occasionally making personal donations to their campaigns. These activities are all legal and a normal part of demonstrating the breadth and depth of our reach in communities that we serve. Disclosures of board members’ personal political activities can be found on our new website.
For the first time in XYZ Organization’s history, we are hosting voter registration drives at campuses across the country. Our goal is to have as many employees as possible registered to vote as we head into the 2016 elections. We are NOT telling you who to vote for or which party to support; we are merely encouraging your participation in the electoral process and sharing details of the candidates who represent our local communities. Join your colleagues in exercising one of our most sacred rights and help to strengthen our democracy.
3) Report Back
Say your political action committee has been up and running for six months, and you’ve recruited your first one hundred donors. Your most recent call to action generated over 1,000 letters to Congress and harmful legislation was stopped dead in it tracks. An elected official visited your facility and is now tracking one of your key issues. What now?
Report back to your target audience – your supporters and advocates. It’s easy and it lets them know they were a contributor to your excellent results. Your outreach doesn’t need to be complicated, just informational and engaging. Remember, success breeds success – share it!
Let’s consider an employee who received your campaign pre-message, took action and wrote to Congress, and then … radio silence from you. Do you think they’re likely to take action again? You may have already sent the auto-generated thank you note, but not much else. You were so relieved that the campaign was over and you just wanted to move on to other things, but now you’ve lost touch with an advocate!
Our experience shows that keeping stakeholders informed on the results of campaigns dramatically increases the likelihood of repeat activism in advocacy activities. Go the extra step next time. Once the campaign is finished, draft a short report on how your advocates’ support or opposition moved the needle on an important issue. Provide them with specific stats on the campaign and prepare them for the next advocacy battle.
Thanks to you and other members, the XYZ Association delivered more than 1,200 letters to Congress, reaching members in 32 state and almost 80 congressional districts. We look forward to relying on your support again the next time a legislative or regulatory issue could impact our community. Together, we can make a difference.
Or maybe you are a PAC reporting back after a successful recruiting and fundraising campaign:
Great news on our successful recruiting and fundraising campaign! Over the past three months, the Advocacy PAC held events at campuses in six states and in 12 different cities. We recruited over 200 new members and increased employee participation by 25%. The PAC raised more than $15,000 in new funds and treated employees to pizza and political discussions with their colleagues and members of the government affairs team. To stay in touch and learn about other events on the PAC website, sign up for our newsletter today.
Introducing and growing political programs can be a daunting task. But you’ve done your homework by considering your organization’s culture, you’ve fine-tuned the program and now you are ready to go live. By telling people about next steps, sharing details and enhancing the user experience with campaign metrics and updates, your new program is sure to be a hit.
Contact Heather Cutler at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 202/715-3907.