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Case Study: Advocacy Campaign, B.C.'s Organizing For Change Coalition

In the space of five weeks, served by a Salesforce.com database, email, and strategy consulting from Groundwire, Organizing for Change contacted more than 28,000 people, generating approximately 6,000 actions.

By Karen Uffelman, Director of Client Strategy

 

Protecting British Columbia’s Natural Resources

Victoria ParliamentWhat comes to mind when you hear someone mention Victoria?  Tea and crumpets at the Empress Hotel?  Wandering Butchart Gardens?  Eating breakfast, lunch and dinner at a White Spot restaurant because it seems less “foreign” to your unadventurous father who finally caved to the continual pleading for an exotic Canada vacation?  (Okay, maybe that’s just me.  In 7th grade.  In 1982.)

If you’re one of the 4.4 million residents of British Columbia (B.C.), you know Victoria as the seat of government for the province.  And if you’re one of the 14 environmental organizations involved in B.C.’s Organizing for Change coalition, Victoria is the focus of your advocacy efforts for protecting B.C.’s amazing natural resources. It’s home to the Parliament that could save or squander the largest remaining tracts of unspoiled temperate rainforest left in the world. It’s the place where decisions are made about tar sand tankers and oil spills, forest privatization, endangered species protection, and climate change.

Organizing for Change: Background

In the past six months, Organizing for Change has been able to strengthen its powerbase and sharpen its focus on Victoria.  Although this coalition has had joint policy priorities for years, as well as a coalition intranet and public website, they had never done joint grassroots engagement, and had challenges developing and executing a shared communication strategy.  Their inability to mobilize strong public support for a coordinated environmental agenda put them at a disadvantage in Victoria.  But that’s all changing.

List Growth and Effective Email Campaign

Under the leadership of Organizing for Change’s new Provincial Lead, Lisa Matthaus, six of the coalition’s member organizations agreed in early 2009 to pool their email lists for a voter education campaign prior to the B.C. elections in May.  An additional three member organizations agreed to send the coalition messages to their activists using their own email systems. The messages asked recipients to communicate with all candidates, as it was a non-partisan effort, to:

  • encourage candidates to make the environment a key topic in debates
  • ask candidates for their positions on environmental issues
  • promise follow-up with the candidates after they were elected to office.  

Successful Email Open Rates and Click-through Rates

In the space of five weeks, served by a Salesforce.com database, and email and strategy consulting from Groundwire, Organizing for Change contacted more than 28,000 people, generating approximately 6,000 actions. Their open and click-through rates exceeded the target goals, with open rates averaging 25% and click-through rates over 11% for their most effective emails.  This was particularly impressive considering that Organizing for Change had almost no public brand (and was unknown to most of the email recipients), and that the statistics are based on messages sent to their entire list, rather than just to the most active contacts.

Why It Worked

The coalition’s efforts were successful for a number of reasons:

  • They carefully followed best practices for email mobilization (good subject lines, SHORT!, informal language, clear urgency, clear actions)
  • They tracked email performance, and changed tactics when something didn’t work
  • They segmented their lists so that requests for actions were geographically appropriate and compelling
  • They reported back on the progress made as a result of actions taken

Moving Forward

Organizing for Change considers itself a newbie to joint outreach, particularly compared to coalitions like Washington State’s Environmental Priorities Coalition that’s had a pooled activist list and joint communications strategy for years.  However, if Organizing for Change’s future efforts are as successful as May’s email campaign, they’ll be setting the pace for online advocacy for regional environmental coalitions.

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