Our 6-Step Guide to Advocacy Tools For Organizers
We are super motivated right now because a bunch of our team members care deeply about affordable health care and helping those in need.
So, we were surprised by a recent comment by Speaker Paul Ryan about his college years.
That’s right friends, while tapping the keg in college, the Speaker of the US House and his buddies were dreaming about taking health coverage away from kids, the elderly, and the disabled.
Comments like these bring two things to mind for us. One, that heartless comments can be very motivating for someone or some group of people who want to start an advocacy group or a local action group. And two, that frustrating and sad comments like this require us to find some space for comic relief.
Soooooooo, we decided to help motivated individuals with a list of inexpensive tools to use when starting an advocacy group — hopefully in a slightly whimsical way.
Without further ado, here are 6 things you might need to get started:
1) Training You and Your Team
Organizing is hard work. Luckily, there are tons of people who have come before you and are willing to share what they’ve learned along the way. One of our favorite resources is Indivisible. The group was formed by former congressional staffers with the goal of teaching activists how to be the most effective when contacting their local officials. Since then, they’ve created scripts for talking about hot button issues, an online congressional calendar, and even guides for starting your own Indivisible activist chapter in your community.
2) Database & Organizing
You’re frustrated and ready to get moving, but as you start to organize, it can be difficult to collect, keep, color-code, and contact people who want to help you.
For organizing and database needs, we recommend using Action Network. With Action Network, you can keep all your information in one place, email your supporters, and collect new information when folks sign a petition or write a letter to their legislator.
3) Building A Website
A quality website is a must-have for displaying what your advocacy group is all about. We recommend using Squarespace for building sites with limited to no previous experience. Squarespace makes it quick and user friendly to build your own website starting with one of their well-designed templates. Squarespace also makes it easy to embed third-party donation and communication tools, such as Action Network donation boxes and MailChimp forms!
Price: Starting at $12/month for hosting and a free domain.
4) Organizing online
On average, Americans spend 5.5 hours per week on social media, which accounts for almost 1/4 of all time spent on media. Social networking sites are a great platform for activists to get your message out to friends, family, and elected officials — many of whom are taking to the internet to engage with constituents.
Social media is also a great way to organize your supporters by creating events, promoting action steps, and building a community where they can communicate and connect. Social media is bringing old school organizing into the 21st Century.
- Twitter Government Lists. Twitter’s government account has compiled lists of US Senators, members of Congress, and governors to make contacting your elected officials on the platform easy.
- Facebook Town Hall. Facebook’s new Town Hall app allows users to contact with their elected officials via phone, email, or even messenger, all without leaving the app. We’ve created this video to demonstrate how to find and use the tool:
5) Taking Action
Your group is trained on advocacy best practices, you are growing in numbers, folks know the issues, and group members are ready to take action to affect a federal, state, or local issue. What should you do next? This is often a tough question, as some advocacy tools are very expensive. Here are some of our favorite low- or no-cost tools for advocacy:
- Action Network. Action Network is truly one of the best multifaceted organizing tool around. Whether you are doing a sign on petition or you want online letters sent to members of Congress, Action Network is great!
- Resistbot. Most members of Congress still have fax machines. Why not fill their fax machines with personal stories, where you stand on an issue, and reasons why they should vote a certain way? Resistbot allows you to easily send a fax with a text message.
- ContactingCongress.org. This is a great tool for learning about your members of Congress, finding their addresses for an office visit, and finding the various numbers to call to make your voice heard.
- Town Hall Project. One of the most effective ways to make an impact is asking members of Congress tough questions face to face. With this tool, you can find town halls and add town halls to your mix, so others know when and where to join.
- Capitol Switchboard. And above all, don’t let complexity get in the way of starting. If your issue is federal, simply encourage folks to call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. As the Indivisible folks can attest, not all of these actions are sexy, but they are effective! Happy advocating.
6. Raising Money
When it comes to organizing, getting people to take action and moving the needle on your issue is the most important thing, but eventually you’ll probably need money to create a sustainable movement. Luckily, there are some really great, user-friendly toolsets that make collecting contributions a breeze.
- Action Network and WePay have a partnership which allows even free account users to set up a fundraiser. WePay charges 3.9%+$0.30 per transaction, but there aren’t any fees to set up an account, so you’re only charged when you receive a contribution. Price: 3.9%+$0.30 per transaction
- ActBlue has long been the gold standard for Democratic fundraising online, and now 501c3s and 501c4s can use their tools, too! ActBlue has customizable contribution forms, built in CRM integrations, and a secure interface users trust. The fundraising platform also has quick donate functionality for returning users. Considering the number of contributions Bernie Sanders brought in on the platform, this could be a great advantage for organizations going forward. Price: 3.95% per transaction
- Crowdpac brings the crowdfunding craze to politics. Founded on the principle that people, not big money special interests, should be funding our elected officials, the platform helps donors find the candidates who share their beliefs and interests. Candidates are scored based on their contributions, voting records, and platform, to make sure candidates have an equal footing, regardless of their funding.