Category Archives: Blog

Is your organization prepared to approach a “change” Congress in 2019?

By David Lusk

It’s uncertain if 2018 will be a “wave” election (a change in party control within the legislative branch), but we know it will be a “change” election. With less than three months before a new Congress takes over, your organization has likely finalized, or nearly finalized, your 2019 policy and advocacy strategy. Since there’s some uncertainty about party control in either chamber of Congress next year, your “strategery” likely accounts for both a Democratic and Republican majority in each. How well will your strategy address lawmakers unfamiliar with the processes and players on Capitol Hill? Will those numbers really be significant? Let’s take a closer look.

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No Big Budget? No Problem. How Key Contacts Level the Playing Field

By Chip Felkel

Today’s advocacy environment is a noisy one. It’s hard for organizations to make their policy case with competing voices jamming the phones, crowding the digital space with ads, and crashing servers with click and send emails that begin and end the same, and according to well respected groups like the Congressional Management Foundation, have little or no true effect. You can certainly attempt to measure these efforts in terms of reach metrics, but let’s be honest: If you lose the issue, does it really matter that you got 542 retweets, sent 31,347 emails, or 468 letters? Maybe it makes you feel good. Maybe it makes your board feel okay, not happy but okay. But at some point, getting close just isn’t going to be enough, for you, for your boss or the board. What is it they say about horseshoes and hand grenades? Digital ads are expensive. Massive email and letter writing efforts can get expensive and might create some awareness but do little more than that. It’s a simple fact. And with all the changes expected from the mid-term elections, (1 in 6 in Congress, alone) organizations are going to have to find a way not only to advocate, but to educate a host of new elected officials, and fast. Hint: pre-existing relationships can go a long, long way here.

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Metrics that Matter: Measuring Quality Grassroots Engagement

By Amy Showalter

Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, when concurring with the majority opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio tried to define what constitutes obscenity: “. . . . I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description, and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it . . . “

I often think of that statement when defining quality grassroots engagement, as almost every advocacy professional knows it when they see it. It’s a high bar, because the cacophony of voter sentiment is abundant and intense. And virtually every grassroots professional I have advised or observed admits that quality is what matters most for their grassroots development, and they want more involvement from quality advocates.

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Money: How to run with the big dogs when there is no budget for big lobby

By Andy Krakowski

“We could spend tens of thousands of dollars going into key districts, or we could focus on a few key contacts in that district that we already know have connections with legislators and will give us a better impact.”

- Director of Grassroots at a national trade association

If you think the key to winning a legislative campaign is to outspend your opposition, you are likely in for a rude awakening. In 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, over $3.15 billion dollars was spent on lobbying in DC alone and your organization would have needed to spend about $11.5 million just to crack the top 20 lobbying groups.

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ROI: What should you be earning on your investment in advocacy?

By Chip Felkel

The short answer: Political Capital.

With three decades of public affairs work with a wide range of clients and projects, I’ve seen what organizations must have to get a solid ROI out of their respective advocacy programs. It’s much more than the money they have and spend. The truth is, a lot of well-funded organizations have under performing advocacy efforts because they spend far too much on activities that produce very little long-term value. These “programs” provide cover in reporting to the board or management but some seem more focused on making sure the staff is busy (or can claim to be) instead of executing on things that will be externally effective…

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