Well-meaning volunteers are important to any nonprofit organization or agency, but it often takes more than that to get the job done. One strategy that has worked well for many organizations is to get local, regional (and even nationally-known) elected officials to sign on as supporters of the cause. It can be a challenge and it usually takes work to cultivate elected officials, but the effort can have far-reaching results.
The first step in cultivating elected officials is to educate yourself on who the ones are in your city, state, region, etc. As you do the research, find out as much as you can about their voting records, the other causes they support and their areas of interest and expertise. While it can be worthwhile to “win over” those who might not historically support your cause, it is best to start with the ones who are most likely to be supportive. They may actually already know about your area of interest or even have some awareness of the work your organization is doing and it is just a matter of asking for their support or endorsement. Start with the “warmest” potential supporters. Put these individuals into your database and make sure that they are getting all your information, mailing, appeals, etc. This way they know what you are up to.
Send copies of your press releases to elected officials and extend invitations to your events. You never know when something may make it onto the press secretary’s desk, or that of the administrative assistant. If possible and appropriate, ask for something specific. If you would like to have the Mayor show up to do a ribbon-cutting on the new low-income child care center, write a compelling release and ask specifically for what you want'”including an agenda and the details of the time commitment.
Allow elected officials the opportunity to support your cause without much effort from their offices. For example, if you are taking out an ad to let the public know about an issue, cause, or event, send a request to the elected official(s) and ask if they would like to have their name included as an endorser. If it is an area or cause they support, it doesn’t cost them anything and is a win/win for both parties. This may take some advance planning on your part (as well as persistence), but it can be the start of a good connection.
Be sure to follow-up with “thank you” to an official who supports something your organization is working on. Include copies of a photo or press that may have resulted. The combination of appreciation, cultivation and consideration'”as well as providing updated information about your organization’s work can help to attract elected officials to your cause.