Campaigns are short-term and set out to accomplish a goal, while long-term organizations are more permanent and mission-based. A successful organization will have many campaigns during its 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, have people volunteer with your organization, or take action.
Basing your campaigns on SMART goals (Specific Measurable Attainable Relevant and Timely) makes it 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 members.
Because your campaign is working on a timely issue, it makes it the perfect opportunity to engage people within your organization 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/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 to make sure you can involve people in your organization for the long term, even after the campaign is over.
The best way to do this is to emphasize the big picture the whole way through 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.
For grassroots organizations that depend a lot 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 to be able to utilize the energy of the campaigns 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 you have 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 also have a plan to engage the supporters and leaders you have developed throughout the campaign into the organization as a whole once the campaign is over. This means knowing your supporters. You need to know what their passion is, what brought them to the campaign, and what their skills and interests are in order to connect their commitment to the campaign to your organization. It is also important to act while the iron is hot. When people are excited about recent campaign victories is the best time to have conversations with them about how they can stay involved with the 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.