You need a political advocacy guide ASAP, if you’re angry at the way things work, at the political process, at your representatives, and being a bystander is not an option.
Yes, going out and creating change is easier said than done. But knowing that you have to do something is the first bridge to cross. Since you’re here, it’s safe to say that you’ve crossed it. Actively involving oneself in political advocacy may look like a daunting task, but we’re here to help you.
Read on to understand how you can begin your political advocacy journey and bring about the changes you want to see in your community.
Ways to get involved in political advocacy
if you wish to work full-time as a part of an organization or want to dedicate a significant amount of your free time to a cause, there’s always scope to do good at any level. This political advocacy guide can show you a few ways:
- Have a specific goal
- Do your own research
- Volunteer to phonebank
- Write letters
- Send text messages to the community
- Knock doors
- Conduct surveys in your community
- Harness the power of social media
- Run for office
Let’s read about these political advocacy steps in detail.
Have a specific goal
It’s easy to get caught up in an overarching idea or feeling. The first concrete step towards involving yourself in political advocacy work is to break up your idea into smaller, more specific goals if you want to see your efforts bear fruit down the lane.
Here is how you can set clear goals:
- Find a cause that you care deeply about, say clean energy.
- Go into the specifics. How is the lack of clean energy affecting your community? Are there laws in place that support environmental protection? Are there any business practices that are causing atmospheric pollution in your area? Pinpointing a cause lets you align your efforts with an achievable end goal and keep yourself on track towards that goal.
- Look at advocacy organizations currently working in your community and reach out to them to offer your support. Ensure that the organization is working towards an achievable goal (World peace? Not so much. Nuclear disarmament? Yes!) and that your interests align with theirs. Political advocacy efforts can drag on for a long time and are driven mainly by the passion of its volunteers. If you don’t see eye to eye with their goals, look for one where you do.
Read Also: Political Lobbying and Why It’s Necessary
Do your research
Staying updated with the latest facts and information is crucial. Doing your research when looking at a career in political advocacy is essential because you can easily get swept up in a bubble of online rants and news coverage.
Your research will help you plan your advocacy strategies, know which connections to make, understand the pulse of the moment, and come across as well informed to stakeholders you interact with.
Here’s how to stay updated with the latest information:
- Familiarize yourself with events at the federal, state, and local levels.
- Watch news on the TV, scroll through Twitter and understand different viewpoints.
- Identify key influencers in your area of interest. Know what they have to say.
- Speak with your local community at Sunday church or the local park and understand their concerns and viewpoints.
- Read material published by political advocacy groups about the cause for which you are working.
- Attend local town hall meetings.
Volunteer to phonebank
Phonebanking is a fundamental mode of outreach for political candidates and advocacy groups. If you are unsure how to begin your political advocacy journey, you should try phonebanking.
Phonebanking can entail any of the following tasks:
- Speaking to potential voters to support a candidate.
- Running advocacy campaigns to connect people to their local representatives.
- Conducting surveys during election season.
- Voter registration and mail-in ballot request support.
- GOTV campaigns to encourage people to vote and more.
Beginning with phonebanking will give you the confidence to speak with people from different walks of life and attune you to the perspective and sentiments of the community about different issues.
Keep an eye out for phone banking requests via text messages by a political campaign, posters at your local community center, or social media requests.
Perhaps you’ve been affected by recent policy changes, or you’ve come across situations that you would like addressed immediately. In such cases, you would want to begin your advocacy journey as soon as possible.
One way you can start lobbying for your cause is by writing letters to people and organizations that matter and can bring about change.
Write to your local representatives if you want to see policy changes. Do you want more people to find out about your cause? Write to your local newspaper or media channels willing to pick up your story.
A few tips for writing an excellent letter:
- Introduce yourself as a constituent or activist.
- Be concise and keep it short.
- State your position on a given issue.
- Be polite but firm. Avoid any rudeness or ultimatums.
- Add examples or statistics where necessary.
- Do not exaggerate facts.
- If you are writing to a newspaper, look up their guidelines on the word limit or format.
Send text messages to the community
Easy, quick, and digestible – that’s the best part about text messages. Do you know what’s better? They have a 98% open rate, so it is almost guaranteed that most of your contacts will read what you text them.
The high open rates for text messages make them a sought-after tool for advocacy groups to reach out to people. There are two ways to utilize text messages:
- Join an advocacy group aligned with your cause and volunteer to send text messages on their behalf.
