Activating Activists Around Your Cause

Everybody Counts. This little activist lives with me.

by Ellisha Caplan

There’s no shortage of outrage and activism these days. Take one look on Facebook,Twitter or the front page of your favorite news outlet, and chances are you’ll find one or two or ten immediate reasons to call your State Senator, write a letter to a government agency, or march in solidarity with a group in peril. High profile nonprofits like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood have capitalized on Americans’ desire to do something about the threats to the constituencies they represent to the tune of record-breaking fundraising numbers and volunteers asking to be involved. Your smaller nonprofit can and should benefit from the extended goodwill of the public for the work of nonprofits right now, and there are a couple of ways that being small can be a strength during times like these:
Calling All Interested Activists….

Is your nonprofit’s mission at risk because of upcoming legislation at the state or national level? This is just the type of issue to engage your constituents around and mobilize them to help advocate on behalf of your organization! Invite concerned supporters to make phone calls, provide them with some sample language, give them the appropriate phone numbers to call, and keep them informed about what happens with it. If their activism results in a positive change, they’ll feel great about the way they were able to help. If their activism was not enough to change the tide, you will need their support all the more, and you’ll already know which folks you can tap for their help. While nonprofits of all sizes benefit from this kind of activism, I’d argue that the impact may be even greater for smaller organizations without lobbyists already in Washington or strong connections to state legislators. Your calling campaign could get your organization and your issue on the radar of important people who didn’t know you existed before.

Small Organizations = Less Bureaucracy and More Flexibility 

A few months ago, a friend of mine posted an image on Facebook that really resonated with me, and she said that she was going to make it into yard signs that she would sell to support a large advocacy organization. The signs were very popular, and people outside of her Wisconsin town wanted to buy them too (including me!). Together with several other friends, I created an Etsy page and we were able to raise several thousand dollars (at $5 a pop) in just one month. The Etsy page was making so much money that we decided we needed to remove ourselves as the “middle man” for the fundraising effort, and offered the national organization the image for free to sell on their own merchandise page. Because the organization was huge, with many strict rules about how they could sell merchandise, they had to turn down our offer. Instead, we offered the image to a small state-wide nonprofit. They were able to accept our gift, and after we redirected folks to their website, they’ve raised another $22,000 through merchandise sales using our image in just two months. Definitely a case of a smaller organization being able to move on and benefit from one-off opportunities in a way that larger, slower-moving and more bureaucratic organizations simply cannot.

Now, not everybody has graphic designers and nonprofit consultant friends who are beating down their doors to create just the right graphic to go viral and sell all over the country from their little nonprofit’s website. Maybe you have a songwriter who wants to make a recording, or a slogan that could go on a t-shirt, or a beautiful and evocative photograph — my point is, if you are ready and able to move on the generosity and ingenuity of your supporters, you never know what opportunities you might come across!

Shoestring Solutions for Nonprofits is passionate about helping small nonprofits meet their mission.  Our All Laced Up Blog posts are just a taste of how we can help you gain traction with your constituents, raise funds, and make the most impact with limited resources.  Questions?  Contact us:

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