Digital advocacy efforts are critical to enabling nonprofits to cut through the noise and win campaigns.

Without digital advocacy, it’s hard to measure the success of your campaign — or even know if you won. In fact, 94% of advocates believe the other side is winning, and 86% believe they should employ a more impactful strategy.

Now is the time for us to step up our digital advocacy efforts.

Whether you’re a seasoned activist looking to get back to basics, or you’re completely new to digital organizations and don’t know where to start – you’ve come to the right place.

Here, let’s explore five questions to ask when starting a digital campaign.

5 questions for a successful digital campaign

1. What is your goal?

Before starting any digital marketing campaign, it’s important to understand what you want to achieve.

Think about what you want to accomplish. Do you want to turn the tide of policy decisions currently on the table? Do you want to help eliminate problems in your community? Do you want to mobilize your supporters to publicly support your issue ahead of the upcoming election?

Marshall Ganz is a Harvard scholar and activist who studies powerful movements and what led to their success. Through his research, he found a framework for setting goals.

Ganz determined that effective campaign objectives should:

  • measurable Make a real difference in the lives of your supporters. You should be able to clearly measure incremental progress towards your goals.
  • Key resources Achieve your goals strategically. Consider what you have in your pocket – can you put your organization’s skills and strengths to work to achieve a single outcome?
  • building capacity for your organization. For example, will you recruit and hire volunteers in working towards this goal? Will you gain valuable experience or resources, exposure and influence to help you achieve your next goal?
  • Use leverage points You can exploit your community’s strengths and/or exploit your opposition’s weaknesses
  • Focus on a single motivational question This has a direct impact on the lives of your supporters.

2. What is your theory of change?

It’s important to show your supporters that their actions can have a huge impact.

In our research report on full-scale engagement, we found it crucial to show how change is possible. Providing a blueprint for this path—and showing how you can get from A to B—will help backers understand the steps needed to win, and they’ll see first-hand their role in this change.

Google’s research on attitudes toward civic engagement shows that those who don’t take action are hindered in part because they don’t believe their actions will have an impact. When people see how their small actions fit into a larger strategic plan, they will be more likely to join in.

Here’s how #StopAdani articulates their theory of change:

#stopadani eventThe huge #StopAdani movement used this graphic to illustrate the theory of change for their campaign to stop new coal mines in Australia.

3. Who is your target?

Now that you have your goals, ask yourself, who are the key decision makers responsible for making your goals a reality? Who do you need to help you make it happen? A good exercise for narrowing down decision makers is called power mapping.

To do power mapping, follow these steps:

  • Brainstorming: List all the people involved in your campaign, including stakeholders, influencers, policymakers, and voters directly affected by the issue.
  • Power map: Next, place them on the grid and according to How much power they have over your problems and how sympathetic they are for your cause.
  • choose a target: Once everything is in place, you can see who might be the best people to target with your campaign. Remember – it doesn’t have to be the most powerful person. Depending on how long you’ve had it, you might start by going to someone more sympathetic or even evaluating the network of the most powerful people. You need to analyze the pathways and relationships that give you access to these decision makers and how you can put pressure on them through the larger network.

This is an example of a power-mapping brainstorming. The target is in the pink sticky note and all actors associated with the target are in the yellow sticky note and mapped:

power mappingScreenshot of the power mapping board. The goal of the campaign is to eliminate proof of immigration status at enrollment so that their process aligns with statewide asylum policies. The vertical axis represents each participant’s level of influence/power over activity-related decisions. The horizontal axis represents the level of support for your campaign by each participant.Template inspired by Works by Anita Tang at The Commons

For a more in-depth explanation of power mapping, check out our Advocacy Goals with Intent playbook, which provides you with step-by-step instructions and great prompt questions to brainstorm.

4. How will you achieve your goals?

You’ve identified your goals and your theory of change…but how will you put this plan into action?

