14 Ways to Help Create Successful Digital Advocacy Campaigns


Updated 4/19/23

Digital advocacy campaigns can play an important role in your nonprofit organization, especially for building a dedicated community that will stand by your mission day in and day out. New technologies have enabled many options for ways to engage supporters through online advocacy software, tools, and strategies. And yet, choosing what kind of advocacy effort to pursue can be difficult.

For organizations of all sizes, certain strategies have proven successful for boosting engagement as well as ROI. After years of research and experimentation, we have identified 14 attributes that help digital advocacy campaigns and change makers win their progressive causes.

1. Effective online campaigns include forms that are easy to use.

“In tests comparing forms with real-time feedback to those without, usability testing firm Etre and I measured a: 22% increase in success rates, and a 31% increase in satisfaction rating.

Luke Wroblewski, UX expert

The world has become increasingly digital and so have marketing campaigns. Audiences are now used to engaging with brands online, especially through online forms or surveys. Effective campaigns depend on a user-friendly experience that allows them to easily submit their contact information, participate in polls, and even purchase products without hindrance.

Designing forms that are easy for users to use is vital for successful online campaign results. Having long, complicated forms can make it difficult for consumers to engage, negatively affecting the outcome of any campaign you initiate. That’s why your campaign needs forms that prioritize ease of use.

Features That Enhance Your Results

If users find the form they have to fill in off-putting, it will negatively affect the success rate.

Our advocacy software solutions include features known to increase the number of people who complete the transaction process and reach the ‘thanks you’ page.

  • Displaying instant error messages can reduce the rate of people abandoning the online forms.
  • Editable labels for forms
  • Non-required fields may be marked as “optional”.
  • Form fields should be checked for errors without being overly restrictive (e.g. spacing in a phone number should be allowed).
  • The ability to adjust the layout or styling of forms based on usability tests is available.

2. Effective online advocacy engages supporters in a narrative centered around them as the hero.

Giving your supporter the feeling that their action makes a difference is key to creating lifelong support. To do this, tell a great story that puts them at the center of the plot. Take them on an adventure where they can talk to important people and come out victorious. Everyone has a secret desire to be part of an exciting story like this.

Stimulate a sense of adventure.

Integrate a series of tailored emails and corresponding calls to action to engage your supporters in your campaign. Show how your advocacy goals are being achieved.

React quickly to political changes.

With our next gen email tools, the Engaging Networks advocacy platform allows you to create petitions, pledges, and email-your-representative campaigns in a short period of time. This enables you to respond swiftly to changes that may occur in the advocacy process.

Make The Process Automatic

Use triggers and response emails to optimize the impact of your automatic email sequence.

Experiencing all these things will be a powerful moment for your supporter’s relationship with your cause.

3. Effective online campaigns reside on a platform you own and can personalize.

When using third-party petition sites, it is important to consider how your brand may be affected by their designs and messaging. Ensure that you have the freedom to communicate with supporters in the way you prefer.

You have full control over the look and feel of your pages.

It’s obvious and yet so often overlooked. If your supporters are put off by the form they have to fill in, there’s not much hope of success.

Certain features of advocacy tools and outreach tools are proven to multiply the number of people who make it to your ‘thank you’ page. Our software has been built to include all of them:

  • Instant error messages – this reduces form abandonment rates.
  • Editable labels for forms
  • Use of “optional” on non-required fields
  • Sensible error checking on form fields (we don’t tell your donor off for putting spaces in a phone number, for example)
  • Ability to style or change the layout of forms in response to usability tests

4. Online campaigns which are successful involve a degree of sharing.

“The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) experienced major list growth success with the Petition for Poultry, an online petition that took advantage of a highly effective list growth technique known as “viral list building.” Viral list building puts recruitment tools into the hands of existing online constituents, enabling them to recruit other subscribers themselves. The Petition for Poultry grew HSUS’s e-mail list virally by over 16,000 new members (7 percent) in just three weeks. Thousands signed the petition, surpassing its original goal of 25,000 signatures to reach more than 57,000 signatures by Thanksgiving, and 146,000 signers to date.”

eNonprofit Benchmarks Study, M+R Strategic Services, Advocacy Institute

Today ‘sharing’ has become a primary objective of digital marketing campaigns. When people hear about something from a friend or family member, they are more likely to explore the idea further than hearing about it from an anonymous source.

