The Advocacy Gap Report: How Effective is RESULTS?

Allyson Goldsmith, Outreach and Advocacy Associate
September 27, 2012

RESULTS has known for years that effective advocacy involves relationships with Congress, individual stories, and personalized communication.  The Advocacy Gap Report, published last week, confirms what we’ve known all along.  That our model is effective.  The report asked Senior Congressional staffers about which advocacy tactics worked as well as what doesn’t work.

Congressional staffers overwhelmingly said that advocacy is getting louder but it isn’t necessarily getting clearer.  They said this is often because people often don’t understand how Congress works and what their Member can and can’t do.  However, the staffers had three recommendations for how to make advocacy more effective on the Hill.  

First, their biggest wish was for constituents to call about policies, not issues.  They want calls about legislation...something they can actually take action on.  One staffer said that “The cogs of congressional wheels turn on legislation; if your advocacy is missing a legislative ask, Members of Congress cannot do anything to advance your issue or cause”.  The important lesson here for RESULTS activists is to always have an ask when you call, write, or meet with your Member of Congress!

Second, congressional staffers also stated that personalized messages are much more effective than form calls, letters, or e-mails.  Now that we know this, make sure that you customize the laser talk for each issue to show your interests and why the issue matters to you.  This will help convince your Member of Congress that this is important and they can have an impact through taking action.  Another tip in the report is to do the research on your Member of Congress so you know their stance on the policy and can connect the issue to something they care about. 

Third, the majority of Hill staffers stated that in-district activities and meetings were more effective than Washington D.C. efforts.  This means that the RESULTS event, earned media and in-district meetings are more effective than anything the office staffers could do in Washington D.C.  So keep up the hard work because it is making a difference!  Make sure to take advantage of Congressional recessed to meet with members in-district and tell them what policies you want them to support or oppose when they go back to Washington. 

I met Shayna Englin, one of the writers of the report, and I asked her what one piece of information was that she’d want RESULTS activists to take away from the report.  Her response was the power of personal stories.  She shared that personal stories that connect to something the Member cares about are the single most effective tactic for moving a Member of Congress to support a policy.    

I urge you to read the whole report (it’s only 8 pages) and to make sure that all of your interactions with Members of Congress are effective.