The backbone of any well-run campaign is the leader’s ability to create a strategic campaign plan for the organization to follow. Taking the time to write down the steps you intend to take and creating a clearly defined plan will help you make difficult decisions as they arise. The following campaign outline and process is used by many successful grassroots advocacy organizations, including the Sierra Club.
- Determine the Issue Focus - You will notice that the process of planning for a campaign is similar to that of long term-planning for your organization. As with long-term planning, each campaign you undertake should have a clear focus. Some questions to consider in determining your focus:
- What is the main issue of your campaign?
- What shelter or animal control issue are you trying to address?
- How does it relate to your organization’s overall priorities?
- Establish Campaign Goals - Create campaign goals. Each campaign should have two types of goals. One set will detail what you aim to achieve in terms of animal welfare outcomes and the other set will specify what you hope to gain as an organization by taking on this campaign. Be sure to make your goals quantifiable.
- Animal Welfare Goals
What are the short-term, interim, and long-term goals of your campaign? What exactly do you want the public to demand and what do you want the decision makers to deliver? What will you consider a victory? How will you quantify your success?
- Organizational Goals
What are the overall organizational goals you seek to fulfill by undertaking this campaign? How will this campaign help you recruit and educate more advocates? How will you involve them in the work that your organization does? How will you quantify your success?
- Asses Yourself, Allies, and Opponents – This step is often called “looking at the lay of the land.” It is critical that you take an honest look at yourself and those around you to determine the best, most strategic plan.
- Organizational Strengths and Weaknesses
Be honest and determine your organization’s strengths and weaknesses. What resources do you have already and what resources do you need? Think in terms of people, money, time, and connections. This step will be considerably easier if your organization has the time to do its long-term planning. Link to long-term planning section above.
- Allies and Opponents
Identify your friends and enemies in this campaign. Which special-interest groups or community organizations are likely to be allies? Who shares the goals of your campaign? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
Also determine the groups and organizations that are likely to be opponents of your efforts. What are their strengths and weaknesses? What will they do or spend to oppose your efforts? What does each opponent have that you do not?
From the list of allies you have created, choose four or five of them who you believe can deliver on a request when you have one. These allies will the first ones you contact about the campaign once you get it going and the first ones you call upon for help should you need any.
- Determine the Strategy
- Strategic Vehicle
Much like writing your own rules to a board game, you have to determine how you will win your campaign. First, determine the political venue where you will accomplish your animal welfare goals. For example, you may be interested in passing a bill or changing a regulation or policy or you may be interested in getting your local city council to create an animal welfare committee.
Second, whatever your vehicle for success, determine what it is and stick with it. Bureaucratic changes do not happen overnight and it will take a lot of diligence to reach your goals if this is your strategy.
If your campaign is education-based, you may find that the best strategic vehicle is the media. In this case your goals might describe how many media hits you hope to have over a certain time period. Another strategic vehicle may be events where you can educate the public, and event attendance and number of new constituents might be your measure of success.
- Decision Makers (primary targets)
These are the people or group of individuals who have the power to deliver your animal welfare goal.
- Secondary Targets
These are those in your community who can help you influence the decision makers. Think about who best can provide this service and how their involvement will impact your initiative.
- Public Audiences
There are members of the general public, outside your own membership and supporters, who you need to reach with your message through this campaign. Who are your most likely supporters among the community at large? Who will help you create a demand for what you are asking? Think in terms of geography (counties, towns, neighborhoods), demography (age, gender, socio-economic levels), and constituencies (companion animal owners, veterinarians, cat lovers, caregivers).
- Clarify Campaign Communications - Ensuring your message is clear and concise will help people understand what it is you want to change and better your chances of positive media coverage. Speak positively and with conviction or passion.
Define the central message you plan to deliver throughout the campaign. Draft one, clear, concise, and compelling phrase which is ten words or less that can be reiterated to summarize your position or what you are demanding.
Write a brief “story” that communicates your campaign’s messages and goals to your targets. Clearly state the bad actor and the heroes. Make sure to spell out the issues you want changed and your proposed resolution.
Make a list of the specific media outlets which would be most effective in communicating your message and story to your targets and public audience(s), using your organizational list and supporter local contacts.
- Set Tactics and Timeline - Know the difference between a goal and a tactic. The goal you choose will determine which tactics you embark upon. For example if your goal is to influence the mayor to increase the budget for your local shelter, one tactic might be to have a resident letter-writing action directed to the mayor, your target. A tactic that would not make sense would be teaching a 3rd grade class about feral cats and their care, since this tactic will not help you change the mind of your Mayor.
Think about these questions:
- What tactics can you take that will put pressure on your targets and get them to grant your goals/demands?
- What specific activities will you complete to get you closer to your goals?
- What will you do to ensure that the media covers your issue?
- Is there a specific order of tactics you must follow in order for your work to make sense?
Be sure to use a variety of tactics so that you can create demand from a wide audience and establish credibility. Pay close attention to what is going on, so that you can proclaim a victory when the decision makers meet your goal/demand.
Place dates next to when you intend to execute each tactic. If you have a target for when you hope to meet your goals, work backward and place tactics along the way, thinking carefully about the strategy in timing each one. Once you have the tactics on the calendar you will want to make mini-timelines for each tactic so you know what you need to do to execute each tactic. This is especially true for actions like a rally or some other event. Think carefully about what sort of informational materials you would want to have on hand and be sure to order them or create them early.
- Manage Your Resources - Take the time to create a working budget for your campaign. While it may take some time, knowing what you have to spend and having a good account of your resources will make decisions much easier.
- Campaign Budget
Determine how much the campaign will cost. Once you have an estimate, assess your organizational resources and that of your allies and determine if you can afford the tactics you have established. You may find that you need to scale back your efforts to match your resources, or alternatively, that you have more resources available and can ramp up your efforts.
If your expenses are greater than your financial resources and you do not feel like you can pare anything down, think about how you intend to raise the additional revenue you need. As you fundraise, be sure to thank, inform, and involve each donor. They also can help influence decision makers to help you meet your goals.
- Do Not Over-Extend
It is important that in every initiative, you are certain not to take on too much at a time—both personally and organizationally. Quality is definitely better than quantity and it will make you feel better about the work you do.