However, creating successful online campaigns require a little bit more effort than merely hoping for people to share it with their circles. Sharing is essential for success, and you can use it as part of your strategies within your online campaign.

Relationships and advocacy fundamentally rely on friendships.

Using Engaging Networks for building a campaign will provide your shares with automatic social sharing options. After taking action, the website can be redirected to an ’email to friend’ page and users will receive personalized thank you emails which can then be shared or forwarded.

5. Successful online campaigns are integrated with other forms of media.

“Data strongly suggests that involving your online subscribers in real, on-the-ground activities will make your subscribers more active in your online program as well.”

eNonprofit Benchmarks Study, M+R Strategic Services, Advocacy Institute

Social media platforms present massive potential for success in terms of messaging and marketing. One of the key benefits is that messages are now able to travel much further with fewer resources required compared with traditional media campaigns.

To achieve maximum impact from their efforts, it is essential that you do not focus solely on one form or channel. Instead, success lies in an integrated approach involving both online and traditional forms of media.

Use Other Channels

Integrating a wide range of channels, such as web, telephone, newspapers, TV, and ads on buses, are necessary for successful online and email campaigns. To simplify the process, our platform is equipped with various useful features.

It is possible to efficiently copy and amend entire campaigns if your PR team experiences sudden success, such as an interview with a major newspaper.

Data collection from supporters can include phone numbers and locations, enabling connection across multiple channels such as telephone marketing. For example, exporting a list of phone numbers makes it easy to contact potential volunteers.

Our API facilitates the input and output of data from our database. This enables functionalities such as utilizing SMS to interact with supporters and document their responses.

6. Online campaigns that are successful are linked to fundraising.

Individuals are interested in taking additional action beyond signing petitions.

Supporters of your campaign believe in its cause. Offer them other options to demonstrate their belief, such as donating or launching peer to peer campaigns. Explain how the donation will affect the cause and you can foster a strong relationship that is likely to continue over time. Furthermore, there is a potential for increased donations from such relationships.

Combining financial donations with other forms of assistance should be encouraged.

Our platform integrates online advocacy and fundraising, which operate together cohesively. After signing a petition, supporters can take the next step of putting their money behind it.

Implementing an integrated system can lead to increased donations.

Donors are more likely to give when their data is automatically filled in for them, which is possible with an integrated system like the Engaging Networks platform.

7. Social media is an important tool for effective online advocacy.

Our clients report that 50% of their email actions generally come from Facebook, and in some cases, the likelihood of taking an action doubles when campaigns are run through the platform.

Monitor your campaigns across social media and beyond the thank you page.

Engaging Networks’ campaign widgets can be used to allow supporters to sign a petition directly on Facebook. Tracking and reporting tools can help you keep up with the results. Additionally, social sharing tools can be enabled on the campaign thank you page.

8. Online campaigns that are tailored to supporters have been successful.

“Targeting based on geography and issue interest area increased email open rates, click-through rates, page completion rates, and response rates as compared to messages sent to the whole list. Targeting by geography had a particular impact, increasing overall click-through rates by 3 percent, page completion rates by almost 7 percent, and response rates by 4 percent.”

eNonprofit Benchmarks Study, M+R Strategic Services, Advocacy Institute

Supporters should be aware that their circumstances are understood and appreciated.

Utilizing our segmentation, personalization, and profiling tools can enable you to direct messages that align with individual preferences. For instance, tailoring your messages to acknowledge local advocacy events occurring in the supporter’s location (i.e. Kentucky) could help foster engagement.

9. Online campaigns that are successful should be tested and their performance improved continually.

“It’s never over. It’s a process of constant evolution. We keep track of things we’d like to learn how to do or get better at, and we revisit that list a few times per year in order to quickly cycle from sticking point to solution.”

Will Horter, Dogwood Initiative and chair of Conservation Voters of BC

Potential Impact of Email Subject Lines on Petition Signatures.