- If you are driving grassroots-level work, gather like-minded people, explain how advocacy groups use text messages and ask them to volunteer to text on behalf of your campaign.
Figuring out how to send messages to your community? Here is how:
- Collate a list: Gather contacts from your local library or church and start reaching out to people. If you want to run a more extensive campaign, you can consider buying a contact list from a verified source.
- Choose an appropriate texting tool: Choose a texting software that enables you to send thousands of messages on time and lets you personalize these messages with the recipients’ names and other details. If you have found volunteers and want to have a two-way conversation with people, you can look at texting tools such as peer-to-peer texting to enable that.
- Check compliance laws: Each state has its own laws surrounding the number of text messages you can send to each contact in a week. Also, sending text messages for political advocacy outside of certain hours can get you in trouble. Keep a check on compliance laws to avoid backfiring.
- Write a great script: Write a message that is relevant, short, and conveys a clear call to action. Once your call-to-action is clear, it becomes easy for people to know what they have to do next.
- Begin your texting campaign: You’re all set to begin your texting campaign and rally your troops.
Knock on doors
Yes, as daunting as it may seem, do the traditional thing. Go door to door and speak to people about the cause you are fighting for and get them to support you.
There are three ways to plan your door-knocking campaign:
- Gather a few friends or family, explain your mission, and split into groups to go door-knocking.
- Find similar-minded people in your community online and get them onboard the door-knocking campaign
- Go alone! Yes, you can begin a small campaign all by yourself. It’s 2022, and we’re all here for robust and independent advocacy missions!
Here are a few things you need to keep in mind when you begin your door-knocking campaign:
- Have a clear mission statement that easily informs people what you do and why.
- Think of a great introduction and use it before people decide they do not want to talk to you.
- Carry additional material or information that you can leave with people who are interested.
- Encourage people to opt into your message broadcasts.
- Understand that you may not always get the response you want, sometimes it might even upset you. But hey, it is not you, it is them. Maybe they had a bad day.
Conduct surveys in your community
You are fighting for a cause that affects not just you but also the people around you. The community is part of your advocacy project. The more you involve them, the more insights you get about how your views align with that of your community. Perhaps you also learn something new that helps you polish your strategies and outlook.
Before you begin your advocacy journey, understand if the community is aligned with the cause you are undertaking. To know that, you need to conduct surveys. For example, you may want to protest a new project in town that damages the environment. However, the community might not be aware of the project to begin with or not understand the full implications of the project.
When you conduct surveys, you can identify these gaps in the community and fill them. An educated, well-informed, and empathizing community will come to your aid when you need support!
Here are ways to conduct surveys within the community:
- Do an informal survey by asking people in public places.
- Ask your community to respond to your text survey questions.
- Conduct a small calling campaign and build personal relationships with the community while gaining insights.
- Send emails with survey links or design a google form to share via emails.
Harness the power of social media
It goes without saying that we’re continuously consuming content on social media and actively participating in creating it. It could be cute reels with dogs in them or the Twitter frenzy about Wordle; social media defines the conversation we have in society.
You can use such social media platforms to speak about your political advocacy campaign and establish yourself in your local community.
Here are some ideas you can use:
- Share informative posts educating people about your cause.
- Make fun reels or tiktoks with your cause as the focus to reach many people.
- Conduct live interaction sessions with experts on Youtube, Instagram, etc.
- Collaborate with others in the space to increase your visibility.
- Mobilize people by sharing information about rallies or events near you.
- Share behind-the-scenes videos or images from your work on the ground.
Run for office
Yes! While political advocacy will let you work at the ground level, raise issues, lobby for causes, and pressurize representatives to improve the lives of your community, running for office can do a lot more. If you are already a well-known individual in the community, have taken on similar welfare projects before, and have generated some goodwill, it might be a good idea to consider running for office.
You can play a crucial part in furthering your cause by being in office and working on policies that directly impact it.
Alternatively, you can begin familiarizing the community with your efforts and build a roadmap to running for office in the future. In the meantime, you can look up candidates who are running for office, are aligned with your beliefs, and will likely support your cause. Vote and mobilize for them!
Read our article How to Run for Public Office as a First-time Candidate to know more.
When considering political advocacy as a career or passion project, know that all it takes is for you to take the first step and the rest just follow. Want to read more about political advocacy and how to organize the grassroots? Our article How to start a Grassroots Advocacy Campaign might help.
Featured Image Source: Lara Jameson