Campaign Planning 101

If you’ve led or worked at an advocacy organization, especially a relatively new one, you’ve likely run into a familiar question: what campaigns are we running to achieve our goals? And if it’s too early (for one reason or another) to campaign for a specific policy goal, what do we do in the meantime to keep momentum?

At PACE, we firmly believe that if you’re a part of an advocacy organization, you should always be running a campaign. Campaigns give your base of supporters something to latch onto – and they can pique the interest of prospective supporters you’re looking to recruit and organize. Each campaign builds advocacy “muscle”, helping your team develop the necessary skills to run more sophisticated campaigns over time. And maybe most importantly, campaigns push your organization to always be in motion, always driving toward a goal, instead of accepting the status quo.

So how do you identify and develop the right campaign for your organization? Here are two different approaches that we employ:

  • Look at what similar organizations in your issue space are working on. An easy way to find a campaign is to look at what other organizations are doing. There may be a readymade coalition for your organization to join. Before reinventing the wheel, do research: is there already a legislative agenda that other advocates have signed onto? Is there a piece of legislation or another vehicle to advance your issue agenda? Are there grassroots organizing efforts underway? There’s strength in numbers and joining forces with similar organizations is beneficial and efficient to run even stronger campaigns.
  • Figure out a campaign that builds capacity. If you’re not ready to take on a big fight just yet, that doesn’t mean you can’t run a campaign and keep momentum going. Figure out a modest goal for the next 6-12 months, and develop a campaign that gets you there while building crucial organizational capacity. One approach that can be particularly helpful here: running a community survey that helps identify your top local priorities (and build relationships, credibility, and even a narrative for change).

One approach we often use to guide our partners is The Campaign Cycle. It’s a six-phase approach to running a campaign successfully. The most important takeaway is this: a good campaign is always in motion. You need to be constantly building momentum, giving people opportunities to take action, and then reevaluating strategies and tactics to make sure that you’re calibrating your campaign to the moment.

If you want to learn more about this approach, please reach out to us at [email protected] and we’d be happy to find a time to speak with you!

We hope we can be helpful as you navigate a particular advocacy challenge.