9 Ways to Grow your Supporter List Using Online Advocacy

November 14, 2013

by Jessica Seward, Marketing Manager, Salsa Labs

Supporters are the lifeblood of any organization and one way to get folks actively engaged in your cause is through online actions such as petitions and targeted actions.

But, here’s the crux – many online actions aren’t effective in achieving offline results and don’t grow you’re your list. In fact, only about 10 percent of people complete an online action (like signing a petition). You’re going to need a lot more than that to bolster your grassroots campaigning.

How do you make your online actions more effective and grow your base through your advocacy efforts? Here are nine tips that can help:

  1. Make all actions shareable. We’re all highly influenced by others and shifts in public opinion are often influenced by a critical mass of “easily influenced” individuals. People pretty much do whatever their friends are doing, which they learn about these days on social media, which is why your content need s to be shareable.
    • Use tools that let readers easily share your content with one click on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and so on (if you are a Salsa user then you’ll know that our platform already has this capability built-in).
    • Create custom messages that supporters can easily send to their networks.
    • Include powerful images in your messages.
  2. Create compelling content. This is key to the success of online advocacy and should influence your readers – quickly – to care about your issue, inspire action, and motivate them to share with their networks. For tips, check out this short video: Content Marketing for Nonprofits, hosted by Salsa’s very own Christine Schaefer.
  3. Online actions need to be credible so that people will take part and share it with their friends. Don’t just promote actions for the sake of building a list.
  4. Provide sign-up pages. Try to get the contact information of everyone take every action and make these calls to action prominent on your website. Be credible as you do this, don’t capture names while masquerading your intentions as something else. Let your subscribers know what to expect next and how you plan to stay in touch and use their information.
  5. Find and thank your messengers. By this I mean find those who are spreading the word and influencing their profession or community. Thanks them for being an advocate and get to know them, especially if they are bloggers.
  6. “Like” and “Follow”. Again, identify influencers on social media whether they are influential individuals or targeted groups such as your local animal group. “Like” them and comment (usefully) on what they post.
  7. Online ads and list-building services. Targeted Facebook and Google ads, purchased with the right keywords and pointing to an effective landing page can often inspire strangers to take action and share their contact information. If you have the budget and have hit a brick wall with your organic growth, organizations like Change.org and Care2 can send a targeted message to their supporters on your behalf.
  8. Have a rapid response plan in place. Stay on top of current affairs and be ready to respond and take advantage of any news that you can ride. For example, when the Komen Foundation announced a funding cut for Planned Parenthood, women’s organizations got a huge opportunity to respond with related announcements.
  9. Cross-promote with other organizations or coalitions. Find like-minded organizations to send messages on your behalf to their supporters. The average conversion rate is five percent – not bad!

The Essential Guide to Online AdvocacyThese tips are all drawn from our free e-book: The Essential Guide to Online Advocacy for Nonprofits.

For more information about using advocacy to build your supporter list, check out these resources:

Webinar: Rapidly Growing Your Base of Supporters – With a limited budget and almost no staff, progressive activist organization Left Action has grown rapidly, now boasting over 1.5 million highly engaged supporters, and a Facebook page with nearly 1 million fans. Watch how they did it.

List Growth Through Advocacy – This quick video explains how using advocacy campaigns can reach new audiences and continue to build support for the issues on which you work.


Jessica Seward
Marketing & Community Manager

Jessica moved from Pennsylvania to the Washington DC area in 2007 and hasn't looked back. She has been in marketing since the start of her career, and now serves as Salsa's Community and Marketing Manager where she helps nonprofits build their communities of support. When she's not working, Jessica enjoys traveling, trying new beers, and being with friends and family, not necessarily in that order.