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Reigniting Your Champions: How to Move Forward after Three Years of Uncertainty (Deep Dive 1)

October 3, 2023 @ 11:30 am 12:30 pm

Our panelists worked diligently throughout the pandemic to keep champions engaged and active. Now, as we return to normal, help them game-plan ways to revitalize their champion and key contact programs. This session will feature heavy audience participation and guided brainstorming.

Danielle Bubnis, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Jamie Cobby, National Federation of Independent Business
Michael Heintz, The Academy for Radiology and Biomedical Imaging Research (moderator)
Aislinn Quinn, ACRO Health
Kate Tremont, American Coalition for Ukraine


  • Have you had any internal hurdles to overcome new engagement?
    • Have you noticed a difference in advocate behavior since the pandemic and how has that impacted your advocacy strategy?
    • Pivoting to virtual events to meet members where they are has been a great way to overcome hurdles and adjust to attitudes brought on by the pandemic 
      • Balancing virtual and in-person events to set priorities and where your organization should place its energy has been a tactic to help overcome these challenges
    • Adjusting expectations internally to this new normal and bringing that into honest conversations 
    • Researchers are realizing that they need to incorporate advocacy into their everyday work and efforts
    • Advocate burnout has been a challenge organizations have faced and are continuing to try and overcome
      • Sometimes they will have advocates who are so involved that they are running out of things for them to do but other advocates have vanished from advocacy
      • The pandemic has caused more burnout all across the board, not just in advocacy
        • Organizations want to find people who may be new to advocacy and try to get them involved since they may not have experienced that burnout
    • Looking at what you have wanted to hold on to from pre-pandemic and what you now need to let go of as we are in/past the pandemic
  • Who’s putting the pressure on to have events in person?
    • Advocates want to come and have these meetings in person and connect with their lawmakers
      • A lot of these advocates pushing for in-person events are early in their career
    • There is a challenge in duplicating the in-person event virtually
      • There is also zoom fatigue and not knowing what is going on on the other side
    • You can’t replicate the impact of an in-person meeting or event
  • Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic where there were often strong shared goals, what challenges and opportunities are you seeing in uniting champions around new common communications goals or embracing different events?
    • Organizations want to make sure that people are sticking to the message while still feeling that they have power over what they are saying and being involved in the issue
    • Giving organizations the option to have ownership and power over how they mobilize their advocates 
  • Have you used incentives to reengage your champions (grasstops)?
    • Implementing training modules online and looking to have that transition to in-person and hold events with leadership as part of it
    • The biggest thing that organizations can do is to follow up to see what the success is and look at where they can celebrate the wins and give advocates something to show the progress that they have made
    • Using pins and higher level folks are giving them advocacy challenge coins when they can see them in person
    • Asking advocates to do things for point values where they could compete with each other to keep them interested
  • How do you find new champions and bridge the middle ground where some leave and you have spots to fill?
    • Searching through tools, such as Voter Voice, and doing direct outreach to advocates to get their stories
      • Continuous outreach through different mediums and building relationships with these advocates
    • Snail mailing campaigns with follow-up upon the return of their interest forms
      • This also gives advocates the option to write their stories on the forms which can be the initial talking point when following up with them and can help organizations decide how they want to use each 
    • Setting the time and developing a position to have someone dedicated to going through advocate stories and finding those who would fit or work best 
      • Using a tier system to have advocates fall based on where they are advocating
    • Asking advocates to refer someone to help with their position when they are looking to leave 
      • This can help to maintain the relationship with that person and the organization they were a part of 
  • What is your incentive to help advocates move up the chain/tiers?
    • Only having so much access to events and training so it becomes more personalized and self-driven
    • In addition to access to information, as advocates are more engaged they can be listed on projects
  • Are you aligned on in-bound people or are you looking to strategically find people from different districts?
    • Both, you looking for people who are coming in and also balancing who is there
      • You want to look for new advocates all of the time based on needs but also looking to keep the other advocates that you have engaged
    • Targetted engagement team to look at specific districts where they are hosting events to ensure they are getting the audiences and advocates that they need
      • Tapping on local partner organizations to see if they can help bring in other advocates
    • 50% people who are enthusiastic about events/topics and 50% champions who are from more targetted areas