The 2012 Obama campaign discovered through vigorous testing that one subject line received 6 times as much response as another. Look at these two subject lines and guess which was more successful:

Option A: “I will be outspent”

Option B: “The one thing the polls got right”

Actually, Option A outperformed the second by a factor of six! The lesson here is that testing is the most reliable method for selecting a winning subject line.

It’s so essential to track the performance of online initiatives with the appropriate key metrics, such as e-mail message open and response rates, in order to make the most of using the internet as a communication tool for nonprofits.

Testing can be used to determine what works.

The Engaging Networks platform enables split A/B testing to test the effectiveness of different email subject lines, senders, openings and link styles. It also tracks responses from clicks through successful form completions to assess the efficiency of each email.

10. Online advocacy that is successful requires agility and responsiveness.

Supporters appreciate prompt action.

Supporters appreciate campaigns that adjust and adapt based on responses. Showing supporters that their actions are making a difference helps motivate them to continue engaging. Our platform gives you the power to make page changes and email updates as often as needed. These are necessary relationship building features that will sustain your campaigns in the long run.

11. Investing time and resources is necessary for successful online advocacy.

According to the eNonprofit Benchmarks Study by M + R Strategic Services and the Advocacy Institute, organizations that prioritize investments in their programs and their communications are the most successful in terms of advocacy activity and raising funds.

Invest For Results

Utilizing the web for advocacy can be efficient, but that requires investment of time and resources — such as food and water for advocacy events — in order to maximize returns. Planning, strategy, and advocacy tools should be considered before beginning a campaign.

12. Effective online campaigns use email strategically.

“Along with an organization’s Web site, e-mail messaging is the most important component of many nonprofit organization’s online communications programs.”

eNonprofit Benchmarks Study, M + R Strategic Services, Advocacy Institute

Utilizing Email To Engage Your Supporters

Effective advocacy is more than sending one email to supporters when launching a campaign. Supporters should be thanked, informed of how the campaign is progressing, targeted with responses, and shown the results of their action. Asking for feedback and additional support if needed is another part of successful advocacy.

Utilize Email to Maximize Productivity While You Sleep

Our platform is designed to quickly and effectively send out advocacy email updates. It allows you to send automated thank you emails, as well as emails when a supporter hasn’t been active for a while or has only taken one action but not a second.

13. Online campaigns that are successful encourage supporters to develop a deeper connection, making progress step by step.

“When we identify a volunteer or a potential volunteer we always hold a one on one meeting. Then we ask our volunteers to make deeper commitments. Once someone has succeeded at an organizing activity we ask them to try their hand at leading a voter contact activity. Mostly we are interested in how well they train fellow volunteers to make phone calls or knock on doors. If a potential leader is a successful trainer then we meet with them again to ask them to take that next step and become a Team Coordinator or Team Leader.”

Jackie Bray, Field Director, Obama Campaign Ohio

Develop Your Connection With Supporters

The 2012 Obama campaign achieved notable success due to their strategic approaches to nurturing supporters, gradually advancing them from one-time donors to team leaders.

To create a genuine following, replicate this process on the internet.

Guide someone through a sequence of steps.

Begin with a simple pledge. If your soon-to-be activist follows this, challenge them with an even bigger request. This can lead to sharing the cause with friends and eventually writing to newspapers. Our platform makes all of these actions possible.

Personalize messages depending on the amount of engagement from your supporters.

Segmentation allows for messages to be personalized according to profile and activity level. Consequently, it is possible to reach out with encouragement or a phone call if someone has not been able to progress past one particular stage.

14. Online campaigns that are successful interact directly with more engaged supporters.

Once supporters open emails and click on the links, data about these activities are sent to the CRMs, helping organizers to identify effective emails when conducting tests as well as which activists are engaged and what they are interested in.

In an increasingly digital world, online advocacy is becoming a key part of any successful strategy. It can help organizations reach out to new audiences, build relationships with existing supporters, and have a greater impact on policy change.

Successful online advocacy requires an understanding of the resources available, careful planning, and strategic use of email. Utilizing the right platform will help to streamline the process, providing tools for segmentation and automation. Fostering a sense of community and involving more engaged supporters will ensure a higher ROI on your campaign efforts.

When we come together to advocate for a cause, the power of the collective voice is undeniable. No matter the issue, it’s clear that the impact of advocacy can make a difference for any organization.

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