Recognition: we all want it.
It’s no surprise that engaged and motivated advocates are more likely to take additional actions, like submitting a letter to the editor, signing a petition, or attending a rally. In order to gain and retain a base of support for your campaign, it will be critical to recognize and thank your advocates for their contributions to your efforts.
A strong campaign starts with a strong recruitment push. By creating a foundation of supporters early, you will have them ready to activate when the time comes. Consider the following ways to grow your support base by recognizing these new advocates:
- Small gifts branded with your organization’s logo (for example, water bottles or USB drives) can be a fun reward for signing up. To make resources stretch a bit further, consider offering incentives to the first 50 or 100 people who sign up on a specific day, or giving prizes to advocates for recruiting the largest number of new supporters.
- Exclusive opportunities, like the chance to meet with your organization’s leadership or serve on a volunteer advisory panel.
- Certificates or trophies for reaching key milestones, especially when presented at a public event.
- Invitations to attend volunteer receptions or special events.
- Special training opportunities or communications that provide unique opportunities for your advocates to increase their knowledge and skill base.
Choose the Right Time
Whether you are reaching out to new or existing advocates, we suggest taking advantage of specific times of the year when engagement with community initiatives is traditionally high. Leverage local festivals, sporting events, or key moments in time on the academic calendars of local schools. Consider creating recognition pieces around local street fairs, festivals, or kids’ sporting events (such as opening day of Little League), with free entry or food tickets.
Speak up when it is time to vote in local or state-wide elections. If the local government is voting on measures pertaining to your campaign’s focus, this is a key time to recognize existing and potential advocates who can help bring attention to the issue and kick start the momentum for policy change. If you have the lobbying resources to do so, asking advocates to contact their legislators to vote for the measure you care about—and then thanking the advocates when they do—is an important step.
Urging advocates to contact legislators may be grassroots lobbying. Asking people to contact members or staff of Congress, a state legislature, tribal government, county council, or city council is lobbying if you refer to and reflect a view on specific legislation (or a specific legislative proposal). However, contacting school boards, zoning board members, or school staff is not lobbying, regardless of the content of the communication. Make sure you have the resources to pay for any lobbying activities and that you track them appropriately against your campaign’s overall budget.
Use the calendar to inspire you. Create recognition pieces around key health observances taking place throughout the year (e.g. National Nutrition Month in March, National Physical Fitness and Sports Month in May, or National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month in September) where you can spotlight and thank advocates for their efforts to improve the health of children in your community.
Volunteers are not the only ones who make a campaign a success. As you thank your volunteers for their efforts, make sure to thank the staff members who keep the campaign running every day, when applicable. Celebrate them publicly. If you hold an annual celebration, highlight what your staff has done over the past year. Offering awards or opportunities to acknowledge good work publicly lets employees know you recognize and value their work.
Conduct a staff contest to see which members can bring in the most advocates over a specified period. In return, offer a day off or a gift card as an incentive. Highlight the diversity of your staff to demonstrate the importance of engaging all parts of the community.
Ask your strongest recruiters of new advocates to lead a call or webinar, so they can share their tips with other staff members.
- It is important to recognize and thank volunteers for their commitment to your cause.
- Rewarding new volunteers with small gifts can help increase sign-up rates and excite them about being involved.
- Do not forget about your staff—they deserve thanks too.