6 Reasons Your Organization Should Implement Supporter-Led Campaigns in 2017

January 19, 2017 Austen Levihn-Coon

This article was originally publishd on npENGAGE

As nonprofit leaders look ahead and think about how to significantly expand the impact of their advocacy campaigns, there is one key tactic that may be your secret to punching above your weight: Supporter-Led Campaigns.  Having an empowered and effective base of grassroots supporters can be the holy grail when it comes to building large social-change campaigns.

Many digital advocacy organizations simply focus on campaigns that supporters can participate in by simply adding their names to petitions or letters to Congress.  This model of organization-led campaigning limits what can be accomplished and restricts decisions and activity to campaign staff.  

In our experience working with many of the world’s leading advocacy organizations, supporter-led distributed organizing is a key tool to scale impact. Distributed campaigning is not new. Local leaders have been running campaigns in coordination with other activists across the country and world for decades.  The difference with today’s campaigning is the increased ability for organizations to help local leaders coordinate their campaigns, share best practices, and more easily scale efforts to build volunteer capacity. In addition, supporter-led distributed campaigns provide nonprofits with a key tool to take advantage of supporter energy and open up action opportunities without being gatekeepers of supporter excitement.

Here a 6 reasons to consider running a distributed campaign in 2017.  

1. You Can Do More with Your Staff

Building a Distributed Campaigns program will allow your organization to have an even greater impact by empowering your volunteer leaders to organize and take action in coordination with the dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of other volunteers around the country.

By developing a program that is focused on building grassroots power through supporting, training, and empowering volunteers, you will not be limited to what your staff is able achieve on its own.  

2. They Nurture New Grassroots Leaders

One key premise of distributed campaigns is that they function to fill a secondary priority in recruiting new volunteer leaders. If well designed and executed, a distributed campaign program will include training opportunities for your volunteer activists, helping them to build their own skillsets and get on-the-ground practice organizing events and actions.  

By creating a volunteer development program that helps to build volunteer activist skills over time, you can start to develop a network of activists with a range of abilities capable of amplifying your organization’s work far beyond your own reach.

3. It Helps Build Local Community Groups and Chapters

Through the work needed to organize local collective actions, your volunteers will come together to collaborate on shared campaigns. Brought together by shared values and a shared vision for the future, and working together on a campaign or organizing an event, neighbors will get to know each other and create a team of local supporters who can hold each other accountable, build momentum, and continue to recruit new members to your cause.

4. You Reach New Supporters

During our work with a leading advocacy organization running a distributed petition campaign, we found that almost 30% of petition signers were new to their list, compared to their regular petition campaigns that generally have less than 3% new subscribers.

The increase in new supporter participation was largely driven by volunteer leaders tapping into their own networks to reach people who had not participated in campaigns previously. By having your volunteers introduce your campaign to their peers, you benefit from the relationships people have already established with the messenger.

5. Your Supporters Become Central to Your Campaign

By raising up the stories of local volunteer activists affected by the issue you’re addressing, you put a face to the issue for your audiences and the cause becomes more personal. Through media trainings and other volunteer support work, you can also build capacity for interviews and expand the potential reach of your campaign. Don’t be afraid to give the reigns to your most ardent supporters. Oftentimes, their passion for your cause is driven by a personal story, and it’s that story that can help raise awareness for the need for change.

6. It Targets Numerous States and Municipalities

There are a number of different types of distributed campaigns your organization can support—member-led campaigns that your supporters choose, Wildfire campaigns with a common ask and many different targets, and more. By providing your supporters with the tools and support they need to run campaigns with dozens or even hundreds of different targets, you can significantly expand your reach and impact.

Give your supporters the opportunity to run campaigns that target their local elected officials or decision makers. Petition signatures delivered to an elected official by a constituent can have a significantly greater impact than if delivered by a professional advocacy group.

Interested in learning how to setup and run a distributed campaign program for your organization in 2017?  Let us know. The team at Fission Strategy is primed and ready to go.


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