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Digital Advocacy is Having a Moment: Are Your Tools Ready?

by Ann Dermody, FiscalNote

There's never been a more important time for advocacy professionals to show their value - but only if they're armed with the right advocacy platform

In the last few weeks here at FiscalNote, we’ve seen a surge of action on our advocacy tools. 

A virtual tsunami of campaigns have been launched, executed, and reported on, as organizations scramble to deal with advocating for funding for members and clients in the face of COVID-19. 

In one week alone in late March, we saw almost 400 campaigns launched with COVID-19 specifically in their titles. Hundreds more were launched by our 2,400-odd advocacy clients in the subsequent weeks that also likely have a similar purpose. 

It makes sense. First there was talk of a stimulus to fight for. Then there was an actual stimulus to campaign for. Now, of course comes the really important part for associations, nonprofits, and small to medium sized businesses: The divvying up of the funds that have been made available. 

Regardless of where you fall on the government relations spectrum, from soft communications to direct lobbying, the only advocacy work you can do right now – with lawmakers and staffers stranded at home – is the remote kind. 

That puts digital advocacy through reputable platforms center stage.

It’s never been more important to show your value: to clients, members, and higher-ups in your organization, and the best way to do that is through tangible wins of engagement with members, funding for your organizations, and deepening relationships with lawmakers. 

In a way it’s a perfect storm of showcasing what you do best as an advocacy professional. Keeping members and supporters connected, informed, and engaged, and using that ecosystem to make the case and influence those all-important lawmakers.

But what if you don’t have your action center and advocacy platform ready to go? 

Well, the bad news is you may be several steps behind. Many organizations are already out there pivoting and mobilizing their advocates and fighting –  and winning – their share of the stimulus and the grants and funds available. 

The good news is that we’re here and ready to help. Below are 7 things you need to seriously ask before you can get your organization squarely into the action and launching a digital campaign with speed.

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1. Can I mobilize advocates in multiple ways?

First and foremost, you need to get your advocates taking action to push for the legislation, funding, and support your organization and industry needs. That means emailing, sending tweets, texting, and push notifications to lawmakers and influencers, whatever best suits your organization’s demographic and action plan. At the barest minimum you’ll need a platform that lets you automatically match your advocates and potential advocates’ (members, donors, clients, supporters) addresses to the correct legislator. 

2. How hard is it for my advocates to take action?

You need to make things as easy as possible for people to take action – or they won’t. So make sure your platform has a pre-fill form so members can register their support with one click. 

It can’t just be easy for your advocates. It also needs to be easy for you to use. 

Now isn’t the time to be trying to figure out complicated technology. You need to move fast and get your campaigns created and out the door. 

VoterVoice, FiscalNote’s flagship advocacy platform is not only fully-comprehensive, it’s super-easy to use. Don’t just take our word for it. Here’s a quote from one of our clients:

“[VoterVoice] has given us a super-easy way to manage campaigns on our website. Before, we didn't have an efficient way to post legislative initiatives on our site. We would have to work with our web developer, and now we do it ourselves.” Ohio Manufacturers Association. 

3. Can I combine advocacy and tracking?

If you don’t know what’s happening - you can’t take action. Keeping on top of the legislation happening at state and local levels, in relation to COVID-19 and beyond has never been more important. 

Government relations doesn't happen in a vacuum and your digital advocacy provider can’t just be a one-trick pony. 

It should also be able to combine tracking tools at federal, state and local level and let you embed that map on your action center, as well as having the ability to launch and create best-in-class advocacy campaigns.

That’s particularly important at state and local level, where you may have a short window of time to discover what legislation or local ordinances are proposed, launch a grassroots advocacy campaign, and get it pushed through or quashed. 

Here’s how one FiscalNote healthcare client did that by managing to send 3,000 letters and change an important vote in 72 hours. 

FiscalNote State

How are you keeping on top of the 156,000+ bills introduced in the states this year?

4. Can I keep my team aligned and still take meetings with lawmakers virtually?

You might not be able to personally show up on Capitol Hill or for in-district meetings or fly-ins with legislators or staffers, but you can still plan and execute successful meetings and remote Hill Days if you have the right tool set. 

Use a reliable Congressional directory like FiscalNote’s Knowlegis for the most up to date contact information for staffers and legislators to set those all-important meetings you’d be having anyway, and deliver a perfect virtual Hill Day with VoterVoice. Manage event agendas, provide and receive talking points and notes, collect feedback, and launch a campaign off the momentum. 

5. Can my supporters comment on regulations.gov?

While lawmakers get all the attention for introducing and passing laws, the Federal agencies that interpret and enforce the rules and regulations passed down are arguably where the really important and ultimately impactful advocacy work happens. That 60 day comment period is crucial for getting your organization’s voice heard loudly and clearly by the agencies, and it offers a real hope in shaping the outcome of a rule. But it’s a tight timeframe and you need to be ready to pull the trigger on a campaign where your action center and advocates are primed to comment. 

See how this trade association client managed to get 830 individualized comments on regs.gov using FiscalNote’s advocacy tools. 

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6. Does my provider have a fully customizable Action Center or app. 

Back to making things easy, advocates are overwhelmingly more likely to take action for you on their phones, so a customizable app is key. 

Likewise, you need to be able to create an action center online where you’re driving supporters that matches the look and feel of your organization, informs and engages them, and keeps them coming back. 

7. What do I do if there’s nothing related to COVID-19 I need to take action on, and all other legislation has stalled? 

If your organization or company isn’t involved in a digital campaign during the current crisis, it’s arguably more important than ever to build up your base of supporters and stay in touch with your advocates. With budget cuts likely as the crisis goes on, you want to make sure you’re still top of mind when those all-important membership renewals come around and purses are tight. 

With the right toolset and strategy in place, you can lead successful campaigns by keeping supporters engaged and informed year-round. 

Send newsletters, surveys, petitions, and blog posts at any time to keep advocates up-to-date on your efforts, and to capture an A-team of supporters who are ready to go when something big, like fighting for COVID-19 stimulus dollars, does erupt. 

Having that informed base you maintained all year will only help your next initiative. 

See how one client increased their base by a quarter when there was no important legislation for them to fight for. 

See how FiscalNote’s advocacy tools let you organize campaigns, engage supporters and lawmakers, and measure your impact. 

Advocacy Benchmark Report 2019

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