Building a world where people with Down syndrome can have equal opportunities to realize their life aspirations is the main goal of the National Down Syndrome Society, which fights to protect the human rights of people with Down syndrome. A lot of NDSS’ work is done at the legislative level, which means finding, tracking, and reporting on key legislation and stakeholders at the national level while mobilizing supporters to take action is key to its success.
A team of four, NDSS’ advocacy and public policy team use FiscalNote and VoterVoice to stay on top of, and mobilize supporters on, their legislative priorities such as phasing out legislation that allows people with disabilities to make less than the minimum wage, and ensuring marriage equality for people with Down syndrome and other intellectual and developmental disabilities.
But to get people to take action and advocate for their issues, a big part of NDSS’ work is educating the public about Down syndrome and the inequalities people with disabilities experience. To this end, Nicole Patton, manager of grassroots advocacy at NDSS, launched an innovative campaign mixing popular social media platform TikTok with FiscalNote’s flagship advocacy tool VoterVoice.
Jumping on the TikTok Bandwagon
An avid TikTok user herself, Patton was able to identify user trends in the platform and leverage those for her campaigns.
“What really kicked it off was this trend growing around TikTok of just two people with something in common looking at each other ... so I posted one that was ‘just two people who think people with Down syndrome should have equal rights looking at each other,’ and that got 850,000 views,” she says. “And then people were like, ‘wait, what do you mean people with Down syndrome don't have equal rights?’”
On its TikTok profile, NDSS linked back to its VoterVoice action center for people to learn more and take action. This success prompted Patton to run another one also piggybacking on a user trend on the platform dubbed “put a finger down.” This time, the TikTok video spoke specifically about some of NDSS’ legislative priorities.
“So, ‘put a finger down if you can be legally paid sub-minimum wage,’ and then my colleague would put a finger down and you as the viewer who doesn't have Down syndrome would have all of your fingers still up, and so on,” Patton explains.
Finding a Whole New Audience
Since starting in July, she has continued posting TikTok videos about two or three times per month. Besides following user trends, another key to success has been the use of the platform itself and being able to reach a whole new audience than they would with LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram.
“The future generation is really who is on TikTok right now,” Patton says. “There's a whole new audience to be tapped into that is going to be affected by or is affected by these issues.”
NDSS’ campaigns have gained traction and garnered thousands of views — one single video with the trend “things that don’t make sense” has gotten 3 million views so far. The platform has been a tremendous mass-education vehicle that has produced high levels of engagement through VoterVoice.
“We’ve been using VoterVoice for the last 5 years and it’s been a fantastic resource for our small government relations team,” Patton says. “VoterVoice made our campaign on TikTok even more successful because the number of views we received led to high rates of outreach to offices, donations to our organization, and so much more!”
One-Two Punch: TikTok + VoterVoice
“We were able to drive so many people to our VoterVoice action center because there are just so many people who are unaware of the inequalities that people with Down syndrome face,” she says. “We made a TikTok, and we were able to drive people to our action center that way, and we've got thousands of new advocates and hundreds of messages going out to legislators through VoterVoice.”
Once in VoterVoice, Patton’s team encouraged users to take action on specific legislation — such as easily contacting their representatives asking them to co-sponsor the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act, for example — or to sign up for future action alerts and build NDSS’ audience database.
“We're getting people in tons of new districts that we weren't able to necessarily target before. So, that's been a great success there and it's going to be really helpful come next year when we launch a few more campaigns,” she says.
Also thanks to the TikTok plus VoterVoice approach, Pattons says her team added five new members to their Congressional Task Force on Down Syndrome without even doing direct outreach to those offices. “That was through the actions that people were taking through our VoterVoice platform,” she says. “Really awesome.”
“VoterVoice and FiscalNote have been a tremendous help,” she adds. “If you have the money to invest in one of these platforms, you absolutely should. It makes it a lot easier than trying to manually keep up.”
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