Civic Engagement and Advocacy Blog

No time for grassrooots advocacy? Find volunteer lobbyists!

Posted by Joel Blackwell on 11/20/13 1:18 PM

The following post is a guest post by Joel Blackwell, the Grassroots Guy, author of "Personal Political Power."

We recently wrote about two of the two greatest objections to grassroots advocacy. It's no surprise that the biggest one is that there isn't enough time or people to make it happen. For many that means needing volunteers. But recruiting volunteer lobbyists isn't as easy as it sounds, and once you have them it can be time consuming to manage.

In the reverse, the volunteers themselves don't think they have the time either. In my focus group, research association members would often say they don't want to become volunteer lobbyists because it takes too much time. They often think they have to take a day off from work drive to the capitol to lobby.

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So it will help your recruiting if you emphasize that they can do much of the work by phone, email and social media. You can also tell them that more than likely you won't ask them to do anything more than three or four times a year, if that's the case, as it usually is.

It will also help if you have clear expectations set in writing so that volunteers know what will be expected of them. Below is a sample job description adapted from several used by associations I worked with. You might think it is intimidating and a bit formal. In fact, it reassures your volunteers to know what the expectations are before they take the job. If they can't do it, they can decline and that's better for them and for the association.

Sample Grassroots Advocacy Volunteer Job Description

General Responsibilities:

Key contact agrees to build and maintain strong, positive relationships with assigned members of the state legislature or United States Senate and House of Representatives, contact them as requested and deliver PAC check.

Specific Objectives:

Key contact is responsible for staying abreast of association legislative priorities and initiatives through association government relations mailings, Internet postings, and the newsletter.

Key contact is to meet personally with a designated legislator at least two times a year to review priority legislative issues.

Key contact is to invite legislator to visit business for information session and photo op at least annually.

Key contact is to deliver PAC campaign check to assigned legislator as necessary.

Key contact is to attend local meetings with association staff as needed. This includes attendance at the annual association government relation summer group meetings and probably local political meetings the assigned legislator attends

Communicating Issues:

Key contact is to respond to requests for contact as indicated in legislative alerts. Action requested may consist of writing a letter, coordinating a letter-writing campaign, making a personal visit, or calling a legislator.


Key contact is to promptly report back to government relations staff (by faxing the response form, e-mail, or telephone) on contacts made; report should include any legislator comments on issues discussed.

Key contact is expected to participate in political action committee with a leadership contribution, personal contribution, and volunteer time.

Give your grassroots lobbying volunteers the tools to save time.

There will always be a need for humans to connect with other humans in order to create momentum around an issue. Nothing can be completed automated. You can enhance the way your volunteers communicate by giving them access to the grassroots advocacy software tools that will help them fulfill their communication duties as volunteers.

Reporting through an advocacy software tool should also do more than tell you who opened an email. Whether or not they sent an email, or called, and what the outcome of that advocacy action is where the real grassroots advocacy insights lie.

Education is also a necessary part of a grassroots advocacy campaign. Leverage technology will help you to continually educate your volunteers and audience.

Joel Blackwell

Written by Joel Blackwell

Topics: grassroots lobbying, grassroots advocacy