Challenge: Driving Grassroots Action on a Proposed Regulation
End Rape on Campus (EROC) is a nonprofit working to end campus sexual violence through direct support for survivors and their communities; prevention through education; and policy reform at the campus, local, state, and federal levels. In order to engage the thousands of grassroots advocates across the country impacted by sexual violence and also keep tabs on changes in policies related to the issues EROC cares about, the organization uses Quorum Grassroots and Quorum Federal to expand the work of their DC office.
In January 2019, the U.S. Department of Education proposed a new regulation on how schools handle sexual assault. EROC organized a grassroots activation that both educated its advocates on how the proposed rule changes would impact sexual assault survivors and their communities and made it easy for advocates to comment on the regulation.
EROC knew of the challenges in getting individuals to comment on regulations. The language in a regulation is often written in a way that is inaccessible to most individuals, and the agency websites where individuals can comment on regulations are often prohibitively complicated.
“The problem is, the process of commenting on a federal regulation is pretty confusing, definitely high-level, it involves going to a weird-looking website, and is just not super accessible,” B. Ever Hanna, Campus Policy Manager at EROC, said. “So we were really looking for a campaign that would explain what is going on and give people the tools to engage with this wonky…process, and make that accessible so as to arm everyone that we’re working with the knowledge and the ability to participate.”
Learn More: Steps to Effective Regulatory Tracking
Solution: Breaking Down Barriers to Regulatory Advocacy with Quorum
To remove as many barriers to action as possible for advocates so their voices were heard on the Title IX regulation, EROC used Quorum to power their grassroots campaign. Quorum’s easy-to-use-action center and ability to embed campaigns in existing websites made it easy for advocates to take action, then Quorum’s reporting tools allowed EROC to build reports proving its success at activating a significant number of advocates from a diverse array of backgrounds.
Driving Advocate Action with Quorum
As an advocate, commenting on a regulation with Quorum takes just two simple steps. First, you register for the action center, either by adding your first name, last name, address, and email, or registering through Facebook. With Quorum, once an advocate has registered with your organization, the next time they come back to take action, their information will be pre-filled. Then comes the drafting of the comment itself. EROC adopted a best practice of giving a framework to help advocates get started by constructing a unique “Mad Libs” style template to encourage personalization by advocates.
“In the Action Center itself, we made a Mad Libs-style template outline so they could plug in their own information and tell their story the way they wanted to,” Phoebe Suva, a Policy Fellow at EROC, said. “It made it less overwhelming. They could pick one or two parts of the rule they wanted to talk about and what they thought was important and we gave them the sentence starters.”
This “Mad Libs” style template was critical to the success of EROC’s campaign.
“One of the problems with commenting on a regulation is that the Department of Education, or all regulatory departments, look for unique comments. These are comments that say something that is really substantive, that have a lot of data and information in it, and are different from all the other comments before it,” Hanna said. “A problem we’ve seen other campaigns fall into when you post a draft comment that people can just sign and submit, all of those get counted as one by the department and there is just not as much varied opinion.”
Complementing the Quorum Action Center with Content
In order to fill out the Mad Libs-style template that EROC used in their Quorum Action Center, they needed to provide resources to help advocates learn what the regulation meant and how it would impact them. With Quorum, users are able to either have their Action Center as a standalone web page or embedded within a website. In the case of EROC, the organization partnered with Know Your IX who created a website as a central source of information where advocates could go for resources, including the embedded Quorum Action Center where they could draft and submit their comments.
“All of the information that someone would need to participate in the campaign was right there on that website,” Hanna said. “We worked really hard collaboratively to distill all the information, put it in a digestible form, and then put it in a place where you could take action with everything that you needed right there.”
Reporting on the Campaign with Quorum
When the comment period closed on the proposed Title IX regulation, Suva sought to report to the rest of the EROC team the quantitative impact of their grassroots campaign. Quorum aided EROC in reporting in a number of ways.
While the campaign was ongoing, the team could go into Quorum at any point to see how many individuals had commented.To achieve the second objective of determining where advocates found the campaign, Suva used UTM codes to track comments that came from the different websites where the campaign was embedded and the different emails sent by partners.
“One of the biggest impacts I think was being able to see the comments in live time as they came through… what they were talking about, ways that we could adjust messaging, and how we were putting out links to the campaign,” Suva said. “That was really helpful over the month of the comment period.”
Then, at the completion of the campaign, Suva wanted to know 1) who participated and 2) how did they find the campaign?
To achieve the first objective of determining what kinds of people participated in the campaign, Suva used Quorum to search the text of each comment and pull out a key phrase they included in the template that read “I am [fill in the blank].” Advocates filled in the phrase as part of their comment with descriptors like “I am a survivor,” “I am a doctor,” “I am a teacher,” “I am a parent,” or some other description. Then, Suva could search for these phrases to quantify how many survivors of sexual assault took part in their campaign, how many parents of sexual assault survivors, and so on.
To achieve the second objective of determining where advocates found the campaign, Suva used UTM codes to track comments that came from the different websites where the campaign was embedded and the different emails sent by partners. With UTM codes, Suva could filter in Quorum to find how many comments each source drove. This allowed EROC to report back to their campaign partners who linked to the campaign on their websites or on social media how many comments their support generated.
Impact: Over 6,000 Comments on Title IX Regulation
Overall, this Title IX regulation saw 100,000 comments—more than any proposed regulation by the Department of Education, with EROC’s campaign contributing over 6,000 of those. The combination of taking a creative approach to encourage participation and the ease of commenting with Quorum allowed EROC to exceed expectations with the volume of comments they drove.
“All the tools were there and it was just a matter of saying alright well you can comment on a regulation, we can make a draft comment that is the same every time you use it or we can try to think differently and try to use our skills and our team’s strengths and use the amazing capabilities that Quorum has to get this really cool result,” Hanna said.
In the future, EROC plans to continue using this approach to engage their advocates in the legislative process.
“I think the key part of Quorum for us is we have both the Federal and the Grassroots [products] so we can have insight into our issue on multiple levels because everything we are working on is happening by individuals on the ground at the grassroots level but also being affected by and affecting policies at the state and federal level,” Hanna said. “Being able to access both of those at the same time is really helpful.”
To see how Quorum can aid your organization’s grassroots advocacy campaigns, learn more about Quorum Grassroots.