How to Plan Your Campaign

A good campaign must be based on a coherent idea of what you want to achieve and an understanding of how to achieve it.

Although campaign planning may seem daunting at first, it can be among the most interesting and intellectually engaging parts of organizing. Be willing to invest time at the beginning to produce a detailed campaign plan. The thoughtfulness and consideration that goes into your campaign plan at the onset will be a major determining factor of the campaign’s eventual success. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help your chapter create its own detailed campaign plan:

1. Set Campaign Goals

2. Assess Your Capabilities

3. Identify Your Spectrum of Allies

4. Choose Tour Targets

5. Decide on Your Strategy

6. Choose Your Tactics

7. Develop Your Campaign Message

8. Plan Your Event

9. Need More Help?


1. Set Campaign Goals

Once your group has chosen a campaign, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty details of planning it. Your campaign should fit within the wider principles of ICJB-NA. Never begin a campaign without setting clear goals. This guide on researching corporations, institutions and power-holders might help in the first stages of developing your campaign.

Your goals should be defined as specifically as possible, and divided into long-range, medium range and short-range goals.

Short-Term Goals: These goals are steps towards your intermediate goals. Short-term goals are important because: (1) small victories along the way to larger goals keep members enthusiastic and optimistic about the possibility of eventual success, and; (2) groups often need go through a stage of organizational development or power building (i.e., increase in membership size, gain the support of other groups, etc.) before they can win intermediate or current campaign goals. Campaigns will frequently have several short-term goals that act much like benchmarks to track the group’s progress.
Example of a short range goal: Passing a resolution in favor of divestment/shareholder advocacy through the faculty senate.

Intermediate Goals: These are the tangible goals that you intend to reach as a result of your current campaign. A common mistake of campaign planners is to only develop goals at this level.
Example of a short range goal: Forcing your school to divest from Dow.

Long-Term Goals: These are far-reaching goals that you hope to achieve eventually. Your current campaign is a step towards reaching these goals. Long-term goals are important because they keep your group focused on the systemic changes you seek while you’re addressing immediate issues.
Example of a short range goal: Forcing Dow to accept responsibilities for the Bhopal gas disaster.

Return to Top

2. Assess Your Capabilities

Once you have a clear sense of your goals, it is critical that your group assesses its organizational strengths and weaknesses. What resources are currently available to your group? What resources are you lacking? In this assessment, be certain to consider all types of resources (money, volunteers, facilities, skills, time, allies, reputation etc.).

Return to Top

3. Identify Your Spectrum of Allies

Identify your spectrum of alliesThese include:

  • Active allies : People who agree with you and are organizing alongside you
  • Passive allies : people who agree but aren’t doing anything about it (yet)
  • Neutrals : people who aren’t sure, or are unengaged (they might just not know about you yet)
  • Passive opponents : People who disagree, but aren’t trying to stop you
  • Active opponents : People who have done something to prevent you from reaching your goal

To identify your allies, you should answer the following questions:

  • Who cares about this issue?
  • Would they share your campaign goals?
  • What are their strengths (e.g. credibility, part of a larger network, money, special skills, newsworthy etc.)?
  • What are their weaknesses?
  • Who is most affected by this issue? Whose problem is it?
  • What are the potential gains for them?
  • What risks might they be taking to work on the issue?
  • How are they structured? What are their strengths and weaknesses?

To identify your opponents, you should answer the following questions:

  • What groups or individuals are likely to oppose your efforts?
  • What will your campaign victory cost them?
  • What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • What will they likely do or spend to oppose you?
  • When identifying your spectrum of allies, think about how you can engage these groups. This will come in handy when you determine your strategies and tactics.

Return to Top

4. Choose Your Targets

The next step is identifying your campaign targets.

A target is the person(s) with the power to give you what you want.

You cannot simply pressure the “powers that be”. There should be a person/group that you’re asking to do something concrete. Even if the power to give you what you want lies in an institution (you’re your university, Dow Chemical), it is important to personalize the target. Identify who ultimately makes the decision within that institution or, at least, who has the most influence over it. That individual will be your target. By personalizing the target, you can take advantage of the human responses of decision-makers during your campaign: Ambition, guilt, fairness, fear and/or vanity. These responses don’t exist in institutions as a whole. Power-mapping is a great tool to use when determining your targets.

When attempting to identify your target(s) when planning a campaign, start by asking the following questions:

  • What individual or group of individuals has the power to give you what you want? If it is a group of individuals, which specific individuals will you target to achieve your victory?
  • What power do you have over your target(s)?
  • What reason might the target(s) have to agree with you or oppose you?

