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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

New Report Highlights the Advocacy Gap | Shayna Englin. Frogloop

In this blog, Englin summarizes the findings and the recommendations of a study her firm and others conducted to answer these questions:
  • How do political activists experience advocacy?
  • How is it received by its ostensible targets in the U.S. Congress?
In other words, as stated at the Englin Consulting website
  • What does Congress do with all those emails? 
  • And what do the people sending them really think about advocacy?
And the general finding:
[T]here is a significant "Advocacy Gap," a disconnect between how activists mobilize and how Hill staff say they should mobilize to move policy. Moreover, there is a gap between what activists do and what they know to be effective.
Englin's blog lists six key findings, but here are three I thought most significant (because they emphasis what's most effective in lobbying Congress):

  • When it comes to Congressional advocacy, all politics is still local. Members of Congress and their staff want to hear from their constituents, and only their constituents. Contact from outside the district is wasted effort at best.
  • Effective advocacy is rooted in how policy is made on the Hill. Policymaking in Congress happens according to a set of rules and within a specific process. Members of Congress can only act on policy in certain ways at certain points in the process. Effective advocacy makes the right asks of the right Members at the right points in the process. Doing so demands a deep understanding of how Congress works, and missteps can be costly.
  • Quality trumps quantity on the Hill. A few personal emails beat hundreds of form emails; calls from a few constituents able to articulate on the phone why they care about an issue and how it affects them are better than calls from hundreds of constituents parroting a talking point; and constituents showing up in person is best.
Of course, the other findings also are significant because they show that many activists aren't as effective as they hope to be in the methods they're using. 

Finally, Englin makes valuable recommendations, based on the findings, about what activists should do to become more effective. Here are headings for the suggestions in her blog:
  1. Abandon list building through messages to Congress.
  2. Invest in making higher impact activities easier for advocates.
  3. Get deep into districts, shifting away from Washington, DC.
  4. Abandon the notion of “Congress.” Embrace Members of Congress.
Englin's blog includes a link to the entire report.

Also, I learned about this report in a blog by Kivi Leroux Miller featured today (Oct. 17) in my daily online newspaper: Garbl's Good Cause Communication. It's available at the Nonprofit Communications tab above and by free email subscription.

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