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A Modern Union: 10 Organizing & Campaigning Tactics

Discover 10 ways modern, digital tools enhance and support organizing and campaigning efforts to grow union membership.

Unions build power by organizing workers, taking action and changing lives. By organizing workers, and using the collective power of workers coming together, unions can transform things that an individual could never do on their own. 

We organize because this is how we build power and take on the challenges that matter. Organizing is the life blood of unions. 

As CEO of the Union Innovation Hub, I’ve helped many union executives strategize their organizing and campaigning tactics to fuel membership growth. I’ve outlined 10 ways digital union tools can enhance and support organizing and campaigning in areas where we have a base of members, and how some of the techniques are also useful for organizing in low-membership or new areas.


10 Organizing & Campaigning Tactics

1. Map the Workplace

When organizing, we are always looking to map the workplace and develop a list of workers. We try to break the workplace up into logical areas - by occupation, team, location, or relationships.

A modern Engagement Management System (EMS) captures and clearly presents all this data. A membership system that only identifies members, creates an electoral roll, and processes fees. But an EMS supports organizing and is the source of truth on all data, including potential members.

The EMS can support organizing by mapping the activity of non-members, members, and member leaders. This data is displayed and captures face-to-face activity such as attendance at meetings and online activities such as surveys, petitions, and pledge forms. In this way, an effective EMS will alert us to follow up actions and measure the effectiveness of our campaigns over time.

Lists of workers should be easily uploaded, and members and potential members quickly separated.

All this should be attractively and clearly displayed on dashboards, which can also show trends and allow you to drill down by sector, area in an organization or occupation. Our strengths and weaknesses in the workplace can then be easily assessed.

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2. Automate Issue Logging

Issues are key drivers in organizing. Any contact with workers should be easily noted in a drop-down field in the EMS, whether through face-to-face discussion, email, text message or phone contact. 

All survey completions should automatically be logged into the EMS for review and action. 

As teams engage in phone outreach, call prompts, scripts and results should be logged in the EMS. 

And don’t forget text messaging or SMS, those message details should also be written back to the EMS with open and reply data being collected for analysis.

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3. Identify Potential Leaders and Delegates

When organizing we are always looking for natural leaders - those who have followers and those who are willing to undertake tasks. Typically, this process occurs in person, through conversations and meetings. But not every member can be reached in person, and it is a much better use of staff resources to follow up those warm potential activists who have identified themselves.

Marketing automation, when integrated with a modern EMS such as iMIS, makes the process of identifying potential leaders and delegates much easier. A potential leader is identified by their actions. Automated campaigns can be used to place a series of calls to action in front of your members, with differing levels of involvement. Members who complete the actions requiring a higher level of engagement, or members who complete all actions are potential delegates or activists.

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4. Utilize Behavioral Data to Pinpoint Potential Members

When organizing, we are always trying to formulate a list of potential members. Lists are traditionally built through mapping the workplace with the assistance of workplace leaders. Digital techniques provide new opportunities to efficiently build a large list of potential members. Some options include: 

  • Email Behavior: Asking members to forward digital content and campaign activities, such as a survey, to any potential members.  
  • Website Behavior: When potential members go to the website or landing page, a pop up can ask the person to sign up for further information, or a pixel can be inserted which allows the union to remarket to those potential members. 
  • Event Interest: Registering for webinars or virtual meetings. 
  • Content marketing: content can be produced with information on topics of interest to potential members, accessed for free on provision of their name and email.


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5. Efficient New Member Recruitment

With the lists of non-members, an automated journey can efficiently convert potential members to paying members. 

Assuming we have the potential member’s email, conversion campaigns use marketing automation to turn emails into members (similar techniques can be used with mobile numbers via texts). These campaigns work better at critical times in the campaign (voting on a log of claims, a bargaining impasse, or around an action). Or you can run the journeys around specific events, times of year, or general membership offerings. 

The automated journey involves a series of emails designed to motivate the worker to join. They can include information about the issues, the importance of working together and the difference it makes by joining together, information about the package of other benefits that come with membership, any special offers that the union may be offering, and any calls to action. 