Once you’ve identified your target, review your organizational resources and determine what influence you may hold over your targets. You may be able to convince your target to support your position if you have sufficient influence. Otherwise, you’ll need to determine how to mobilize the power of your members and allies against the vulnerabilities of the target and pressure them to give you what you want.

If your group does not have any power or influence over your primary target, you’ll need to identify a secondary target. A secondary target is a person who can influence or has power over the primary target.

To identify secondary targets, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who are your targets pillars of support? How can you influence them to end their support for the target?
  • What is the nature of the secondary targets’ power over the primary targets?
  • Who in your group or among your allies has pressure over the secondary target and can influence them to pressure the primary target?

For instance, imagine you’re trying to get the CEO of XY Inc. to stop polluting a local river. Even if you can’t influence the CEO, shareholders can. Consumers can. The government can. If you’re trying to influence the University President to end your university’s involvement with Dow Chemical, it might be wise to reach out to students, faculty, alumni and wealthy donors that have the ear of the president. Choose your targets strategically.

Return to Top

5. Decide on Your Strategy

You’ve set your campaign goals, assessed your capabilities and chosen your targets. Now it’s time to devise your campaign strategy. Your strategy comprises your vision, campaign and tactics. Your strategy should ideally influence your target so that you can achieve your goal, and garner support for your campaign from the general public.

Strategy is a systematic set of tactics arranged to influence a specific target towards a specific goal.

When mapping out campaign strategy, you should start by answering the following question:

  • Given the vulnerabilities of your target(s), where should you concentrate your efforts (e.g. through the media, faculty, students, donors etc.)? Feel free to choose more than one.

Return to Top

6. Choose Your Tactics

Now that you have a strategy in mind, you can choose your tactics. Tactical goals are a type of short-term campaign goal and can serve as benchmarks to measure the progress of your campaign efforts and to generate excitement amongst your membership. Check out our Actions page to get more ideas.

Tactics serve your campaign plan by pressuring your target(s) to give you what you want.

Tactics should:

  • Fit into your strategy.
  • Make sense to your members and supporters.
  • Be flexible and creative.
  • Have follow-up built in. Each step should set you up for the next one.

Consider the following when determining your tactics:

  • Who are you trying to influence with this tactic? How will it influence them?
  • How are we following through? How does this tactic build our power for the next step?

Follow-up is especially important. Are you demanding a meeting and setting a deadline or just making some noise and walking away? What will you do if they do nothing?

Tactics should be innovative to keep your target guessing, to keep your constituency interested and mobilized, to maximize your press coverage and to have fun! InThe Politics of Nonviolent Action, Gene Sharp provides a comprehensive list of198 methods of nonviolent protest and persuasion. Moreover, New Tactics in Human Rights offers tactics and lessons learned from a number of diverse campaigns worldwide.

Return to Top

7. Develop Your Campaign Message

Now that you know what you want, who is going to give it to you and how you are going to get it, it is necessary to develop your campaign message. A campaign message or slogan is a short (10 words or less), clear, and persuasive statement that is used in all campaign communications (verbal or written) to deliver a quick and consistent description of your campaign effort to the media, potential allies and the public. Campaign messages are very useful to ensure that the primary targets of your campaign are receiving a clear and consistent demand.

Return to Top

8. Plan Your Event

Now that you have organized a campaign, you can put together an event on your campus or in your community. This is great way to build morale within your group, strengthen your campaign, and let the rest of the world know what your group is doing.

  • Brainstorm an event that will benefit the campaign, and impact a target audience effectively
  • Determine if you have the capacity/resources available to put on the event
  • Determine if you want to include your allied groups in the execution of the event
  • Make a timeline for your event
  • Determine the logistical details (location, date, time, food and drink etc.)
  • Think about having fundraisers prior to the main event to help fund and promote it.
  • Use all available resources. If you’re a registered student group, you may be able to get funding for your event. You can also reach out to local groups and individuals, who may be interested in supporting the event financially or otherwise.
  • Delegate responsibilities to volunteers for all pre-event and event-day details
  • Publicize your event! Write to local media, submit a newspaper/magazine ad, make a public service announcement at your local radio or cable television section, put up posters, give out leaflets, post the event on online event listings in your area, circulate the event in any listservs you are a part of, and tell everyone in your networks!
  • Always have back-up plans. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst!
  • Arrive early!
  • Set-up directional signs, especially if your event is in an odd location
  • Take photos to share on your newsletters, website, social media, etc.
  • Make sure to have sign-up sheets.
  • Stay for clean-up ☺

Return to Top

9. Need More Help?

Planning a  Campaign

Planning an Event

How to: Non-Violent Direct Action

Your Legal Rights

Note: These documents are only relevant for actions in the United States. If you live in a different country, please research your legal rights carefully.

Return to Top

Share this: