Often, advocacy organizations and associations aim their grassroots strategy directly at federal level officials because Congress bears the most political clout. However, these organizations are usually engaged in policy issues at not only the national level, but state and local levels as well. From City Council to Congress, there are thousands of elected officials holding public office today in various levels of government. Organizations with strong grassroots programs have an incredible capacity to influence legislation at local and state levels, because these legislators are often more approachable than federal representatives. Additionally, influencing legislation at a state and/or local level may be more realistic, because these representatives have a more limited political scope than federal politicians who draft policy that is on behalf of the entire nation. Below are some tips to optimize your advocacy strategies for state legislatures and local governments:
- Determine when your state’s legislature is in session, and piece together a timeline of your advocacy initiatives. If your organization operates across state-lines, setting a policy agenda is helpful in ensuring that your state-level advocacy is effective and relevant.
- Get involved in the local media. Local media outlets are always looking to publish interesting stories about local issues and are much more accessible than media companies that cover national news. Send a press release and include a personal message, highlighting your willingness to meet with them and discuss your organization’s involvement in local political affairs. The local connection is key!
- Urge your grassroots supporters to stay aware of local issues that your organization supports/defends/opposes. Increase your organization’s legitimacy by growing your grassroots outreach programs at the local level, and in turn, you organization will become more powerful at the local political scene. Grassroots movements are powerful and effective at a local level.
- Think local. Members of Congress and their staffers are incredibly busy, and chances are, interns are probably reading the letters and answering the phones if your organization directs an advocacy push towards the federal level. Narrowing your advocacy scope to the state and local level may increase your chances that your campaign letters will be read by the actual elected official, and not one of their employees.
In sum, we hope our tips will motivate you to include a state and local approach to grassroots advocacy. Going local will increase your legitimacy as your grassroots program strengthens, and in turn, the likelihood that your organization will influence public policy increases. We hope your future advocacy work takes local advocacy into consideration as a key factor to amplifying your voice in public decision-making!