Civic Engagement and Advocacy Blog

Are Online Communities the Answer for Grassroots Advocacy?

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 2/12/15 7:00 AM

Advocacy doesn't happen all the time, and when it comes to grassroots advocacy, the more educated your members, stakeholders, volunteers, and other constituents are, the more likely you are going to be able to motivate them to take action. The more grassroots advocacy action you can generate, the more likely you are going to be able to get lawmakers attention. 


Timing is Everything for Grassroots Advocacy Results

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 2/5/15 7:30 AM

How fast can you ready to mobilize your members and stakeholders?

I don't think anyone who is involved in government relations and advocacy is surprised by this legislative calendar graphic from TrackBill that shows that between now and the end of April is the busiest time of the year for most state sessions.


Step Up Your Advocacy Like AFG

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 8/25/14 3:35 PM

Alliance for Girls Awarded Free Votility License at #ASAE14

Alliance for Girls (AFG) is an association of girl-serving organizations and leaders who provide a strong voice for girls across the San Francisco Bay Area. They have more than 60 member organizations that collectively serve over 90,000 girls.  


What Glenn Beck Doesn't Know About Grassroots Advocacy

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 8/6/14 2:43 PM

On my drive home last week, I listened to an NPR story describing Glenn Beck and his “a live, interactive ‘night of action’ against the Common Core State Standards.” Glenn Beck has argued vocally against the educational standards that are now in place in 43 states.

Efforts to inspire a grassroots campaign

The story goes on to describe Beck’s mission to inspire a movement by creating a documentary movie on the subject, called "We Will Not Conform." Reporting from a number of theaters where the documentary was aired, the commentator describes how Beck plays on emotion as he tells parents, teachers, administrators and other movie viewers that our nation's most valuable asset, our children, are at risk. He appeals to logic, discussing how the Core supports corporate interests with several panels of experts and activists.

Every night, after the movie ends, Beck asks viewers to stand up and discuss their thoughts and ideas. If this is Beck’s plan to start a movement—to educate, engage, and mobilize individuals—he is missing a big piece of the puzzle.


Your Nonprofit’s Most Overlooked Marketing & Fundraising Opportunity

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 7/9/14 3:33 PM

Grassroots advocacy is key to your fundraising strategy

Most people do not like to consider themselves political advocates. The word “politics” evokes power, the influence of others and exerting control. As we all know, “with great power, comes great responsibility.” And for many nonprofit executives I talk to, they don’t want to get caught in that crossfire. However, trying to avoid politics is like trying to avoid the need for fundraising. No one wants to admit they have to do it—but the hidden truth is that they do if they want to fulfill their mission, purpose, and bring change that helps their communities evolve for the better.


Grassroots Campaigns — Independence Day Style

Posted by Jeff Ryan on 7/3/14 11:05 AM

Advocacy has always been the cornerstone of freedom

As we Americans prepare for a long weekend off to honor our country’s freedom, let's consider the role of advocacy in establishing and maintaining our democracy.


Taking Action, Inspiring Membership Engagement, Getting Results

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 4/22/14 7:00 AM

How the National Resources Council of Maine Engages Members to Become Grassroots Advocates

Since today is Earth Day, I was reminded of a recent presentation I attended by Lisa Pohlmann, the Executive Director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, regarding what it takes for an advocacy organization to engage communities and get citizens active and involved.

As a lifelong Mainer, protecting our natural resources is very important to me. So I was especially interested in hearing about how NRCM managed such a tremendous and crucial task. What I learned is that many of the same traits, strategies, and tactics they have can be applied to other organizations.


Grassroots Advocacy and the Lifecycle of Pending Legislation (Part One)

Posted by Jeff Ryan on 1/10/14 12:58 PM

Engaging your members at the right times in the process is critical to your ongoing success

The legislative process can at times seem long, convoluted and rife with movement, delays and highly publicized maneuvering. However, all bills introduced into the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives follow the same basic path. A working knowledge of the process will allow your organization to organize and execute initiatives that will engage and inspire your members to get involved when you need them to in order to affect the result.

As always, the further upstream your advocates can get involved in shaping the language of a bill or influencing changes along the way, the happier they (and you) are apt to be with the result.

We’ve identified the 14 crucial steps in the legislative process that provide opportunities for grassroots advocacy organizations to influence outcomes. This post is part one of a three-part series examining the 14 steps of the legislative process in detail and providing an overview of the best avenues for member engagement.

The legislative process: Steps 1-5

1. Introduction
Anyone may draft a bill. (In recent years, organizations have increasingly taken the lead in crafting the language of bills introduced in the House and Senate.) However, the formal introduction of legislation can only be done by members of Congress. By doing so, they become the bill’s sponsor(s). A piece of legislation (a bill, joint resolution, concurrent resolution or simple resolution) enters the legislative process when it is assigned a number — H.R. signifies a bill introduced in the House of representatives and S. signifies a bill introduced in the Senate. The bill is then printed by the Government Printing Office, then…

2. Referred to a committee

Almost all bills are referred to a standing committee in the legislative body where the bill originated. When the bill reaches a committee, it is…


6 Steps to Applying the 80/20 Rule for Grassroots Campaigns

Posted by Jeff Ryan on 12/30/13 9:09 AM

Which 20% of your membership is doing 80% of your grassroots advocacy work?

Many of us are familiar with the 80/20 Rule which states that, for many situations, roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. Here are some popular applications of the 80/20 rule as it relates to businesses:

    • 80% of a company's profits come from 20% of its customers
    • 80% of a company's complaints come from 20% of its customers
    • 80% of a company's profits come from 20% of its staff’s time
    • 80% of a company's sales come from 20% of its products
    • 80% of a company's sales are made by 20% of its sales staff

The same principals apply to your membership organization and grassroots advocacy campaigns. The key to successful results is 2 fold. First, you have to know which 20% of your members are your best advocates. Second, you have to make sure that you focus your grassroots advocacy campaign planning and launch to focus on that 20%. Instead of maxing out staff resources to cover every possible member and channel, you can focus on the 120% that will take care of the remaining 80%.

6 steps to apply the Pareto Principle to your grassroots advocacy campaigns.


How NOT to Use Data for Grassroots Advocacy Campaigns

Posted by Jeff Ryan on 12/18/13 9:48 AM

When it comes to grassroots engagement, very smart and passionate people seem to have lost their sense of what the best use of statistics really is. When used to