There are many nonprofits that view advocacy systems and communication systems as similar, or even as the same thing. Many don’t understand the advanced capabilities provided by advocacy systems, and the differences between communication and advocacy systems. So what are these “advocacy systems,” and how are they different than your cherished bulk email system?

Bulk Email Systems

Most organizations use bulk email for e-newsletters, invitations to events, fundraising purposes, other general updates about their nonprofit or news related to their nonprofit, and yes, to send out information and links regarding advocacy actions.

Put simply, bulk email systems allow for your organization to personalize, brand, and send email to a large list, all at once. Often, these systems include templates that allow you to easily brand your emails, and have integrated results tracking which allows you to see who opened the email and what links were clicked on.

Another important feature of bulk email is allowing opt-in or opt-out preferences for recipients. This feature is now especially important for anyone sending email into or out of Canada after the passage of the new Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act. Although not quite as stringent, the US has laws regarding spam as well. You can find out more about these laws and how to comply with them here.

Advocacy Systems

Advocacy systems are focused on creating political change. They often track legislation, and allow for supporters to actually take action on an issue. Taking action can be done in many different ways. Advocacy systems can allow members/supporters to take action in the form of:

  • sending personalized emails to legislators. These can either be pre-made and by the nonprofit with no edit
  • privileges given to the person taking action, or able to be edited by the individual supporter.
  • giving supporters the information they need to call legislators and tracking of these calls.
  • sending letters to the editor.
  • answering poll questions.
  • sharing on social media that they’ve taken action.
  • and more

Advocacy systems allow for this to happen in a simple and integrated way, within a system that tracks and often creates reports on your members’ actions. Beyond advanced reporting features, advocacy systems sometimes offer other features like providing tailored information about voting and media for your supporters. Some systems even offer bill tracking capabilities that allow you to display legislation of interest on your website. These systems can be housed on your web page, and integrate with social media for broader sharing capabilities. You can also use your bulk email system to send out emails asking your supporters to take action.

The Benefits of Integrating Your Tools

Using a system that integrates advocacy, communication, and a CRM system together provides numerous benefits.

  • Lists don’t have to be exported and imported back and forth into and out of different systems. Transferring data can take a long time to complete, and often takes technical knowledge. When done improperly, data can be scrambled and become unusable.
  • Being able to see a 360° view of your constituents can provide benefits as well. Tracking which constituents take action and open emails, click on specific links, etc. can help to better target and improve your communication strategy.
  • It is cost effective and efficient to integrate. Only needing to learn how to use one system takes less training time and expense. Furthermore, bundling your systems together is almost always more cost effective both in set-up and monthly costs.

I hope this helps clear up any questions about the differences between bulk email systems and systems specifically designed for advocacy.

Do you still have questions? Let me know in the comments!