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Building Your Grassroots Advocacy List: When No Legislation is Happening

Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation

How one organization energized their advocates and grew their base by 23% – when there was no major issue to work on

Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation – an advocacy coalition of angler groups – wanted to grow their advocacy base.

But with no major bills moving through Congress that would get supporters energized and mobilized, they didn’t have much fodder for action alerts.

“We realized this was the perfect opportunity to focus on growing our advocacy base,” said Austin Roebuck, then Government Relations Coordinator for Yamaha Marine Group, one of the coalition’s members.

Up to this point, they had had a little over 6,000 users send letters through the “Bass for Salt” advocacy action center, powered by FiscalNote's advocacy tools.

Bass Anglers' Action Center

“For previous issues we had typically focused on promoting advocacy through social media, trade shows, and email blasts,” said Roebuck.

But the coalition knew they’d need to find something sticky to get their supporters’ attention during this downtime, so after brainstorming new ways to promote their advocacy action center, they decided on a giveaway sweepstakes as a lure (pardon the pun).

“A YETI® Tundra 65 cooler was selected as our prize because it’s a popular product among our target audience, sportsmen and outdoorsmen,” said Roebuck.

At $500, the cooler’s retail value was also under the $600 threshold the IRS requires sweepstakes sponsors to submit a 1099 form for prizes and awards.

“Plus, our friends at YETI felt that we represent a worthy cause, and decided to donate the cooler at no charge to promote the sweepstakes,” said Roebuck.

The rules were simple: use the “sweepstakes engagement” on the action center site to send a prewritten letter to your U.S. Senator between October 13 and December 13, 2016, and you’d automatically be entered into a random drawing for a chance to win the cooler.

One of Bass Anglers' Facebook posts to supplement their advocacy efforts

Additionally, advocates were incentivized to share the sweepstakes with friends to receive additional entries. An alternative mail-in method of entry was also included that bypassed sending the letter to Congress. Just seven people chose to enter that way.

How They Did It

The sweepstakes was also cost effective. “In addition to the $500 donated prize, we spent about $300 promoting it with Facebook-sponsored posts,” says Roebuck.

“We used [FiscalNote's advocacy] system to send out emails to our established advocates about the opportunity to send a letter and win through the sweepstakes. We also used the new (and free) Facebook Live tool, which sends a push notification about your video to every single fan of your page.”

For an additional net-zero-cost promotion, they advertised the sweepstakes in booth space at events they’d already planned to be at, such as fishing tournaments and trade shows.

“The opportunity to win a prize made our trade show promotions significantly more successful, with more people stopping to talk with us about our issue,” said Roebuck.

In total, they sent three email blasts to their advocacy base, urging them to enter the competition and send a letter to their two senators. They also posted about the competition about 15 times on Facebook/Twitter, and focused heavily on getting people to sign up at trade show booths.

“Since our primary goal was to reach new advocates, we focused most of our efforts on live event activation,” said Roebuck.

All of their sign-ups, regardless of the channel they found the competition on, were ran through the back end of FiscalNote's advocacy platform, which automatically sent the emails to the appropriate senators through zip code matching.

Campaign Email Example

The Results

At the end of the two months, Bass Anglers for Saltwater Conservation had 1,857 entrants send a total of 4,335 letters to the U.S. Senate by way of the contest.

Of those who participated, 1,410 were brand new advocates.

“That represented a 23 percent increase in the size of our advocacy base from just one engagement, almost four times our typical growth rate,” said Roebuck.

Publicizing the Winner

How the Results Boiled Down

Roebuck said that while the biggest traffic came from events, roughly 25 percent came from Facebook, and another 15 percent from email. The focus was not on email as most of that traffic was to existing advocates, who were not the target of this campaign.

“We had an opportunity for people to share the contest with their friends for additional entries, but this option was surprisingly underutilized – maybe 50 people came in this way,” said Roebuck. 

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