Do you have a goal in mind?
Campaigns are short-term and should be done with the purpose of accomplishing a goal. A successful organization will have many campaigns [over] time. Sometimes campaigns can grow larger than expected and build great momentum for your organization, which is why it is important to be prepared to engage supporters of the campaign.
An essential aspect of building long-term organizational strength is an organization’s ability to engage current members, as well as attract new supporters. Campaigns are one of the best strategies an organization can employ to build long-term organizational strength, as they can be utilized to access new donors, get people to volunteer with your organization, or take action.
A focused campaign = a successful campaign
Basing your campaigns on SMART goals (Specific Measurable Attainable Relevant and Timely) [ensures they are] exciting to be a part of and makes it easier to draw people into the campaign.
People want to be involved in campaigns in which they can clearly see a specific end goal that can be accomplished. Campaigns can be anything from registering people as voters, building a homeless shelter, supporting/opposing specific legislation, and much more. Effective campaigns have goals that are attainable within the foreseeable future.
When you have a great campaign, everything can be clicking; the issue might be relevant not just to your organization’s mission, but also the public, which could lead to a lot of press coverage of the campaign and your organization. Increased media attention is not only beneficial for the specific campaign, but can also improve the ability of your organization to attract new [support].
Use your campaign to leverage support
Because your campaign is working on a timely issue, it creates the perfect opportunity to engage people through many different channels. You can have them donate directly to the cause, get them to volunteer, or take action, like signing a petition or attending a meeting or event. It is also a great way to interact with and engage people who haven’t been involved in your organization by registering them to vote, educating them about important issues for an election, or by getting them to take action by contacting their elected officials about your causes.
Campaigns are vehicles to achieve organizational goals while bringing in new volunteers and engaging existing members. It is important to make sure you can capitalize off of the energy of the campaign [so you} can involve people in your organization for the long-term.
The best way to do this is to emphasize [your organization's] big picture throughout your campaign. If your organization is focused on alleviating poverty, and you are running a campaign to build additional shelter for people experiencing homelessness, make sure your campaign connects to your broader mission and values.
Goals and a plan will support your effort
For grassroots organizations that depend on volunteers, interns, and broad support of grassroots donors, it is useful to see campaigns as serving two purposes: first, to achieve your goal; and second, to strengthen your organization and grow that grassroots support. To do this effectively, it is important to have a plan and systems in place that utilize the energy of the campaign and define a clear path for people to increase their involvement. If you get someone to take action by signing a petition, invite them to come to a meeting or event you are having for the cause and from there they can become volunteers or interns for the organization.
If the goal is to increase your grassroots donor base once people take action, it will be greatly beneficial to have systems set up to ask supporters to donate to the cause. This can be set up to be done automatically with online petitions.
It is important to have a plan [in place that] engages the supporters you have developed during the campaign into your organization. This means knowing your supporters. You need to know what their passions are, what brought them to the campaign, and what their skills and interests are in order to connect their commitment to your organization.
It is also important to act while the iron is hot. When people are excited about recent campaign victories, this is the best time to have conversations about how they can stay involved with your organization. If you forget about your new supporters or don’t know enough about what drives them, they can forget about you, too.
Campaigns can be an effective way to grow organizational strength, but you need to be prepared to utilize the energy coming out of the campaign.
About the author:
Charles Denson is the Membership Director at the Civil Liberties Defense Center. Charles has been working organizing with nonprofits and progressive causes for since 2008 when he first got involved in the environmental movement.