Nearly 900,000 students were enrolled in colleges and universities in 2013-2014. If you could get even a small fraction of them to advocate for your cause, they could be an incredible asset to your organization, and doing so would also be an important part of your long-term strategy to grow your member ranks.
That being said, organizations have a notoriously difficult time engaging young people, whom they sometimes perceive to be “lazy millennials.”
During my junior year at Tulane University, I mobilized several hundred students to advocate for the Campus Accountability and Safety Act. To do this, I created an art display on my campus and set it up on a table outside of the student center. The display included easy-to-digest information about the bill as well as a Call to Action in the form of letters pre-written for signature.
I made sure that my campaign was three things: easy, targeted and free.
Those three characteristics are critical not only to get students, passing by, to stop, listen and take action on the spot, but also to recruit other students as volunteers.
Make it Easy
Making it easy means that you know how to explain your issue and its consequences in succinctly. This is important for volunteers and advocates alike.
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The organizing college students have to go through university procedure in order to have any sort of table or event. As advocacy professionals, you can make this easy for them by providing relevant materials as well as a set of talking points. Is there signage or messaging you want them to use? A letter you want them to collect signatures on?
To help them reach their peers, remember that college students are busy and want to do something quickly and get along with their day – don’t ask for too much.
Make it Targeted
Campuses, by nature, are rich with advocacy activity, and the chances are good that groups of students across the national landscape are ALREADY working on the causes you fight for.
You should start by finding them.
You’re a pro-choice group? Look for on campus feminist organizations. Your organization supports environmental issues? Target an on-campus green club. You can find their organizations where you can find all millennials: on Facebook and Twitter.
This principle also applies to the regions you target: if your organization is aiming for a specific state policy change, look up the largest university in the area and search “university name + organization name.”
From there, it’s easy to contact the President and propose an advocacy project.
Make it Free
“Poor college students” aren’t a myth – especially as college tuition increases every year.
Avoid asking student advocates to print out hundreds of color documents or to make their own buttons. If you provide the letters and buttons, they will provide the energy to get them signed.
One easy way to do this is to directly connect them to the lawmaker whom you want them to target via social media. Ask them to either Tweet their senator about the issue or sign an online petition.
That’s easy, targeted, and free.
By keeping these three things in mind, you can expand your advocacy efforts and engage the nation’s largest generation.
Courtney Liss is a policy advocate and early graduate of Tulane University.
It's much easier to keep new members than find new ones! Download our 10 tips to increase new-member...
10 Tried and True Methods to Increase New Member Retention
It's much easier to keep new members than find new ones! Download our 10 tips to increase new-member...Download