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Deep Dive Breakout 1: How Advocacy Organizations Actually Use Data

October 28 @ 11:30 am - 12:30 pm

Data and metrics are not scary. They just offer a different way to tell the story of your community. Panelists will show you how they rely on a mix of big data and owned data to map key stakeholders. They’ll also discuss which actionable metrics they rely on most to determine the success of their campaigns.


Learning Objectives:

– How do you ensure that you are getting ‘clean’ data?
– How do you leverage data to target communications?
– How do you turn data into meaningful discussions with your audience?
– How to balance collecting the data and actually using it to achieve an advocacy goal.


Session Notes

Speakers: Jefferson Stovall (Beekeeper Group), Ashley Smith (The ALS Association), Tom Donnelly (Farm Bureau Federation), Jessica Cooper (National Federation of Independent Business)


Goal: Get into data if you have it, our experience will cover tips and tactics; the goal is to know where to start and get questions for your team and data.

  • What is your biggest data challenge? Maybe you don’t have it or know where to get it, understanding, parsing, actioning
    • Challenges:
      • When data is all over the place
      • Making it understandable, useful, and actionable
      • Understanding when it is bad and how to correct
    • Learning Objective: Clean data
    • Big Takeaway: Submit messiness to learn
    • At NFIB, all of our data lived in different vendor tools and personal staff excel docs, we’ve been narrowing down for membership to leverage and access; this has helped with cohesiveness; helps to avoid having to go to different departments for data; more is not always better; make sure you are putting out helpful and useful info (we narrowed our surveys from 37 questions to 12 questions), we made it a part of member onboarding; important to know how are you collecting and sharing it; we made the data work for us, additionally: 
      • More members are participating, now our members enter it vs. staff, now they are in the member database
      • It helped to engage more members through this process
      • Leverage more quickly, now can do more work
      • With the Farm Bureau, we need to keep it simple, with legislative data we revamped to keep it simple, which is a part of clean data
      • Who: Who manages data? How is it collected?
        • What does that look like?
      • What data do you want, need, and what do you want to do with it?
        • Create a beacon to keep you more focused?
      • Where is your data stored?
      • When do you use your data?
      • Why do you need your data?
        • Once you can articulate why the changes are needed to identify the bigger vision
        • Sometimes data collected for larger CRM does not need to be in the advocacy platform, if you’re collecting on another platform membership data does that really need to be on the same platform as your other data? 
        • Having good data is only one-third but also how can you maintain it in a not time-consuming way?
    • Data Sharing and Data Collection
      • Set yourself up for success
        • Optimize data sharing
          • At the ALS Foundation, anytime we have a URL to our action center we use a source code (UTM) the Beekeeper Group helped to create that post for Twitter and Facebook, anytime that link is clicked that action is associated with that source code; we can look at that person’s contact profile and see their actions
            • Never change that code, after set up it always reports
            • We use Quorum for reporting
            • UTM codes are standard across platforms (most will be able to read and record)
            • Custom fields are helpful for various registrations, but we only use the fields we need at that time (name, street address, etc.); with event registrations we make sure those fields match so upload is seamless 
        • Use your tools
        • Custom fields are your friend especially when integrating other platforms 
  • Learning Objectives: How do you leverage data to target communications?
      • The ability to view the data in a table is a common ask; it can be hard to manipulate data into this
      • Don’t be scared to export data but do not use it as a permanent resource
    • Map data back to goals and audience
      • Personalize the ask
        • Ex. Historic dive on the action, open rates, and click-through rates (CTR); personalize the ask (using the first name) has been helpful to get that open; we only use it when tactically important and tracking back to goals
      • Clear calls to action
        • Ex. All emails go back to one place, one specific item
      • Be aware of your tone
        • Make sure you’re not overly inflammatory 
          • Test it with high energy language or toned down language through AB testing, if open rates go up on an email take a look and see how it can be replicated 
        • With leveraging data for communications, it is important to personalize communications because: 
          • Tagging based on the issue or based on the issue, we try to leverage comms, personalize subject lines
          • Make sure advocacy benchmarks are tracking with goals
          • Make sure we are comparing “apples to apples and oranges to oranges”; research and advocacy emails
            • Segment survey emails and see the various rates and compare data consistently to understand audiences
      • Tailor + Target
        • Tailoring and targeting communications have been helpful, sending a tailored message based on actions has helped with personalized communications and minimizing opt-outs; we also weave in action alerts to posts and apps; typically don’t mass send unless it is a big alert
    • Big Takeaway: Impact > Engagement // How do we engage and activate people?
      • Turning Data into Meaningful Discussions
        • Tailor the message to get better engagement, we looked at personalized subjects and messages
          • Looking back at them we had the ability to send personalized messages but low rates caused us to look back at communication; sometimes numbers lie so we looked at the strategy and additional factors 
          • Make sure internally and externally as you are cleaning your data and combing through it, finding benchmarks for the story you want to tell as well as to external messages; we talk about “bulk messages”, but talk about click-through rates 
            • Open rates are high but we want to map back to the goal 
            • Use the tools and simple formulas
            • Vanity metrics look good but don’t track growth over time, get the numbers that show growth over time
  • What is a favorite metric that we track?
            • Forward rate, it’s interesting because it shows where the message is going and the impact
            • Opt-out shows who is opting out
          • Track What You Value
            • Strategic goals should drive the mission; but also shows what is not working and what can be improved
              • Advocates love personalized comments; that can have additional ripple effects 
              • Looking at which legislatures have not gotten good engagement helps us see where we need to build up supporters and engagement in those areas; packaging this data for lobbyists make it more impactful
              • Observations help us with action alerts, we watch trends and go from there
              • Don’t have a throwaway thank you with outreach, have another ask, we have the main action alert on these pages but it also takes them to other CTAs, video testimonials, etc. helps get more engagement without adding more contact 
              • Action alerts, at NFIB we don’t like to send out communications about what people are doing, we like to do one big thank you around thanksgiving, otherwise, we don’t share activist stats
                • Activists are getting more threats than thank you’s so it’s important to thank them
    • Learning Objective: Mapping Goals and Getting Back There // Being a Good Data Partner
      • With the Farm Bureau Federation, clean data, and something other than an advocacy platform is needed, we want to know if our Go Team are media trained, are they good for print or tv; with collecting data to achieve goals we have a master spreadsheet but we work with our data partners and we are working on putting together a CRM for membership, membership data resides with the state (because we have members for each state); bringing the fields up with the right data for the Go Team
        • It would be nice to go into the sheet to see who needs more training on the Go Team; eventually, we will take media clips and add them to the membership profile 
      • Additionally, ask the team how they are using advocacy and what is needed; every action does not need to be seen in the data; solve for this by asking the right questions
        • Talk to vendors about tools and capabilities; at NFIB we’ve asked other departments to sit in which has opened things up for collaboration
      • At the ALS Foundation we turned data into action; partnered with another advocacy organization, shared advocates, they used a different tone which we respected but collaborating on data was helpful
        • Don’t know the numbers we need to impact the target; targeted petition 
        • We wanted to present community support to the FDA for a treatment drug, we utilized a petition instead of  a tweet, by using partners we expanded our reach; with data, partners ask who is hosting that data, how are they using the actions, how are they using the data; if the audience took no action they would not be contacted again if in 6 months they had an actionable item there would be a follow-up 
      • Know what you want to focus on and do it well


  • Are opt-in campaigns a thing?
        • Plain text from a staffer, option to opt-out of specific campaigns
        • Re-engagement campaigns, find a new and different way to re-engage 
  • Personalization, data hygiene, when is it good to personalize?
      • Google form tends to auto-complete 
      • Better to personalize messages than use names
        • For advocacy organizations we do want to use names so to capture attention it is easy but problematic; the de-duping list is also helpful
        • We include how do you want to be called on their nametag



October 28
11:30 am - 12:30 pm
Event Category: