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Combining the power of technology and grassroots organizing to drive change across the state of New York

Group rallying to increase the minimum wage in New York.

Citizen Action of New York was founded more than 30 years ago as a grassroots membership organization taking on big issues that are at the center of transforming society.  With seven chapters and affiliates spread throughout major cities in New York, the nonprofit is able to create campaigns to meet the organizing and political challenges that most affect each region. At the same time, all share overall goals and benefit from a cohesive statewide program.

“Since our organization has existed, there hasn’t been a massive social movement for justice like the civil rights movement in the 60s or anti-war movements – or countless examples prior,” said Charlie Albanetti, communications director, Citizen Action of New York. “It seems like right now is that time period – we are on the verge of social and economic change, and to have a digital component makes this movement much different. We can create instant national conversations in a way that’s never happened before – and that’s exciting.”

Citizen Action of New York has an important role ahead. With the use of technology and digital organizing, they can be more involved and supportive of the organic movements that are happening all around them.

The Challenge:

To push the edge of what is possible

The success of any grassroots advocacy program or campaign depends on the organization’s ability to review the success of their efforts and determine what is working and what is not as quickly
as possible.

With a wide range of advocacy issues to address, Citizen Action of New York regularly runs multiple campaigns at each level.  They look for opportunities to accomplish big change and work to elect progressive candidates who are committed to the issues important to their organization to office.

“Salsa’s toolset allows us to communicate with tens of thousands of activists, keeping supporters engaged even after the protests are over.”

“We work on a wide variety of state and federal issues each year with the intent of motivating our supporters to reach out to their legislators and demand action,” said Charlie. “We are particularly involved in promoting public education and wage issues.”

To do this, Citizen Action of New York needed an organizing platform to manage multiple campaign efforts and their grassroots community of supporters. With their power coming from grassroots efforts, they needed the tools that enabled them to educate and engage their membership on the issues that matter to them, in real time – to push the edge of what’s possible. With Salsa, the nonprofit can save time in getting the word out, making it easier for its members to stay connected and engaged.

The Solution:

Relationships and technology essential for successful advocacy

Citizen Action of New York has been using the Salsa platform since 2008 to focus on their grassroots efforts and mobilize an expanding network of online supporters. Salsa’s email and marketing outreach features enable Citizen Action of New York to create and send engaging and effective emails, action alerts and newsletters from one integrated solution.

“We started using Salsa at a time when digital advocacy was in its infancy,” said Charlie. “When I started here almost ten years ago, I worked on communications half time. Now we have a four-person department. This decade of digital work in the realm of progressive politics has been transformational for organizations like ours. Salsa has always been the backbone for us because the platform is easy to use and flexible and customizable in a lot of ways.”

Salsa’s email marketing and outreach features enable Citizen Action of New York to send action alerts, build targeted lists and track performance. The nonprofit can create consistently branded emails with Salsa’s feature-rich email builder. In a few simple steps, users can incorporate content, link a call to action back to their website and add personal touches from key messengers.  The ability to segment emails, monitor open rates, bounces, click-throughs and conversion rates for the nonprofit’s outreach campaigns greatly enhances the overall results. 

Additionally, the multi-targeted action feature allows customized direct messages to be sent on behalf of the Citizen Action of New York supporters to national and state legislators using Salsa’s address localization and constituent targeting capabilities. Depending on the email blast, the nonprofit engages an average of 1,000 to 1,500 people in taking action. 

“Salsa’s email platform is a great place to combine all the content that we’ve been pushing from all our other avenues into one supporter email blast,” said Charlie.  “We segment based on action history. Basically we are tagging past actions – for example, we’ll take everything that was on education, and if it’s a particularly narrow message, we’ll have higher level asks to those supporters who have expressed interest previously.”

Citizen Action of New York runs a lot of campaigns and often times will have a need to brand under a different name. The flexibility to run an entire website and use the same Salsa infrastructure for so many different short-term issue campaigns, such as Fair Elections for New York, is highly valuable to the nonprofit. 

Citizen Action of New York is building its supporter lists through relationships as well as tools like Salsa and social media. Effective use of each has provided the nonprofit with a stronger voice to affect real change in the state of New York.

Group standing outside franchise restaurant rallying for a higher minimum wage.

Recent Campaigns:

Everyone deserves a wage that meets basic needs

Citizen Action of New York has been working with its members regarding an upcoming decision on fast food workers’ minimum wage rates. A New York state panel is reviewing a proposed wage boost for fast food workers. The meetings have seen large contingents of employees, labor advocates and elected officials come together asking for a new $15 hourly minimum.

The panel’s decision will help shape the future of low paying jobs in America’s service industry. Approximately 180,000 New Yorkers work in the fast food sector; most of them earning near the current state minimum wage of $8.75 an hour. 

 “This is a pretty monumental movement,” said Charlie. “We have been working on wage issues for a long time because we believe it’s fundamental for a more fair economy.”

To bring awareness to this issue, the nonprofit has done a combination of grass roots on the ground organizing, email blasts and social media outreach. They’ve created memes, pushed those out through Facebook and Twitter and other outlets, they’ve gathered petition signatures, and made direct contact with elected government officials. 

Charlie added, “Through those tools, we were able to reach thousands of our members. And along with some of our national partners, we ended up delivering 157,000 petition signatures to the wage board.”