New/Mode provides a platform for supporters to reach out to decision makers and have their voices heard. We offer multiple avenues and channels to reach decision makers.

Reach out to the CEO or the bank? Maybe they’ll be more receptive to the public and Twitter hashtags calling them out.

Need to contact a local representative? They have staff dedicated to opening, reading and responding to voters. New/Mode has built-in datasets that automatically match supporters to their elected officials, so any manual work doesn’t fall on your shoulders.

Check out the types of digital advocacy tools available to achieve your goals:

Twitter storm

Use Tweets to build a strong public narrative, increase support, and spread the word about your event.

Learn how the District Transit Authority used a storm of tweets to win transportation money.

letter to editor

Make the headlines! Encourage supporters to write to local publications, and provide a platform for your collective story… Policymakers will take notice!

Learn how organizations like Warren Democrats, Stand Up America, and New Hampshire Democrats use this great tool.

targeted email

Enter multiple email subject lines and messages into the system to increase deliverability and open rates. Create conditional messages that depend on the decision maker’s current vote or position. Give your supporters a script that fits a given situation.

Find out how to fund police movements across the North

The US used email operations to make a strong voice to their supporters.

Personalized calls

Call local, state/provincial and federal officials and candidates to tell them what’s most important.

Find out how BattleForTheNet uses the calling tool to advocate for an open internet for all.


Give your supporters something to believe! Give them an easy way to take action and connect with local decision makers.

Learn how Safe Passage uses a combination of petitions, tweets, and letters to editorial tools to bring families together.

5. What are your follow-up plans?

Campaigning is a long and dedicated job. In your digital advocacy campaign, you are building and fostering relationships with your supporters and policymakers. You must have a plan for both of these relationships.

How to develop relationships with supporters

You’ll get a list of supporters involved in your campaign, and you’ll have the opportunity to deepen your relationship with them.

Using New/Mode with customer relationship management software is very effective for tracking and nurturing relationships. Once the actor uses New/Mode, their contact information will be synced to HubSpot. In HubSpot, you can see who took action and how much they took.

Armed with this information, you can start following up with these people every few months and asking them to participate in the actions they are prepared to take. For example, if someone starts with a low-threshold action, such as a petition, you can ask them to perform another simple action, such as emailing a rep or asking them to escalate the action and asking them to tweet at their rep.

A useful way to visualize is the participation pyramid/participation ladder, which is used by activists and organizers to define a series of tasks for supporters, often escalating in difficulty or required commitment.

Depending on the level of the supporter, different advocacy tools may be better, as shown in the image below:

Participate in the PyramidFor more tips on how to engage your supporter base, check out this campaign engagement checklist, developed based on decades of experience leading advocacy campaigns around the world.

How to cultivate relationships with decision makers

Once your supporters have contacted their decision makers, you need to be ready to follow up with them, make your claim again, and/or hold them accountable. You should ask your supporters to notify you of the responses they get, so you can track the level of acceptance by decision makers.

Depending on how responsive decision makers are, you may want to invite them to a meeting and invite supporters to come along so you can make your requests and demands face-to-face. If they don’t respond, if they don’t accept the first request, maybe it’s time to try another communication channel.

Would they be more attentive if they didn’t answer emails, if they saw their name in thousands of tweets or in a newspaper? If you do receive commitments from decision makers, write that down and make a plan to check and hold them accountable.

it’s time to start

You are officially set for success because you now have a goal in mind, a plan to achieve it, a goal to achieve, a method to get there, and a plan to follow up on your efforts.

Good luck and happy campaigning.

exist new/pattern We’re delivering technology to help leading social good organizations cut through the noise and win campaigns.we provide digital advocacy software aimed at Turn engaged supporters into advocates to deliver tangible victories for our communities.

We support hundreds of cause-based organizations, and to date, our software has powered decision makers on over 17,000 campaigns and 60 million citizen messages – we know what works and want to share yours before launching a campaign The first five questions should be asked to ensure you have a successful one.

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