What happens when you combine a passionate segment of your membership with opportunities to make a difference beyond the walls of your association? An advocacy program.
With an advocacy program, your organization can offer added-value for your members while simultaneously positively impacting issues and constituencies important to your industry and members. By giving members an advocacy outlet, you can expand your reach while creating stronger bonds with your current members.
Building an advocacy program for your members is easy—when you have the right tools. Similar to a volunteer program, an advocacy program asks members to help with certain projects or initiatives. But while a volunteer program usually calls on members to help with association-specific tasks—like helping at an event—an advocacy program calls on members to help with tasks that further the association or the industry at large. These can mean giving members the power to initiate big, important changes—which, unfortunately, can also require big, consuming time commitments.
And that’s where micro-advocacy programs can help.
Small Commitments, Big Results
The Vacation Rental Management Association (VRMA) has an excellent micro-advocacy program. In the short term rental/vacation-rental world, local policy can make or break a region’s market. Unfortunately, it’s tough for an association to constantly advocate on an extremely local level—especially since they have members around the world.
Local advocacy is vital for VRMA, but also can be difficult to manage. It’s time consuming for both members and the association. That’s why VRMA decided to break up local advocacy efforts into more bite sized chunks. Rather than sending members down long, winding adventures through city or state government, VRMA will notify members of micro-advocacy opportunities. These opportunities are as easy as writing a letter to a congressperson, sharing a blog post on personal social media, or attending a town hall event.
This type of advocacy works so well because it doesn’t take much planning, special skills or time. All it takes is passion for the industry or cause and varying levels of commitment. Plus, by making it easier to participate in an advocacy program, more people will be willing to try—spreading the message farther and engaging more members than a different type of advocacy program would. Rather than placing the majority of the burdon on a few people, many people help complete important mission with small tasks.
Creating a Great Micro-Advocacy Program
So, how do you create a micro-advocacy program for your association?
1. Define Your Goals
Just like any community related strategy, you need to clearly define what your goals are before you begin planning—what you need and want from this program. Ask yourself questions like:
- What is the purpose of your micro-advocacy program?
- Do you want to raise awareness about your association?
- Do you want to help members lobby on the hyper-local level?
Without answers to these questions—or the questions you think are most important—it’ll be almost impossible to define success. And without a clear definition for success, it’ll be hard to know what direction to steer your program.
Don’t just create a micro-advocacy program to have one. In order to truly create a successful micro-advocacy program, you need to have a direction, goals and a clear definition for success.
2. Who is Your Target Audience?
Goals and audience targets go hand-in-hand. When thinking of who your target audience is, ask yourself these two questions:
- First, who do you want participating? Meaning, what types of members do you want to appeal to?
- Second, who should they (the members participating in your micro-advocacy program) target? Their own networks, elected officials, certain corporations?
Defining your target audiences is just as crucial as defining your micro-advocacy program goals. With a clear idea of who should participate and who they should reach out to, you can effectively recruit micro-advocates and direct their energies in the right direction.
No matter how well designed or successful your program is, it’s important to constantly evaluate how you’re doing. Only when you have a clear picture of how your program is actually operating can you proactively make changes—or direct your attention towards other projects if it’s going well. Don’t assume everything is going well, or terribly, without looking at the data behind the program.
All the preparation work you did in the beginning, defining goals and target audiences, will help you determine which metrics to track.