In the United States, one out of three homes with children has a gun, and nearly 1.7 million children live in a home with a loaded, unlocked gun. Gun violence is an epidemic killing more than 30,000 people every year. Nationally, guns still kill twice as many children and young people than cancer, five times as many than heart disease and 15 times more than infection, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.
Imagine a future where no child is killed with a gun. GunFreeKids.org works to reverse this trend of gun violence by building a community of activists to commit to political organizing on the grassroots /netroots level, state by state. GunFreeKids.org puts pressure on political leaders to take legislative action.
In 2008, as a result of a series of campus carry bills following the Virginia Tech and the Northern Illinois University shootings, the nonprofit organization began to focus on higher education.
“Our colleges and universities should be havens for learning, where students, faculty, staff and visitors should not need to worry about the threat of gun violence on their campuses,” said Andy Pelosi, president, GunFreeKids.org. “We need to keep moving forward and work toward a society where the norm does not include carrying loaded guns in our schools. It is up to us to hold our elected officials accountable and speak out to keep our kids safe.”
Building a community for stronger advocacy against gun violence
More than 170 shootings have occurred since 1960, taking the lives of 392 students, faculty members, and others on school property. For too long, life-saving gun reforms have been stalled by politicians and the power of the National Rifle Association.
GunFreeKids.org’s mission is achieved through research, public education, advocacy, strategic communications, and coalition building around the issues that matter most – keeping kids safe from gun violence. As a major driver of education and information, the nonprofit was looking to continue to engage its current advocates as well as capture new support.
“We needed to make sure we were using all the communications tools available to us to continue to reach and educate our supporters in the most effective way possible, said Andy. “When we first started in 2007, we had a vision and a four to six-year-old list of dated supporter information.”
To become a stronger voice, the nonprofit significantly updated its original supporter list, with the technology of Salsa’s engagement platform. In 2008, they began their position to drive a cultural change in the way the country handled gun violence, one state at a time.
Communication tools nimble enough to enable GunFreeKids.org to react quickly and effectively
GunFreeKids.org has created an organization based on connecting people. Salsa’s email marketing and outreach features enabled the nonprofit to send email blasts, build targeted lists and track the performance of their campaigns. The nonprofit used the Salsa platform to send weekly emails asking supporters to sign a petition, take an action to write a member of congress or even to appear at a certain community event.
“We are usually a bit on the reactive side when it comes to getting in front of some of the state bills, and that is why using Salsa has been so beneficial to us,” said Andy. “Salsa enables us to quickly segment our lists by state and target those supporters who we know will take action.”
GunFreeKids.org distributes more than 20 alerts each year, notifying and educating supporters across the country of upcoming bills that will directly impact the safety of children. Utilizing Salsa’s feature rich email and marketing tools, GunFreeKids.org was able to create and distribute engaging and effective emails, action alerts, and in some cases, donation appeals, all from one integrated system.
The nonprofit leaned on a Salsa partner for product support. “If it had not been for PowerThru Consulting, who are experts in all things Salsa, we would not have been able to fully realize the benefits of the complete platform, said Andy. “Their knowledge and advice really helped us to use Salsa more efficiently.”
With Salsa’s custom query and reporting tools, GunFreeKids.org had complete control of their own data and could take advantage of more accurate campaign reports and statistics. They were able to immediately see what worked and what needed to be adjusted. GunFreeKids.org’s database linked supporters, actions, events and donations, giving them access to measurements that enabled them to be more strategic with each alert they distributed.
Andy added, “Our community of supporters has more than doubled since using Salsa and we continue to grow. Through tools like Salsa, every individual has a chance to help change this country’s culture, build support for legislative action and apply pressure on political leadership. That’s what is so great about democracy, everyone can make a difference just by signing a petition.”
Email is one of the core communication tools in any online strategy and combined with Salsa’s advocacy solution, the nonprofit can effectively engage its supporters in online advocacy and legislative issues. Supporters who choose to join the cause can send powerful messages directly to their appropriate congressional or senatorial representatives in a matter of minutes. Salsa enables GunFreeKids.org to have complete flexibility when sending email blasts. One of the many ways supporter lists can be quickly sorted is based on geography, which allows targeted emails to reach those impacted most.
“Salsa is so easy to use and really helps us manage our alerts so we are more effective with our outreach,” said Andy. “We have grown a lot in the last year. We have brought in thousands of supporters with Salsa – the tools are terrific. I wouldn’t have stayed with them for all these years if it wasn’t good.”
Moving toward freedom from gun violence with effective outreach and engagement
Through its own organization and the work it does with other national associations, GunFreeKids.org was able to get a bill passed through the House of Representatives related to firearms purchases. The Thompson-King amendment, which will provide $19.5 million to states to submit important background records to the National Instant Check System (NICS) for firearm purchases, will greatly increase the number of prohibited persons who will be prevented from purchasing firearms.
GunFreeKids.org used Salsa’s tools to craft an alert asking its supporters to contact their members of congress and take action. The alert reached 26,000 supporters across 50 states and generated an open rate of more than 46 percent. Of those supporters reached, 20 percent took action.
“This was a big win for GunFreeKids.org and our country,” said Andy. “With the help of Salsa, we made a huge push through multiple emails taking us from initial building of the bill’s momentum all the way through to when the bill was in the House.”
Success for GunFreeKids.org is measured in many ways. First the nonprofit looks at whether they defeated the bill. If they didn’t defeat the bill, they measure how many people they engaged – did they capture new supporters, if so, how many? The nonprofit also places value on the press coverage it receives as a measurement of success.
GunFreeKids.org has placed a majority of their focus on a handful of states including Texas, Georgia, Oklahoma and Florida. The nonprofit recently distributed a number of alerts in Georgia, reaching more than 1,000 supporters to stop a bill titled Guns Everywhere. The governor eventually signed the larger bill, but the campus piece of it was deleted.
Andy added, “A lot of what we do is defensive, if there is something that is going to push guns in every place, well, we are out there trying to stop it. If there’s a bill to allow guns to be carried across campus, we are trying to defeat it. We’ve been very successful in Texas and have completed a number of successful alerts killing bills in 2009, 2011 and 2013. We have definitely made an impact.”
The work at GunFreeKids.org is steadily bringing awareness to the dangers of gun tolerance in the U.S. Their efforts give thousands a voice to put a stop to unnecessary deaths among our county’s most innocent citizens, its children.