the political geek

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The Siren Song of Online Advocacy

Posted on | October 28, 2009 | 2 Comments

I don’t have a whole lot to say about this week’s readings: we read about Obama for America’s online strategy during the election as well as trends in online advocacy for nonprofit organizations and a few successful nonprofit campaigns. I found it really useful to have a set of benchmarks against which to assess campaigns, and many of the suggestions were clear, useful, and more or less intuitive to me as someone who lives in a wired world.

A few interesting points from the 2009 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study for nonprofits attempting to be strategic in their online advocacy and fundraising:

In fundraising, small gifts account for the vast (and I mean vast) majority of gifts by number of gift, but not by revenue raised. In fact, the top 3% of all gifts – those of $250 or more – made up 41% of revenue. This means smart nonprofits are encouraging small gifts, and finding ways to maximize the dollar amount of “small gifts,” but also putting significant energy into cultivating large donors. People who give once are much more likely to give again.

In advocacy, the most active 7% of all email subscribers account for close to a third of all online activity. Nonprofits should be thinking about how they can get people into that category, and how they can continue to have a conversation with them once they’re there. This brings us back around to one of the concepts in Groundswell, about how the companies that truly engage with and energize their customers are often able to derive substantial benefit from that interaction. Groundswell gives the example of  Lego, where adult users who are especially active in the community are given formal roles by the company and fill the critical role of liaison between company and consumer, bringing great ideas for new products from customers to Lego and evangelizing for Lego in their networks. Nonprofits have to start thinking beyond the ways they can get people to participate in specific, curtailed campaigns to the opportunities for taking advantage of the creative thinking and passion in their communities of supporters.

In both advocacy and fundraising, it’s clear that the best resources for nonprofits are the members of that elite group of super-active supporters, but nonprofits are only tapping that resource in predetermined, well-understood ways.

Our readings about Obama for America have included some really interesting details about the ways that the campaign cultivated and made smart use of the talents and skills of its volunteers to shift some of the burden from the campaign to the volunteers. I think that nonprofit organizations can learn a lot from the OFA example. When volunteers are the face of an organization, it provides authenticity and gives organizations a reliable source of information about target populations and reactions to the organization’s outreach efforts.

The main point of the reviews of both OFA’s strategy and the trends in online nonprofit campaigns, though, is that organizations can be significantly more strategic with how they structure their campaigns and reach out to supporters. There’s a lot to be done first on that front to move online nonprofit organizing toward best practices that will significantly increase the impact of their messages.


2 Responses to “The Siren Song of Online Advocacy”

  1. The People Who Click : the political geek
    November 8th, 2009 @ 8:06 pm

    […] bit more about clicking patterns online. The datais parallel to that in the eNonprofit Benchmarks Study, indicating that these insights are important for not just nonprofit organizations but anyone […]

  2. Strength in Numbers: Eli Pariser Talks Online Organizing : the political geek
    November 17th, 2009 @ 11:47 pm

    […] change issues, they’ll have none left over for health care reform. This ties directly into the point I made about thinking about how to engage people and their creative thinking and passion for their […]