By Dan Ekstein
Since the start of COVID-19’s stay-at-home and distance work began, Sagac provided ways to help our friends in the PAC and advocacy community keep their programs going in the face of unprecedented and uncertain times.
Over the past eight weeks, we shared brief weekly ideas to help advocacy professionals think creatively and a few steps ahead. And we’ve received tremendous feedback.
So now what? With distance work here to stay – at least for now – we’ve compiled the 24 ideas in one place, so you can better prepare for the weeks ahead.
We’ll continue to provide tips and ideas on our social media pages. Be sure to follow us today so you don’t miss out:
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Review your PAC and advocacy editorial calendar. Assuming 'back to normal' outreach starts in about 60 days (YELP!), what communications do you need to adjust and prepare for?
Pick up the phone. Develop a brief script and call up to three work colleagues or association member contacts. Check in on them, ask them what they're working on and set another time to speak with them in the coming weeks. Build trust.
Get creative. Candidate fundraisers are starting to reach out to their contacts to schedule virtual meetings with their donors. Can you host a virtual event with a candidate in the next two weeks for your donors? If so, how? If not, what kind of virtual event could you host to engage your donors?
Review your candidate distribution budget. If you have approved disbursements to make this month, determine the best way to follow through and coordinate with the campaign for a call or virtual meeting with the candidate. If it can be done safely, now is as good a time as any to process disbursements – when candidate fundraising receipts are anticipated to be down in Q2 2020.
Determine the future of your PAC banking needs. Think of one way to update your operations. Do you accept credit card contributions from your eligible employees or members? Can you send a PAC disbursement to a campaign by wire or ACH?
Think about your PAC's revenue channels. Traditional auctions and booths at conferences may be sidelined for the foreseeable future. Now is an excellent time to think creatively about how to make up the revenue shortfall.
Prepare for Get Out the Vote. The general elections will take place on November 3, 2020. Even with date changes, the remaining primary elections for the year are scheduled. This week think about when you can launch a broad or targeted GOTV effort within your company or association. Many organizations start GOTV campaigns in earnest in the spring.
Review your PAC and advocacy database. Is the data you have in the database relevant to your current PAC and advocacy programs? What other fields can you use or remove?
What education or solicitation materials can be prepared now? Create visual assets and content for communications early. This way, you will be ready for the day when you have the green light to send messages to your prospects and donors. While you may need to edit content down the road, it will still put you in a better spot to have a draft of your campaigns in place.
Pick up the phone – a tip that bears repeating.
Consider launching a virtual focus group or market research project. COVID-19 has changed all of our advocacy and PAC schedules and communication plans. Seek measurable input from your members, donors, and prospects to help recalibrate the tone and timing of your upcoming outreach.
Record a video. Practice recording a 15 to 30-second video clip to thank donors and prospects for their support. Consider the lighting, background, and sound quality. Develop a brief script to ensure your thoughts are crisp and clear. There are lots of places to search online about recording a quality "selfie" video – check them out.
Reset expectations with management for your PAC and advocacy goals. There will still be a lot of uncertainty over the next 60-90 days, and you're probably already seeing downward impacts on your 2020 participation goals. Please make sure your bosses are fully aware of your program projections. Think of ideas to mitigate the downslope now.
Talk to your association or corporate events team. If your organization's annual fall meetings go virtual, work with those in charge of planning now on ways to include your PAC and advocacy materials.
Welcome your donors when they return to the office. Shower them with love by sending them a Welcome Back to The Office care package if the budget permits. If there is NO budget for even token gifts, there are still many ways to recognize your members and help them ease back into the office in the coming months.
Keep your colleagues informed on the changing election landscape. Find and share nonpartisan resources to ensure your colleagues are up to date on all things voting. Consider a series of Public Service Announcements (PSA) that offer useful information to help folks stay aware of voting resources and dates in their states. This doesn't only have to mean "Get Out the Vote."
Plan a midyear PAC and advocacy strategy session. Many groups have midyear meetings with their leadership teams in June and July. Prepare for those meetings now.
Ask an executive on your team to record a brief personal video. A few weeks ago, we encouraged you to record a short video to reinforce your advocacy and PAC programs. Now, let folks hear (and see) from their leaders. Write a short script and ask a favorite executive if they will record a 15-30 second testimonial video about your PAC and advocacy programs.
Don't let perfection be the enemy of the good. This week, as you write your next communication, make sure it accurately achieves the goal, make sure it's grammatically correct and make sure it can successfully go through your organization's approval process. But beware! Some folks revise their messages multiple times, which unfortunately means their messages don't go out. Don't get caught in this trap. The communication needs to be good and compliant. It doesn't have to be perfect.
Identify your Advocacy Value Proposition (AVP). Expand your advocacy metrics by developing an index – the measurement – for success. The index can be comprised of data points and information you already have. But we encourage you to also think of other activities you can track (like the number of Zoom meetings held) to show stakeholders how you're advancing the organization's advocacy objectives.
Respect, but don't get caught up in the culture. Understanding and reinforcing your organization's culture is essential to your advocacy and PAC programs. However, now is a great time to think creatively about ways to overcome the challenges we're facing by exploring new tools and approaches. Be wary of folks who say, "But this is how we've always done it." There may be a better way.
Get ready for the ramp-up. We anticipate a lot of advocacy and PAC outreach to begin in earnest in June. Candidates are back in "fundraising business" and organizations are hosting virtual events with record-level participation. Make sure your communication schedule is ready and flexible, the technology tools are tested, and approvals are in place. Then get ready to hit the send button!
Understand the rules. With more organizations hosting virtual fly-ins and advocacy days, online bidding events are popular. Know the campaign finance and local gaming rules to ensure your online bidding event is successful.
Have some summer "advocacy" fun. Summer plans changed for many of us. Think of creative ways to stay in front of your donors and prospects in light and breezy ways. Consider sending a few engagement messages, like "Happy Independence Day," or "Send us a picture of your summer BBQ set up" branded by your PAC or advocacy campaign. This keeps the outreach going and isn't just about the "ask."
Please feel free to share this list with your friends and colleagues to stay connected.
Dan Ekstein is partner and chief business development officer at Sagac Public Affairs, a national firm that provides communications, market research, fundraising, and issue advocacy solutions to hundreds of political, nonprofit and corporate organizations. Ekstein is an advocacy industry leader in the implementation of comprehensive strategies for political finance operations. The firm’s clients represent more than one-third of all federal qualified funds raised each election cycle by corporate and trade association PACs.