2. Write down your plan

Every campaign needs a plan. As the late, great political consultant Matt Reese used to say, “If it isn’t written down, it doesn’t exist.” So, before you embark on a campaign to change public policy, write down a plan that outlines what you’re going to do, how you’re going to do it, and what it’s going to cost.

The campaign plan should be developed through a participatory process that maximizes input from lead organizations and experts, encourages ownership and involvement from national, state and local partner organizations, and includes key stakeholders and supporters. Once completed, the campaign plan should remain confidential to the coalition team and trusted partners and be reviewed and evaluated regularly. The plan should include: goal(s), policy background, political background, research, campaign staffing and structure, preliminary message, preliminary targeting of policymakers, coalition building, earned and paid media, fundraising, budget and timeline.

The goal or goals

Describe the policy you seek to enact, the governmental body or official that has jurisdiction, and the type of act you require, e.g., legislation, regulation, or an executive or administrative order. If you are pushing more than a single policy, and the way to achieve them warrants very different targets, messages and/or strategies, then you need to limit your scope or develop separate campaign plans for each.

Policy background

Why is this policy needed? What is its root cause? What has been done or attempted before to address this problem? Why is your particular policy the best one to solve the problem?

Political background

What is the political context? What social or economic factors created or are perpetuating the problem? What political factors will help or hinder your ability to succeed? What’s the power analysis (who benefits from the problem and who benefits from change)?


What research does your advocacy campaign need and who will do it? (See Chapter 4 for details.)

Campaign staffing and structure

Outline how the campaign will be structured, including:

  • Which organizations have lead roles and what are the responsibilities of each?
  • What paid staff will work on the campaign and what are their responsibilities?
  • How will the campaign maintain clear lines of authority, decision-making, and internal communications?
  • Who is responsible for press and external communications?
  • Who is responsible for fundraising and financial management?
  • Who will do research and polling?
  • Who will do paid media?
  • How will the campaign handle internal reporting, reporting to donors, and evaluation—what are the accountability mechanisms?

Campaign message

What are the preliminary ideas for the overall campaign message and likely talking points? (See Chapter 7 for details.)

Targeting of policymakers

What are the preliminary targeting assumptions—which policymakers are likely to be for, against, or persuadable? (See Chapter 13 for details.) Based on your assumptions, what are the geographic areas where you likely need to focus? Which policymakers specifically have disproportionate power to approve or reject your policy proposal, e.g., specific committee chairs? These are primary targets—what are some preliminary ideas for persuading each of them?

Coalition building

What are the organizations and influential individuals that might be persuaded to join the coalition for this policy campaign? (See Chapter 9 for details.)

Earned and paid media

What are preliminary plans for earned and paid media? What media outlets will you target? (See Chapters 15 and 16 for details.)


How do you intend to raise the money for the campaign? Include sources of revenue, expected amounts to be raised by source, solicitors, timeline, and materials needed. (See some ideas in Chapter 3.)


Using the template displayed below, complete a budget for your advocacy campaign. Identify and document real resource gaps. This will help you determine the viability of your campaign before you begin, and it will help form the case for financial support.


On a timeline, list all the major strategies that you will use to achieve your objectives. Think of this as a weekly “work plan” list, not a daily “to do” list—you don’t have to include every detail. Include external deadlines that you have to work within (e.g. an introduction deadline). So that you can evaluate your progress, list specific, measurable objectives that you need to achieve by different dates. Objectives should always be strategic, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-specific (SMART).