Texas Watch is a nonpartisan citizen advocacy group founded in 1998. They just celebrated over 20 years of advocating for Texas families. With the Texas legislative session currently in progress, I called Tara Lee, Development Director of Texas Watch to talk about current policy issues and how they work to bridge the divide between their community and the political process.
Let’s start of with a little bit more background about Texas Watch! Tell us a little bit about yourselves!
Texas Watch works to ensure that insurance companies and other major corporations are accountable to their customers. Our core issues are fighting for safety, justice, and accountability. We advocate for laws that uphold the 7th amendment which is our constitutional right to trial by jury and focus on improving safety for all Texas families, workers, and patients.
One of your big campaigns this legislative session is the #AUTOBODYSAFETY campaign. Can you tell us a little bit about that and how you determine the focus of your campaigns?
The way we shape our campaigns is by looking at what safety issues and concerns the local community have brought up. For this campaign, we were hearing from auto body associations and local auto body shop owners that there were major safety concerns because insurance companies were trying to dictate repairs. In 2017 a Dallas couple was trapped in their burning car after unsafe repairs were conducted on their vehicle. Rather than welding the roof back on to the vehicle which is the manufacturer’s guidelines, the roof was glued on. When that couple was hit head-on by a hydroplaning truck, it caused the engine to puncture.
This really opened the eyes for a lot of people in the auto body industry, especially here in Texas. We’re such a big state and we’re all reliant on our cars so ensuring these repairs are done properly is a huge safety concern for our community.
How do you engage with your community and involve your supporters in your campaigns!
Our organization thrives on community engagement. Our whole purpose is to get every day Texans involved in the political process by connecting them with their lawmakers, making it easy for them to send an email or letter, or testify at a hearing. We know it can be daunting to navigate the political process and make your voice heard so we make it easy for supporters to share their stories with us and increase their level of involvement. So we’re working to get more people involved and amplify the voices of everyday Texans on these safety issues.
We've been hearing a lot about the donor journey among nonprofits. Given that you’re an advocacy focused organization what’s the process of engaging with supporters from the moment they sign a petition.
It is so hard to capture people’s attention today with the overwhelming amount of content from a variety of different mediums. What we try to do is once we capture those people whether that be from liking our Facebook page, clicking on an email, or making a donation, we then communicate some of the complex issues we work on and make it actionable. We want to encourage them to be more involved. So in terms of retention, it really comes down to communicating clearly and making the action item approachable and simple.
You have a great donation page that places a focus on monthly giving, your Friends of the Fight Program. Can you talk a little bit about your sustainer program and any ways you’ve used EveryAction to bolster your monthly giving?
As a small organization we all wear multiple hats, so the ability to have monthly recurring sustaining support goes a long way. We’re able to plan ahead and put more of our efforts into our advocacy and community engagement. EveryAction has been really crucial with having features like FastAction where donors information will auto-populate and customizing the monthly dollar amounts for donors of all different levels. It goes such a long way knowing that we’ll have a reliable source of income during busy periods. Before we were doing our monthly giving programs through EveryAction it was difficult to keep track of credit cards that were expiring and now being able to run a quick simple report which I have scheduled to come to my inbox every week is a huge time save for us!
I also saw that you have a podcast! How has using that as tool for engagement been? Are there any other mediums you’re interested in trying?
Wherever there are eyes and ears, our team at Texas Watch is engaging Texans. Whether that be through our podcast or Facebook or Instagram or Twitter or Youtube. One of the things that's recently helped us gain more activists is we have a brilliant filmmaker who's our Digital Content Director, Christian, and he's created some incredible visual content. People are more inclined to watch a small video than read through a lengthy text based email so we've been shifting towards digital video platforms to engage our supporters.
As EveryAction power users what are some of your favorite features that help save you time?
With having a small team, putting together reports can be such a daunting task, but EveryAction has made it really easy to streamline all of our data to and measure conversion rates. We can dive into why certain actions are getting more responses or a higher conversion, or we can look at our fundraising statistics year over year. With email engagement reports we can see where more people unsubscribed or where more people were clicking. Having all these reports at the click of a button is an indispensable resource or our small team.
Given that we’re in a legislative session right now that means urgent issues or hearings can pop up at any time. How do you shape your rapid response strategy to accommodate that?
So the legislative session in Texas happens every odd year and there are 140 days to make laws. When things move quickly or a bill is up for a hearing or a vote we have to get that message out and emphasize the urgency of involving our audience to support the legislation. Everyaction really helps with having preloaded email templates. It allows us to get a message out quickly when everything is set up and ready to go.
Also, with rapid response, targeting is key. In EveryAction we are able to target an audience that we know has previously expressed interest in a particular issue. It helps us to avoid over messaging people and knowing that we’re sending out action alerts to our most engaged supporters.
What are some of your goals for this year as an organization and what are you most excited to be working on?
Our goal has always been to build our activist space and involve more people in the legislative process. We're in a time right now where people are becoming more engaged and wanting to do more on their communities. So we’re trying to educate people on issues that they may never have thought relevant to them.
I think our big goal this session is to get some great safety bills passed and help make our streets safer for Texas families. At the end of the day reaching more people and getting more people engaged is how you affect change. We’re excited to raise all of our voices to make a safer Texas.
To learn more about Texas Watch visit their website here!