From the Congressional Management Foundation blog:
Once upon a time, grassroots advocacy professionals who lacked the budget to access big-ticket resources, such as online legislative action centers with all the bells and whistles entered the arena with their hands tied behind their backs. Fear not! Fast forward to the May-12 Advocacy Leaders Network, hosted by the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) and produced by Beekeeper Group, where grassroots advocacy professionals learned about “Advocacy on the Cheap: Changing the World on any Budget.”
Today, we live in an Advocacy 2.0 world. Now, organizations can advance their causes without breaking the bank. According to Joe Franco, the American Diabetes Association’s Vice President of Grassroots and Internal Advocacy, in-person events offer excellent engagement opportunities. If you can’t beat the selfie, leverage it by creating cheap photo frames that people can pose with and post those pictures on their social media channels. Such strategies allow supporters to be involved in your organization’s efforts to raise awareness and attract more people to get involved in your cause.
Consider this! Today, every citizen advocate carries a video camera in their pocket. Cash-strapped grassroots advocacy professionals can take advantage of this fact. According to Johanna Ostrich and Nathaniel Bryant of Beekeeper Group, grassroots advocacy professionals who learn some basic design guidelines and production tips gain new abilities to turn commonly used resources, such as cell phones, to produce advocacy assets such as engaging videos and other content that tells their story, raises awareness, and attracts support.
While awareness and recruitment are important, a recent CMF report shows that in-person meetings are the most effective way to build relationships with congressional offices and influence their decisions. Anthony Green, Public Policy Director of Safe Kids Worldwide, believes that novice citizen advocates are often anxious about meeting their legislators. Just as The Wizard of Oz’ Dorothy was concerned about meeting The Wizard, new advocates often view Members of Congress as these big and intimidating figures. Eventually, Dorothy discovered that The Wizard was a normal human being. Advocates eventually learn that their Members of Congress are also real people whose decisions can be influenced by trusted advocates use personal stories and local-impact facts to make their case.
Scheduling a meeting starts with knowing who to contact. Can’t afford to provide your supporters printed congressional directories? Stephanie Reeves, Executive Director of the Maryland Psychological Association, points out that there’s an app for that. Simply urge your supporters to download a free government directory app so they’ll have the information they need, literally in the palm of their hands, to schedule their first in-person meeting and start down the yellow brick road toward relationships with their Members of Congress.
Getting things done on a limited budget still comes with challenges. Yet technologies needed to change the world are more common, accessible, and affordable than ever before. In this Advocacy 2.0 world, keep it simple, prioritize, and get creative.