First, a “Politics” Recap (if this is old news, then scroll down):
Remember, there are two facets to politics: electoral, and legislative. Electoral politics deals with elections, and policy politics deals with passing or not passing legislation. While these are obviously tied together in some ways, they are distinct and separate too. In this post, we will be talking almost exclusively about the latter: the art or science of passing or not passing legislation.
See Merriam Webster’s definition of politics here (which is better than Google’s definition):
Definition of politics
Why Should I Care About Policy Advocacy in the First Place?
“Politics” are going to affect you whether you like it or not. If your organization is focused on program delivery only with no mention of even dipping a toe into policy advocacy, then you need to think again about how you spend your time.
What if you are an organization that provides assistance to houseless people, rolling out programs that are filling in gaps in services to help disadvantaged people, and what if you could pass legislation that could help prevent people from being put into a poverty situation in the first place? Wouldn’t that be worth your time?
No matter what issue your organization focuses on, the swipe of a pen and the passage of legislation can move your agenda forward in a massive way. That doesn’t mean that policy advocacy should be your only focus, but we would argue that it should merit a significant chunk of your time and energy.
OK, So What is Digital Advocacy Then and Why Should I Care?
Generally, digital advocacy refers to emails, tweets, calls, or any contacting of policy makers that is using digital tech (btw, policy makers are not just politicians, they are department chairs, academic leaders, corporate leaders, etc).
There are many components to a grassroots policy advocacy effort, and digital advocacy is just one of those components. When it comes to influencing policy, you’ll ideally be meeting with legislators face-to-face and making your case in person. Digital advocacy, though, gives a voice to people who are not hanging around D.C. or your state’s Capitol. If you have members who are busy or who live in remot areas, or who simply don’t want to meeting a policy maker in person, then digital advocacy is they key.
Pretend you meet with a legislator who is the chair of the finance committee. This legislator tells you that her intent is to pass your bill, but warns you that the next committee it is going to is planning to kill the bill. You’ll need to do everything you can to let the members of that next committee know that you are counting on them to pass your bill. This is where digital advocacy can come up big.
Set up your digital advocacy action page, spread it far and wide, and encourage your online audiences to send these legislators messages! Again, there are other things you can do that will help your cause, but digital advocacy is one of the most important.