Unfortunately, many advocate networks have been started without a thoughtful analysis of potential structures and approaches: they’ve grown haphazardly over time. In these cases, the information below should be used to help the reader analyze the network’s current structure with an eye toward potential improvements (and resolutions in the new year!).
Following are different options for who an advocacy leader might decide to include in an advocate network:
1.) All members of an organization (or employees of a corporation)
Many organizations choose to comprise their advocacy network of all members of their organization or employees of the corporation. This means that everyone is considered an advocate by virtue of their membership in the organization regardless of whether they have specifically signed up for that role. Under this structure, everyone will be included in the advocate database and will receive action alerts and other materials about policy activities.
2.) A subset of members of an organization (or employees of a corporation)
In some cases, advocacy leaders at an organization may decide to have a subset of members or employees be part of the advocacy team. For associations, these may be individuals who specifically request to be part of the network, members of the public policy committee of the board and/or organization members who live in key legislators’ districts. For corporations, the network may be built of only managers, owner / operators of franchises or facilities or only those employees who live in a certain geographic area or who have a certain job title.
3.) A targeted group of individuals affiliated with an organization or company but not necessarily members or employees
Many corporations build advocacy networks as a service to their customers, as a benefit to retirees or other beneficiaries of their products or services. Some pharmaceutical companies, for example, help finance the development of advocate groups made up of patients who benefit from their product. In some cases, these may be established as separate, independent organizations. In other cases, they may be directly associated with the company in question.
4.) Citizens-at-large or the general public (whether targeted to a specific geographic area or policy topic or more general)
Some advocate leaders find their cause to be of sufficient interest to members of the general public that they are able to recruit members of their advocate network from this broader pool. This may include members of the general public in a specific geographic area (for example, in the case of advocacy on a city or neighborhood-specific initiative, such a new park) or more broadly, such as across a state, across the country or internationally. In many cases, particularly with associations, a strong advocacy effort can also serve as a marketing tool to boost membership in the overall organization.
5.) Some combination of the above
Finally, many advocate networks may include combinations of the above approaches.
- Scenario A: An association includes all of their individual members as members of their advocate network, as well as members of the general public that support their ideas.
- Scenario B: A corporation asks all managers to be a part of the advocate network, as well as customers, retirees and others that will benefit from proposed policy changes.
- Scenario C: A professional association builds an advocate network based on the expressed interest of anyone, whether a member of the organization or not, in being an advocate for the policy issue in question.
For more information or to purchase the Advocacy Handbook click here.