The Forum for Youth Investment (the Forum) is a nonprofit advocacy organization that seeks to improve outcomes for youth in federal, state, and local policy. SparkAction, the Forum’s collaborative journalism and advocacy platform, contributes to this broader mission by providing policy and advocacy resources to partner organizations, with digital grassroots advocacy being a major focus.
Key to its success is the ability to 1) identify policy developments at the federal and state levels that impact youth and 2) launch advocacy campaigns to encourage youth, grassroots advocates, and other partners to contact their representatives and make their voices heard.
In order to both track changes in policies affecting youth and take action on those issues, the Forum uses a series of Quorum products—Federal, State, and Grassroots. As the campaigns are ongoing, the Forum once again turns back to Quorum Federal and State to see if the dialogue around the issue they are spreading with the grassroots campaign is picking up traction among the legislators targeted by advocates.
To make sure the Forum is always up-to-date with policy developments on the issues they care about, they set up email alerts with Quorum Federal and Quorum State for mentions of keywords relevant to their work in legislation and documents shared by legislators.
By setting these alerts, the Forum knows immediately when their issues are up for discussion so they can quickly determine whether they need to launch a new digital advocacy campaign or update an existing one.
For example, the Forum was working on a bill in Louisiana on the “Raise the Age” issue which would delay implementation of reform efforts and ensure that youth continue to have a prolonged and potentially adverse connection to the justice system. With early awareness of that piece of legislation, the Forum worked with state-based partners to kickstart a grassroots advocacy campaign. As the issue moved through the Louisiana legislature, the organization shifted the language and urgency of their grassroots calls-to-action, with messages narrowed to key regions or key committee members.
“We’ve had a few examples of state partners where once we’ve been alerted something has passed a committee, we’ve been able to then edit that same action alert so they can change their social media outreach like ‘We’re one step closer’” Caitlin Johnson, co-founder of SparkAction, said. “Louisiana was an example where we worked on a number of campaigns related to that Raise the Age topic but targeted a lot of different committees based on where a bill was at that specific period of time.”
The ease of setting up these highly targeted grassroots campaigns at the state-level was a factor that inspired the switch to Quorum’s grassroots advocacy software from another provider.
“They had similar functionality and flexibility in terms of targeting and segmenting groups of who you want to target,” Alex Sileo, Senior Research Associate at the Forum, said. “The pain point was that the process was not as clear as it needed to be. With Quorum, the action alert is 1,2,3,4,5—these are the steps you need to go through, the information you need, all of that is clear in terms of how you set up your targets for an alert, what members they are targeting, what committee or what have you, as well as different ways to get the message out.”
For many advocates who engage with the issues the Forum cares about, it may be their first time writing or calling their legislators, so it is critical for the organization to have a tool that made advocacy easy and accessible. By automatically providing an advocate’s representative, reducing fields to complete an action, and clear steps in the Quorum Action Center, the Forum could demystify the process of engaging in legislative advocacy.
“We’re seeing a steady increase in action takers,” Johnson said. “We are starting to see a lot more in our campaigns that people understand that they should share the link out, they should push out the links to our action alerts with their networks.”
With Quorum’s ease of use for advocates, the Forum has driven hundreds of actions in its most recent campaigns.
“We did an interview with advocates and legislators at the state level about four years ago,” Johnson said. “One of the legislators in Georgia spoke on how important it was to hear from constituents and that if they get three emails on the issue that’s not big in the news it feels like a landslide.”
Recently the organization saw its greatest success in Texas, where 339 advocates sent out 746 messages. For issues that don’t often make it to the front page of the news, this volume is quite significant for legislators to receive.
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