Those potential members who open our content or participate in activities out themselves as warm potential members.

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6. Increase Member Conversions with Remarketing Campaigns

Remarketing campaigns automatically target contacts who have been to your website or filled in a portion of your join form but failed to finish. We know these people are interested. They were interested enough to start joining.  

When someone shows interest in membership, we need to make sure we follow them up. However, with the constant rush of work and deadlines that unions face, not every opportunity can be chased. And it may be better for staff to follow up warmer leads. 

Remarketing campaigns are automated digital campaigns. The member who failed to finish the form should automatically be contacted by email and/or text message until they complete the process.  

In addition, have you ever looked at something on one website and then everywhere you go for the next month an ad appears? Unions should follow any potential member who started to join by inserting an advertising ‘pixel’ in your join page and then the potential member is retargeted automatically with further ads about the benefits of joining or about the campaign issues, all with links to your join page.


7. Automate Member and Workplace Leader Onboarding

Onboarding of new members can be automated with a modern EMS: 

  • A series of emails can ensure the new member understand the benefits of membership and the relevant campaign they can help win.
  • A workplace representative kit or welcome video could be forwarded, explaining their rights and role and the system will know if the delegate has accessed it.
  • If they haven't done so or haven't confirmed attendance for the course, an automated email or text message could go to the organizer for follow up.
  • If the process is for the organizer to meet with each new delegate, this can be promoted and tracked.
  • Tasks agreed to be completed by the delegate can also be noted and automatically checked.


8. Send Relevant and Timely Communications

Unions regularly communicate with members through physical or electronic workplace bulletins and newsletters. During campaigns communication is often more frequent and is distributed by the workplace leader.

With a modern EMS, with integrated email and marketing automation software, the information sent to members can be very powerful and tailored to each member segment. The union can know, for example, who opened the information and whether they clicked through to the action.

You can also enable the organizer or delegate to communicate to all members at the workplace. A notice could appear on each member’s portal at that workplace, which they also receive via email or text.

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9. Create Frictionless Membership Join Forms

A modern EMS enables potential members to join online with a short, simple form. The user experience of joining online should be frictionless. Without this we are throwing away potential members. Think how you react when you try to buy something online and it's clunky!

All relevant communications and website landing pages should include a prominent Join button directing traffic to the online join form.

Once the form is completed, the member information automatically populates the modern EMS and simultaneously processes the payment to reduce administration time. The new member should automatically receive welcome information and commence the automated onboarding process.

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10. Entice Members with Special Offers

Modern systems can enable the use of special offers. Whether we like it or not a special offer can provide extra impetus for the potential member to act.

All organizers have experienced the situation where they connected with the worker around the issues and the worker agreed that together we will have more chance of winning - but they still don't join! By saying if you join by a particular date there is a reduction of fees for a set period, more success is likely. If nothing else, it helps staff and delegates create a sense of urgency.

Despite the concerns, there is no evidence that these initiatives impact revenue from existing members.


Continuously Learn from Your Data

A modern EMS enables the tracking of what we do by monitoring key performance metrics and provides reports and dashboards critical to analysis and learning.

You’re able to track multiple key indicators, including:

  • Churn rate by group
  • Member renewal or retention rate
  • Lifetime value of a member
  • New member acquisition rate
  • Cost per join
  • Success of the lead generation campaigns

In whole, we can track members' engagement and identify at risk members. This enables us to better focus resources, assess our efforts and motivate staff. The early wins will motivate the union to continue transformation.

Data-based decision making is transformational. The power is that we are looking through the prism of the user experience and response of members and future members.


The Union Innovation Hub helps unions achieve growth, efficiency and impact by fast tracking progress and reducing the cost of digital and other innovation. With over 30 unions clients in Australia and New Zealand, we've guided digital transformation strategies from inception to evolution by utilizing the power of the iMIS engagement management system.

Contact us today to see how the Union Innovation Hub can modernize the way your staff, organizers and members work together.


This article was originally published by the Union Innovation Hub as part of their Hub Accelerator Series, Growth Through Innovations. The content has been adapted with permission.

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