How Mobile Advocacy Can Power Up Events
Have you ever attended an event where a great speaker has the room fired-up, but then leaves the stage without a clear call to action? The crowd is energized at that very moment, yet has no way to act. It’s a wasted opportunity.
But technology is changing that.
When you pair the energy people bring to live events with the fact that almost everyone now owns a cell phone, you have a powerful weapon for advocacy.
I know because my company, Phone2Action, makes a digital grassroots software platform that facilitates mobile advocacy and I’ve seen it work again and again at conferences, rallies and lobby days, blending online and offline advocacy.
How Live Advocacy Tools Work
Imagine if that speaker, having energized the crowd, told everyone to take out their phones and text a keyword to a designated number. That would then launch a campaign that allows the audience, from their own smartphones to contact elected officials via email, Twitter or Facebook.
Or perhaps attendees join a petition or make a pledge and see their name displayed in real-time on screens at the event. Our product even has a real-time Live Map, which can really get people excited about taking action.
While live advocacy is an exciting addition to any event, it’s the results that matter—and they are substantial. Response rates using mobile tools are generally 5- to 30-times higher than those of emailed calls-to-action, which average about 2 percent globally, according to the 2014 eNonprofit Benchmark Study.
Any organization can incorporate a live call-to-action. For example, the NewSchools Venture Fund used mobile advocacy at their annual conference this year.
“Mr. Say ain’t nothing,” said Deb McGriff, a partner at the organization. “Mr. Do is the man … so take your phones out.” McGriff proceeded to perform a live call-to-action, asking organizations to commit to diversity, and got an overwhelming response. Hundreds of attendees took action from their cell phones pledging their organizations to diversity.
Mobile Advocacy in Action
In 2013 and 2014, the Black Alliance for Educational Options and gospel singer Marvin Sapp partnered for the “School of Choice Tour,” a series of concerts at churches in the South. During the tours, the alliance president asked attendees to pick up their phones and contact their elected officials.
The response rate averaged 41 percent, and ranged from 35 percent to 62 percent over both tours. More than 3,500 people took action on the most recent tour, sending tens of thousands of emails to elected officials.
In March, the Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce held a breakfast for top business leaders in the community. President Julio Fuentes called upon the attendees to act, asking them to send a message to their lawmakers to support DREAMERS in Florida. The tools my company provides matched supporters with their elected officials, sending thousands of communications to key legislators in the state. The support helped push the legislation over the finish line.
In October, Rich Brennan, vice-president of technology policy for the National Association of Home Care and Hospice, asked the audience at their annual convention to text “CARE” to a predetermined number and pledge to share their voices to advocate for their community. Forty percent of attendees took the pledge.
The association followed up by texting out action alerts to attendees, launching two new campaigns, including a “thank you” campaign in which advocates had the opportunity to thank Senators Ron Wyden and Rob Portman over Twitter and Facebook for speaking at the conference. Organizing an event is expensive, time consuming and labor intensive.
By adding mobile calls-to-action, an organization can maximize the return on that investment. The audience has an opportunity to contribute to a cause, and they leave with a sense of accomplishment.
Jeb Ory is the CEO and cofounder of Phone2Action, a non-profit software management company based in Washington, DC.