Last week Salsa Labs hosted an Online Organizing Panel and Happy Hour at Busboys and Poets in DC. Kate Thomas of Change.org and Ellie Klerlein of National Council of La Raza presented informative case studies and talked about best practices for engaging supporters.
One lesson that emerged was how non-profits that don't do traditional advocacy can still generate creative online campaigns using advocacy tools to engage and grow their list of supporters. Below are several specific ideas from the panel discussion:
Get creative with your issue(s)
Many organizations that are not working to influence debates over legislation or policy might think at first: "But, my organization doesn't have an advocacy issue to talk about or campaign around."
By reexamining the mission of your non-profit and the issues you work on, it's possible to generate an urgent call to action or petition without linking it to legislation. On the panel, Ellie highlighted the current fair housing campaign that NCLR is undertaking.
While not tied to a particular piece of legislation, this action creates an agenda around foreclosure and affordable housing access and utilizes Salsa's targeted action technology to target Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. This is a great way to get new supporters to sign up and old supporters to reinvigorate their support for NCLR.
Ask for people's stories
In addition to creating targeted actions or petitions, there are additional creative ways to engage supporters in an online campaign. Asking individuals to tell their stories related to a particular issue brings them into the conversation and empowers them. Sharing those stories with other supporters builds a sense of a community within your organization.
Ellie gave the example of an NCLR campaign, "Medicaid is meaningful to me because." This campaign encourages individual supporters to share their stories about Medicaid and then streams those stories onto a landing page for other community members to read.
Create a simple pledge
It's not necessary to create complex targeted actions for your campaign. Success can be had by generating a simple or generic pledge. Kate used the example of Share Our Strength, an organization working to end child hunger in the US. They created a simple pledge sign up where signatories pledge to "end childhood hunger by 2015." They've had over 56K signatures and good donor numbers resulting from those who have signed.