Read time: 4 minutes
Welp, 2024, here we go. The ball has dropped. The trees are on the curb. State legislators are diving back in session. And the gears of the 2024 election machine are already grinding.
Although our democracy is in crisis, in the spirit of new beginnings and resolutions, I’m aiming to view this crisis point as an inflection point. An inflection point is full of hopes and dreams and promises for something better. These moments in history hold opportunities for great change.
The 2024 election will be consequential, and my colleagues at M+R Win and I are digging in and doing the hard work. We’re fueled by hope rather than despair because we’re in the business of building movements, building long-term power, and working with world changing clients to pass policies that make people’s lives better. Here’s how we’re getting it done (and how you can join us!):
Facing the Problem
For so many issues I’ve worked on, the problem is not that we, the advocates, don’t have a solution. The problem is that we can’t get the solution over the finish line. The obstacle that must be overcome is not one of policy but of politics.
A legislative advocacy campaign must overcome natural inertia—a sufficient number of lawmakers must be convinced that taking action will have more benefit (or less backlash) than not taking action. And it’s not your champions that need convincing; it’s the work of advocates to convince the movable middle because in this environment they hold a disproportionate number of the cards.
Crafting the Playbook
If there were a playbook to motivating lawmakers to enact policy change, it would come down to 3 things: learn the context, customize the approach, and coordinate the advocacy.
Learn the Context
To build a relationship with a lawmaker’s office, go in ready to demonstrate that you’ve done your homework by making a customized case for why and how their boss would benefit from supporting your issue.
- Dig into their record on your issue, and don’t stop at how they vote and what bills they support. Follow the who and why of their support or opposition:
- Who in their state or district supports and opposes your issue?
- Does the lawmaker or someone in their circle have a personal connection with your issue?
- Who and what influences the lawmaker (is it constituents, polling, the press)?
The answers to these questions will be central to building an impactful legislative advocacy campaign.
Customize the Approach
No two lawmakers are exactly alike, and a one-size-fits-all campaign won’t meet the disparate needs of lawmakers who come to an issue from different vantage points.
- Build a bespoke campaign that tailors tactics to target lawmakers. For instance:
- While a champion might want a large demonstration of public support, a moderate might need a key storyteller from their district.
- Tailor an LTE about your issues from a constituent depending on the state or district context; is an economic or fiscal angle most persuasive or would your target be compelled by a set of core values or a policy focus one?
Coordinate the Advocacy
To successfully move lawmakers to action, advocacy campaigns need a strong inside game AND the ability to demonstrate outside power.
- Build a strong and candid relationship with a senior staffer AND ensure you and your coalition partners can send hundreds of calls into that lawmaker’s office calling for passage of a bill.
- Ensure strong coalition alignment and cross-movement support for your ask to create a surround sound approach.
Building winning advocacy campaigns requires an integrated approach that builds life-cycle advocacy power—electoral strategy to policy advocacy and back to electoral accountability until we have enough power to enact the policy solutions we need. Need help crafting a strategy that makes your campaign stand out, ignites your coalition, and that builds grassroots power to win in 2024 and the long-term? Get in touch!
Kate Ryan is the Vice President of Campaign Strategy at M+R Win. When she’s not immersed in plotting how to fight the good fights, you’ll find her dancing around the house with her two kiddos, singing her heart out, or reading fantasy books.