How NAMI's Advocacy Outreach to Defend the ACA Drove 200,000 Grassroots Actions

Legislative Advocacy with Quorum Grassroots | April 10, 2019

Challenge: Activating NAMI's Advocacy Network

In December of 2016, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Advocacy and Public Policy Team gathered for a meeting to prepare their 2017 advocacy strategy, especially as it came to defending the Affordable Care Act (ACA). When the American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed the House, the team needed a strategy for how they would advocate on behalf of people with mental illness and their families by activating their advocacy network.

“We knew that one of our competitive advantages is that we are a grassroots-based organization, which means we have people in every single state,” Jessica Hart, NAMI’s Senior Manager of Field Advocacy, said. “We have leaders who have relationships with members of Congress, so we took a multi-pronged approach to try to make sure that people with mental illness were not negatively impacted by any law that was passed to roll back or repeal the ACA.”

Solution: A Comprehensive Advocacy Outreach Strategy

NAMI turned to Quorum’s grassroots advocacy software to communicate about the various versions of health care legislation to their advocates, using plain language that everyday Americans could understand. Then, they could call on those champions to share their views with their member of Congress. With Quorum, NAMI could send messages to their advocates to educate them on the implications of new policies, empower them to contact their members of Congress through a Quorum Action Center, and target their supporters with specific information based on the position their member had taken on the health care debate.

Outbox

With Quorum’s Outbox tool for advocacy outreach, NAMI sent emails to its list of advocates whenever a new development came about in the effort to repeal the ACA with the goal of putting the complicated legislation into terms that were understandable for NAMI supporters. NAMI could then track the open rates and levels of engagement among recipients. With Quorum’s integrated email tool, Outbox, NAMI was able to personalize emails to specific advocates and see improved open rates compared to previous mass email tools.

“I utilized plain text coming from an actual person, so people would receive an email from our CEO appealing to them personally. People felt more engaged because we would put in information specific to their home state and they would reply to the emails in addition to taking action,” Hart said. “Our advocates also opened emails more frequently when it was directly addressed to them, like ‘Alicia please reach out to Senator so and so.’”

With the ability to send emails to advocates quickly and in a way that fostered engagement, NAMI was able to educate their champions on the implications that new health care legislation had on mental health.

Action Center

Along with an explanation of policy implications for people with mental illness, NAMI’s emails to supporters included links to the Action Center on their website, powered by Quorum. When advocates arrived at the Action Center, they could participate in a combined campaign by sending letters to each of their members of Congress and posting on social media, all with a few short clicks.

“We had people calling, scheduling visits, sharing a tweet or posting on Facebook,” Hart said. “We were able to track those through the use of the hashtag.”

Quorum’s Action Center cookies the browser of its advocates, making it easier for NAMI’s advocates to return to the Action Center and take another action without needing to input their personal information again.

Segmenting of Advocates

When Congress was in the heat of the health care debate, there were a few specific legislators who were potential swing votes that NAMI felt were critical to target in efforts to protect the ACA. With the ability to target particular advocates based on location, NAMI was able to have an outsized impact in the states that mattered most. Once the specific advocates were identified by location, NAMI could send them more personalized messages that were especially relevant to that state.

“When the [AHCA] went over to the Senate we especially stepped up the pressure with that,” Hart told Quorum. “For example, in Arizona with Senator McCain, we wrote individual emails from our CEO that were specific to that state where she would put in a little anecdote about the state or the last time she visited it.”

Then, when those advocates opened the email sent to them from NAMI and decided to take action, Quorum’s legislative database would pre-populate a message to send to their particular legislators depending on how those members voted. If someone’s elected official voted against dangerous health reform efforts, they would receive a message of thanks, but if they voted in favor of these efforts, they received a message reiterating NAMI’s strong concerns with the proposal and how it would negatively impact people with mental illness.

Impact: 200,000 Actions

Along with the almost 200,000 actions taken by advocates through the Action Center, the engagement with advocates through Quorum’s grassroots tools also aided in a successful hill day. In June 2017, NAMI had 1,066 champions visiting members on Capitol Hill to share their story about why members should care about supporting mental health through the ACA.

“We had 1,066 advocates go up to the Hill for our Hill Day who were already prepared because we’d been sending them emails the whole year about what they cared about,” Hart said.

Going into 2017, NAMI knew that it would need to mobilize its grassroots network early and often. With the ease of Quorum’s tools, the team was able to reach out to supporters with each and every iteration of health care policy and stay on top of the conversation as it changed at a rapid pace in the halls of Congress. The tools in Quorum Grassroots empowered NAMI to execute their advocacy efforts on several fronts.

In one tool, NAMI was able to educate its advocates, provide an easy way for supporters to take action through multiple platforms, and prepare for more advanced activity of meeting with legislators in person.

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