This first phase of the campaign is where you lay the groundwork that will ensure your success. It is where you recruit key advocates to your cause and ensure that they remain engaged. To start, think about these questions:

  • Who are likely to be your strongest allies?
  • Who can be your spokespeople? Who has the greatest credibility on this issue? To whom will decision makers listen?
  • What organizations are likely to partner with you? What do they bring to the table?
  • Who are likely to be your opponents? Who are their regular opponents?
  • Where do members of various ethnic, cultural, socio-economic, disability, and racial groups in the community regularly congregate?
  • What are the organizations in your community that represent different racial and ethnic communities? How can you build authentic bridges to those groups to engage them in your campaign?
  • What are the organizations that work with youth with disabilities? How can you build authentic bridges to those groups to engage them in your campaign?
  • Are there any alliances with community planners or developers, doctors, dietitians, nurses, researchers, educators, or city or county health department officials that could be explored?
  • Who do you want to be your “everyday advocates,” the large group of people who speak out about the issues at hand?
  • Do these “everyday advocates” represent the diversity of the communities most affected by the need for policy change?
  • Where can you gather stories to share about your issue and how it affects your community?
  • Remember to consider reaching out to both organizations and individuals who might be interested in supporting your campaign. Reach out to these potential advocates via all channels available to you: social media, existing member databases, personal emails, blogs, paid advertisements, community outreach, tabling at street fairs and festivals, public announcements at places of worship, etc.

Be sure to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate materials; the wider you can cast your net, the more likely you are to recruit a diverse audience that cares about the changes you want to make. Stretch beyond your comfort zone.

Once you determine who is on your side, start thinking about how to garner support from public officials and other important leaders. In many cases, you will want to share your message with supporters and ask them to send a letter to key government officials so these leaders recognize the need for access to safe and appealing drinking water throughout the school day. Keep in mind that it is not lobbying to ask people to contact legislators to raise awareness about a general policy issue or to influence an administrative action. But if your communication refers to legislation or legislative proposals and asks people to contact legislators, then it is lobbying. You can do this outreach through numerous channels:

  • Letters to legislators or community leaders
  • Phone calls to legislators or to members of the community during a recruitment push
  • Social media posts and shares
  • Blogs
  • Public service announcements
  • Letters to the editor
  • Op-eds

Finally, before you execute any of the tactics in this toolkit, make sure you establish your metrics of success. Determine how you will measure the effectiveness of your campaign’s communications no matter what they may be. Some examples of things to measure include:

  • Media impressions (both initial and follow up)
  • Likes and retweets
  • Comments
  • Open and click-through rates on emails
  • Volunteers recruited
  • Funds raised

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