Groups working at the state level in the coming years have some unique opportunities and challenges. One of the most daunting hurdles is how to keep your advocates motivated and engaged in between state legislative sessions, which in some cases are every other year.
During the fast and hectic pace of a session, advocates are tuned on and asserted directly into your efforts and are actively involved with testimony, hearings, action alerts and even lobby days. Once the lights turn off at the state capitols, however, there’s great risk in neglecting your advocates and only engaging them when the next session gets into high gear.
During that holding period, you run a great risk of losing past active advocates through attrition and fatigue. Avoid losing the excitement and engagement of your supporters by giving them meaningful engagement activities throughout the full calendar year.
Here are four ways to do keep your state momentum going:
Meet with lawmakers
State legislators are still working throughout the year on constituent service, even when they aren’t in the state capitol building. Define a select list of key legislative targets, such as committee chairs or legislative champions and hold meetings with them to discuss issues. They often will have more time for you and won’t be as rushed as when they’re in the middle of a hectic legislative season. Or even host an event or roundtable bringing out partners and stakeholders to the table for a win-win for everyone.
Recognize and reward your legislators
The off-season is a great time to reward those state lawmakers who went above and beyond for your cause. Utilize your key advocates to set up a public thank you, and give the lawmaker an award for being a champion. These can be as low cost as a certificate and photo opportunity or even go as high end as a luncheon with a nice plaque or trophy. These recognitions go a long way in helping your advocate build a relationship with their legislator. Be sure to showcase the award to local media and across your organization’s social channels.
Create social media campaigns
The state legislative off-season is a great time to utilize the collective network of your advocates to continue to promote your key legislative themes. By utilizing some simple campaign images, slogans and hashtags you can help amplify your message and keep them fresh for the next go around. When possible, be sure to include the social media handles of the elected officials so they’re also aware of the efforts.
Don’t forget traditional media
Now that so many local media companies have pared down staff, they’re hungry for human interest stories with special twists. As an association, you have a great opportunity to be a media content provider, especially in state and local markets. Use this as an opportunity to have your advocates publish letters to the editor, ask to be interviewed by local papers on your key campaign and maybe even get on a local morning radio or TV show.
Think of this downtime in your state legislative campaigns as a way to have your advocates hone their advocacy skills and continue to tell their story. All four of these tactics can be interconnected and related to specific campaigns. Persistence and consistency will give you a leg up on other state-level efforts. So keep your advocates primed to spring into action once the legislature convenes again.
Joe Franco is the Vice President of Grassroots at LeadingAge and an Adjunct Professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.
Joshua Habursky is the Head of Federal Affairs at the Premium Cigar Association and Adjunct Professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.