Campus Chapter Advocacy during COVID-19: A How-to Guide
When COVID-19 closed schools this spring, UNA-USA campus chapters were hit hard. But many rose above the circumstances and responded to a difficult moment by engaging in virtual advocacy. Here are examples of how a few UNA-USA chapters took on the challenges of COVID-19 and continued to advocate for a better world, and how your chapter can, too.
At the UNA-affiliated George Washington University chapter, leaders held a virtual fundraiser for Yemen (raising $1,120), hosted film club gatherings, created a humanitarian mapathon, and posted information relating to COVID-19 and displacement on their Instagram.
“Don’t underestimate your potential – those who are committed to and interested in the work your chapter is doing will respond well to virtual programming,” said Hailey Scatchard, Co-Executive Director of the George Washington University No Lost Generation chapter. “Instagram seems to be the best means for us, but we had already developed a presence there before COVID-19. What that might indicate, however, is that virtual advocacy is best suited for platforms you’ve already developed like an active Facebook group or website perhaps.”
Adele Andrews, president of UNA-Northeastern University, said that her chapter held “Power Hours” that exposed students to information about current events and advocacy.
“This summer we have held two virtual events in response to the Movement for Black Lives and ICE’s decision on International Students,” Andrews said. “In these meetings, called ‘Power Hours,’ we take some time at the beginning to learn about the issues, then go through different virtual actions we could take such as signing petitions, calling representatives, and writing emails.”
The chapter also held a virtual phone bank with a local organization to reach out to those in the community who may need assistance during COVID-19.
The University of Minnesota also looked local by disseminating information on how to make masks and advocating for racial justice after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
“A lot of our virtual advocacy has involved discussions of complex issues and promoting ways for people to participate individually because we are unable to participate as a larger group,” said Peter Merrill, president of the UMN chapter. “Whatever advocacy looks like during COVID-19, it does not need to be complicated. It can be as simple as promoting UNA-USA online panels for people to be more engaged with important issues or sending links to mask patterns or a list of needs from a local food shelf.”
Here are a few other tips that will improve your advocacy reach this fall:
- Increase your social media/email advocacy. You can read about UNA-USA’s chapter communications resources here.
- Partner with other clubs on advocacy issues – for instance, host a voter information session with the university’s political science club. This will widen your reach to different audiences around campus and increase your advocacy participation.
- Reach out to activists and speakers. Many of us are more available to hop on a Zoom meeting during COVID-19, so reach out to people you’re interested in hearing from and host an advocacy workshop or a speaker series.
- Think LOCAL. What resources, services, or fundraising can you provide for organizations in your area?
- Take advantage of all the virtual advocacy opportunities available – explore UNA-USA’s Virtual Activities Hub and Guide to Virtual Events for more ideas to diversify your virtual programming.