Healthier Colorado is a nonprofit working to elevate the voices of Coloradans in the public policy process, ensuring healthier standards of living across the state’s diverse communities. From reducing obesity and related chronic diseases to mental and behavioural health, Healthier Colorado works to advocate and mobilize individuals to take action for better and more equitable health outcomes.
I had the opportunity to chat with Communications Director, Ryan Sims, on engagement strategies, creating personal connections with your audience, and how Healthier Colorado marries organizing and advocacy through EveryAction.
How did Healthier Colorado get its start?
RS: The purpose of Healthier Colorado is to make sure all Coloradans have equitable access to standards that allow them to live a healthy life. We started out in response to local funders who saw an opportunity for more advocacy at the state level. As a result, we’ve built a team that aims to advocate for public policy solutions.
With the rollercoaster of issues surrounding health care, how do you keep your audience engaged and ready to take action?
RS: We’re really fortunate to be uniquely positioned in the healthcare space and to have a set of policies and interests that our audience is well-informed on. We see ourselves as policy champions in health advocacy and our audience knows that. We really try to give them a lot of opportunities to not only get personally involved with our mission but to speak in their own voice about policy measures that have affected them. This audience-first approach is our greatest strength in engaging our citizen advocates.
Your work is focused on a variety of important issues that stress the importance of active citizen advocates. Where have you seen the greatest engagement?
RS: Mental Health in particular is something we’ve focused a lot of our work on. In Colorado this past year, we worked to pass a law that outlawed the abuse of jails to actual correctional facilities to hold people in mental health crises.
The second issue has been defending the Affordable Care Act. Our audience is really concerned with keeping health insurances costs low wherever possible. This is a tangible issue that our audience has been really active.
As you try to keep your audience engaged on all these issues, what role does digital play?
RS: Digital advocacy will always be our first and most frequent point of contact. We are dedicated to constantly improving our work and expanding the scope of people we reach. Like I said, our goal isn’t to only get people to engage with us but to also give people opportunities to incorporate their stories into our work. We firmly lean on digital as both a visibility and engagement tool.
Looking at your website, I’m struck by how beautiful and straightforward it is, not to mention how easy it is to navigate. How has EveryAction helped streamline your work?
RS: EveryAction gave us the flexibility to customize it for our needs. For example, we have a specific political action fund for direct advocacy with legislatures and with EveryAction we’re able to allocate a percentage of our donations to that fund. We need this to be compliant with state law and EveryAction makes it simple. At the end of the day working on a single platform - like EveryAction - where we can engage in multiple points of advocacy with our audience is invaluable.
Aside from digital advocacy, Healthier Colorado uses organizing tools like MiniVAN. How do you incorporate grassroots organizing into your advocacy strategy?
RS: EveryAction powers our citizen advocates with the tools they need to target their legislatures from direct outreach to personal correspondence, to really anything. If an elected official makes a pro-health vote or introduces a health bill measure, we really rely on our advocates to conduct that outreach. We work to empower the grassroots in that manner and having this all available to use in EveryAction is powerful.
Additionally, the way that EveryAction and MiniVAN work seamlessly together is incredibly useful for our canvassers when they’re cutting turf and making face to face connections with people we may have only engaged with online. So we get this online-offline connection that all comes from the same place. It’s a great asset!
As a smaller nonprofit that focuses on a localized space but is still engaging on national issues, how do you stand out and attract new audiences?
RS: The most important thing is meeting people where they are and to help them understand what our niche is in the advocacy space. It has been proven over and over again that the individuals compelled to take on advocacy asks and to donate have to understand the mission of your organization and what they’re getting behind. Finding that balance and trust with your audience can be especially difficult for smaller nonprofits. Everyone has a mission that they’re looking to connect with, our job is to help people relate to and identify with what we do.
You can learn more about the great work Healthier Colorado does by clicking here!