Pyramid of Engagement (Elections)

June 28, 2018 - 7 minutes read

Elections here, there and everywhere. How are you empowering your supporters to make an impact?

The “pyramid of engagement” or ladder of engagement approach is commonly used by campaigners and organizers to define a series of asks for supporters, usually escalating in difficulty or commitment required.

A digital engagement pyramid is mapping the user journey with actions like following on social media, making a pledge, emailing a local representative, then becoming a monthly donor. A field pyramid might turn your event RSVP’s into your next canvassing team. The best engagement plans combine both, mixing the digital and field activities that are: a) the best fit for your audience(s), and b) the most relevant to your campaign goals and theory of change.pyramid_of_engagement

It’s election time (or soon to be election time) almost everywhere. One of the questions we frequently get at New/Mode is, “how do I mobilize my members/supporters to get more involved in elections?”.

NGO’s, unions, advocacy organizations and progressive candidates have at least four great engagement opportunities during an election:

    1. Acquire new contacts/supporters. There’s a good chance other people care about the issue you care about too. Empowering them to get involved, and giving them the platform to easily take action, is a great way to bring new supporters into your ecosystem.
    2. Convert your passive contacts into more engaged supporters. They’ve opted in to your newsletter or they’ve signed a petition. Now invite them to take the next step and lead them all the way to the ballot box.
    3. Shape the narrative in the media and on social media. Your supporter base can be mobilized to support a powerful progressive story both online and in traditional media.
    4. Build a community to move the dial on your issue. Recent studies show that decision makers take note, and are influenced, when constituents speak up through multiple channels over time. This is especially true leading up to and during elections. Progressive candidates can do this as well – ask your supporters to call out your opponent’s regressive policy positions.

One clear example of this is how a mental health organization influenced the outcome of an election. Leading up to the election, over 3,000 people had signed a declaration for increased mental health and addictions support. Thanks to their escalating series of asks during the election, over 2,000 people contacted the candidates in their riding, 380 people signed up to volunteer, and 44 candidates pledged their support. The result: mental health and addictions became a platform issue, and the newly formed government announced a dedicated Ministry.

Mobilizing members and supporters, when election spending is out

In many districts, election spending limits make it difficult for third-party organizations to spend big bucks to support candidates or parties. So how do you build community, show power and influence decisions without ads or campaigns in the public domain? Many organizations, especially unions, are turning to members – and empowering them – to put their votes where your collective values are.

Your election toolkit should include:

  • An election landing page that explains the issue(s) and why it’s important to get involved. ActionNetwork and other cause-based CMS’s make this easy.
  • Ask visitors to pledge their vote. New/Mode and ActionNetwork have petition tools that work great for signups and pledges. Studies show voters who sign a pledge are more likely vote. New/Mode’s tool is optimized for social media virality to help you grow your supporter base through pledge forms.
  • Turn supporters into advocates through social media tools, letters submitted to local papers or using a click-to-call tool to phone into local radio shows.
  • If you’re not a candidate yourself, ask pledged supporters to contact candidates to find out where they stand on the issues you care about. New/Mode’s One-click email and calling tools embed directly into your existing website. OntarioVoters.ca is an example of a voter engagement campaign using tools to contact candidates.
  • Turn action takers into organizers. You could reach them by email or increasingly popular peer-to-peer texting services like CallHub.
  • Remind people to vote. By this point, your supporters have taken one or more actions and they’re armed with the information they need to vote. Phone banking campaigns, using tools like CallHub, are a great way to reinforce that personal relationship and inspire action. Peer-to-peer texting, famously used by Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, can also successfully drive your supporters to polling stations.

In today’s political climate, there’s a lot at stake in every election – local, state, Presidential or otherwise. A change in candidate or government can mean the difference between forward-moving progress or setbacks that take decades to recover from.

As progressives, we can collectively do our part by rallying the supporters we have and growing our communities to advocate for (AND VOTE FOR) a more fair, just and sustainable world. For budgets small and big alike, we are encouraged to see so many powerful tools available, working hand-in-hand to help campaigners activate the grassroots – and win.

For more information on growing a community through targeted engagement, visit NEW/MODE.


Author: Natasha Wilsion

With experience in both digital marketing and community organizing, Natasha develops strategies and campaigns – using the latest tech and data – to tackle timely social, political and environmental issues.

Prior to joining New/Mode, Natasha was the Digital Director at cStreet Campaigns where she helped labour, NGO and political clients build progressive movements across Canada, the US and Australia. Her free time is spent volunteering, petting dogs, and tweeting pictures of cars in bike lanes.

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