Four Key Insights from the Annual Data in Advocacy Summit

With the amount of data collected doubling every two years, how should grassroots advocacy professionals adapt? The Grassroots Professional Network hosted their second annual Data in Advocacy Summit to find out exactly how organizations are taking advantage, challenges they face, and opportunities to improve grassroots tactics.

In 2013, if you stored all data on iPhoneXs, everyone in the world could hold one in each hand.

The Represently team has distilled the panels and keynotes into the key takeaways from the event.

1. Silos are the single biggest inhibitor to improved grassroots advocacy.

Nearly every panelist and keynote speaker could not help but mention “data silos” hindering their staff from taking advantage of the new gold rush of information. Data silos are when one set of data about advocates is only kept within one team – like if fundraising data is not shared with the advocacy team. But as Jessica Cooper of the National Federation of Independent Business noted, information siloed between teams is fundamentally an org structure problem. Fundraising, programming, and advocacy staff must share advocate lists between teams. Software tools and infrastructure that unify these disparate sources are key to an organization’s success.

2. Humanizing a campaign has never been easier.

As the internet adapts to social networking sites being the most frequently trafficked, creating advocacy campaigns that share compelling, individual stories should be central to a team’s strategy. Amalia Kruszel from the Arts Action Fund described that their most successful campaigns emphasize how art plays a role in everyday life: art is tied to early childhood education and art centers bring together a community. Moreover, collecting and sharing user-generated content from advocates builds deeper relationships and provides momentum for future advocacy.

3. The value of an advocacy firm increasingly depends on its ability to adapt new technology.

“I would rather have a firm with less experience and a better understanding of new technology than the inverse,” said Michael Ramlet, CEO of Morning Consult. He would know: As compared to traditional polling methods, Morning Consult can more cheaply reach 435 Congressional Districts with 2,000 responses each in 10 days. (Though Ramlet noted their most cited poll ever continues to be their Game of Thrones “Good or Evil; Ugly or Beautiful” study covered in this New York Times piece.)

As technology progresses, high-impact tactics can be prohibitively expensive one year and almost free the next. Thus, it’s essential that organizations work with technologies that are capitalizing on new trends to deliver higher quality results for cheaper.

4. Working with a fraction of advocates can yield better campaign results.

Not every advocate is right for every campaign. What’s more—and despite common political campaign emails—the sky is not falling (again). Given these two facts, it’s a wonder why advocacy campaigns don’t segment their communications more thoroughly, or work with select supporters based on the issue. As Sarah Hutchinson Vice of the Neimand Collaborative put it: “You don’t need to boil the ocean” to have a successful campaign. On the same panel, Vanessa Kermick of the Airline Pilot’s Association said she runs gamified advocacy campaigns with 460 pilots – encouraging airlines to compete to send the most letters to Congress.


Ultimately, the keys to leveraging data into successful grassroots advocacy are familiar themes: a collaborative team, close  relationships with advocates, and software tools that enable (not constrict) innovative practices.

For organizations behind in using their data, Emil Pitkin of GovPredict and Todd Vanet of The Herald Group left the summit with an encouraging analogy: “The best time to plant a tree is yesterday. The second best time to plant a tree is today.”

To learn more about Represently’s peer-to-peer advocacy tools that multiplies your campaign’s impact with original advocate content and allows you to measure your impact, request a demo today.