      • Inviting people who had not attended other conferences/events to see if they would be interested in attending; for smaller events, you could send out a personalized invitation from regional people to let them know that they are important to the program and their engagement helps the program
  • What are some strategies to re-engage folks you may have lost over the years?
    • Asking advocates who transitioning out of their current roles who would be taking over
    • Putting in the effort to connect with advocates who may have moved or transitioned jobs without making an announcement
      • Tracking people on LinkedIn and looking at how you can bring them back in even if they are not at a member company and retaining that relationship
    • Connecting with those who have recently joined and are taking action and capitalizing on their momentum
    • Re-engaging can also work in tandem with burnout where people may feel that they are judged for stepping away
      • Let advocates know that it is okay for them to step away and be honest with them that they can be human and create transparency with their needs
      • Normalize people’s ups and downs and interest in engagement
    • This is where relationships/strategic partnerships are important to help bring people back since you will have that connection
  • What pandemic-era pivots are now a part of your ongoing strategy?
    • Get targetted on events so you can use members’ and lawmakers’ time wisely when you have to have those meetings 
    • Continuously working to figure out how to implement these pivots and seeing where resources need to go and what will work best
    • Try something new and be okay with losing the resources if it doesn’t work out
    • The proliferation of the ability to meet with people via Zoom and have it be more impactful than a conference call
      • Organizations need to learn how to scale down the calls and learn how to streamline the work that is being done, but these calls do help people feel more connected than if they were just on the phone
  • How do you get people to turn on their cameras and engage in virtual meetings?
    • Asking them directly so we can see them get engaged 
      • When you know you have new people joining, call them out and introduce them to the group so that they feel welcome, or address them when they join and check in on how they are doing
    • Peer pressure
    • Show and tell – encourage advocates to bring something that they would show during a meeting on the hill or wherever which can help get them to turn their cameras on and keep them on
    • People explain why they have their cameras off, or ask people to note why they may have their cameras off
  • Describe a strategy challenge you faced… how would the audience have addressed it?
    • Challenge: How to navigate folks who want the virtual event to go with the in-person event?
      • Warning: Don’t hold both events and burnout your grassroots team, especially if they are new and the team is small
      • Suggestion: Have an option A and B
        • A which would be in person on X day and B which would be a virtual event on Y day 
        • Separating them so you have a general DC event at one time and a district-specific event at another point in time
      • Question: Have you tried setting a district meeting instead?
        • Often the district staff won’t take the meeting because they know they have other advocates in person and meeting with other member
      • Recommendation: Bring in a video if you have one – 60-90 seconds
        • This adds a dynamic to the meeting that otherwise wouldn’t be there
        • Bring a photo as well to help tell their story as well
          • Making buttons of these pictures to represent advocates who cannot be there
      • Recommendation: Have the advocate send someone on their behalf if they are unable to attend in person
      • Solution: Holding a day of action and providing those who want to participate virtually a digital option to engage while other advocates are on the hill
    • Challenge: Keeping people excited for Zoom meetings when they do have to take place
      • Suggestion: Use a tool like Poll Everywhere and have an interactive piece to the meeting or discussion to help keep people engaged
        • Having this interactive piece included can help to get early buy-in from the audience
      • Suggestion: Shifting to a webinar format to see if that will help the virtual meeting feel less like a conference call
      • Suggestion: Ask for advocates to send feedback during their time on these calls and circulate the comments that they have
        • This feedback can be sent as well which can help create a sense of excitement, momentum, and urgency
        • Set up a specific group chat, especially for younger advocates, so they can connect through the event and share their experiences in real-time
      • Solution: Have plans in place to get things going ask for feedback at the end of the meeting and show them the benefit of having the meetings
    • Challenge: The organization focuses advocacy on the U.S. and constituents here but has international advocates who would like to come and be a part of the event. Ways to incorporate international interest in events while balancing lawmakers’ interest in focusing on constituents
      • Suggestion: Advocates don’t feel the direct impact of the advocacy that is being done 
        • Finding ways to bring those who are being impacted to these events for the targetted ask and pairing them with constituents 
      • Suggestion: Utilizing the pin idea to represent the advocates who cannot be there
      • Suggestion: Bring one or two of those advocates in and pair them with constituents who are advocating for them 
      • Suggestion: Legislative briefing where you’re talking to multiple staff teams to share their experience and the need that is there
        • Could be a part of a hill day or a separate event 


October 3, 2023
11:30 am – 12:30 pm
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