Civic Engagement and Advocacy Blog

From Zero to 60 with Grassroots Activism: Arkansas Learns Case Study

Posted by Brent Willis on 7/8/15 12:32 PM

The Financial Challenge of Grassroots Activism

It has been said that “We can always live on less when we have more to live for.” Nowhere is this sentiment tested more than nonprofit work (and especially grassroots activism). While there is no doubt that our passion and utilizing our base of volunteers can fuel an impressive amount of progress, the “living on less” part can turn from a practical reality into a stiffling momemtum killer.

Yes, nonprofits are often asked to do more with less. And arguably, they need to be smarter with their decision making than for-profit organizations, simply because they often don’t have the resources to pay for their mistakes.

With the stakes so high, many nonprofits are looking to work leaner and smarter than ever before. And many are counting on technology to help them succeed.


What Insights Can Be Gained from Grassroots Advocacy Campaigns?

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 1/27/15 1:39 PM

How a lobbyist was able leverage civic engagement data.

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking with Caroline Rayburn, the Government Affairs Associate at The Charles Group, a legislative consulting firm that focuses on policy analysis and intelligence, strategic planning, and government relations for their Federal clients.

Caroline has been working directly with the Association of Mature American Citizens, or AMAC, as their chief lobbyist. Caroline shared some of her strategies and the surprising results from their most recent grassroots advocacy campaign. 


How to Design a Great Grassroots Advocacy Website

Posted by Georgia Barnes on 9/25/14 2:43 PM

Engaging and organizing members to take action on behalf of your cause is the essence of grassroots advocacy. With 2.92 billion Internet users worldwide, if you don’t have a grassroots advocacy website, you are really missing out. Designing or updating a website can be expensive and time-consuming. Make sure you follow these best practices for successful grassroots advocacy website design. 

First things first: Make a plan

You can’t just dive into a project head first and expect to achieve the results you are dreaming of. Take the time to sit back and think about your end goals and then create a strategy that will help map out how you reach them.

1) Create member persona profiles

A member persona profile is a  semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. Member personas help you understand and identify your audience. Ask yourself who your ideal members are, and then research details about them, focusing on motives behind behaviors, to figure out their needs and desires. For more on developing useful member personas, check out our Essential Guide to Member Engagement.

2) Develop SMART goals

SMART is an acronym for smart, measurable attainable, relevant, and timely. Develop SMART goals for your website. What do you want the site to accomplish? What actions do you want people to take on your website? Be a specific as possible when setting SMART goals.


Design a Grassroots Campaign That Really (Really!) Works

Posted by Erica Hatch on 9/19/14 11:06 AM

When you care deeply about a cause or desperately want to fix a problem, it is frustrating and demoralizing to watch your grassroots campaigns fizzle and fail to motivate action. When that happens, it’s not because your cause isn’t compelling. It’s because you haven’t taken all the steps you need to design a grassroots marketing strategy that really works. At Votility, we spend a lot of time thinking about what it takes to run a successful grassroots advocacy campaign. Here’s what we’ve learned: 

Large numbers and loud voices—not required!

A lot of people think that the success of a grassroots campaign rests on large numbers and loud voices. But it isn’t the amount of money or the number of members that make or break a grassroots campaign. It’s the design. If you start from the bottom, build a strong base, andgrow from there, you will be off to a great start. But how, exactly, do you design a grassroots campaign that really, really, works? Let me explain.


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.


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

How to 'Make the Ask' in Your Government Relations

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 9/12/13 2:08 PM

Inside tips from lawmakers on how to get what you want from your grassroots advocacy campaigns.

So many individuals and organizations spend a lot of time and effort to get the attention or a meeting with lawmakers. Then once they do, they spend a lot of valuable time trying to make their case to the lawmaker. It's natural, you are passionate about your cause. But is it the best way to make the ask?


How to Leverage Social Media Influencers for Grassroots Advocacy

Posted by Brent Willis on 6/7/13 8:00 AM

There is no question that social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have changed the way we communicate and share information.  Because of their widespread appeal and vast reach, they have become highly effective tools for grassroots advocacy on pending legislation.