It’s no secret how pivotal social media, especially Facebook, is to a successful grassroots advocacy campaign and more often than not it's going to be how someone who isn't a member of your organization finds your advocacy campaign. And while tracking pixels, targeted audiences, ads, and boosted content are important — there are fundamental practices that get overlooked that can up engagement rates and the efficacy of your advocacy.
From City Council to Congress, there are thousands of elected officials across the country holding public office in various levels of government. Advocacy organizations and associations often "think big" and focus their grassroots efforts on influencing federal policy. However, it is also important that mission-driven groups also consider the impact of policy work on both a state and local level. Local legislators are often more accessible than members of Congress (due to the scope of their legislative work), transforming even one grassroots connection into a powerful point-of-contact. At Muster, we've had the fortune of witnessing many incredible associations and advocacy groups effect change in cities, counties, and in state legislatures nationwide. Below are some tips to get the most out of grassroots advocacy at the local and state levels:
Nonprofits engaging in advocacy should look to Patagonia’s involvement in grassroots and political activism as a leading example of a civic-minded company. Revered for its outdoor gear and apparel, Patagonia has also built an impressive reputation as an environmental champion. A self-described “Activist Company”, Patagonia has proven its commitment to environmental causes for decades (according to this article, Patagonia has hosted grassroots trainings for 20 years!) In recent months, Patagonia has emerged as a trailblazer in the defense of public lands through the use of digital advocacy tools. With the aid of online advocacy, Patagonia inspired civic engagement among like-minded citizens by empowering them through political participation. Here are four things nonprofit organizations can learn from Patagonia’s remarkable environmental activism:
How do grassroots advocacy software and community advocacy intersect? As a leader or member of an organization you know that, more important than anything, are the community members that care about your cause. They’re the ones who help put in the footwork to make a positive change happen, especially in grassroots advocacy. It can be difficult to get your community engaged especially when you need them the most. That’s where the wonders of grassroots advocacy software come in:
In an article entitled, “Creating High-Impact Nonprofits”, Stanford researchers Heather McLeod Grant & Leslie Crutchfield identified key characteristics of high-performing nonprofits. They found that successful nonprofits were able to effectively mobilize citizens around their mission by implementing robust public policy programs and advocacy initiatives. Here's a brief excerpt:
“The secret to their success lies in how high-impact nonprofits mobilize every sector of society – government, business, nonprofits, and the public – to be a force for good. In other words, greatness has more to do with how nonprofits work outside the boundaries of their organizations than with how they manage their own internal operations.”
In a democratic society, citizens have the freedom to organize and form social networks, movements, and cause-oriented groups.
Social capital refers to the collective importance of relationships among individuals, and the beneficial effect of these social networks on the greater good. It’s not strictly a general assessment about how friendly a group of people can be -- social capital is important.
Grassroots advocacy software is a key component to any nonprofit's public policy efforts and they give organizations a leg up in engaging their member and supporter networks with elected officials. As the advocacy software space continues to grow nonprofits will have access to newer and better tools.
We've put together a list (in no particular order) of some of the top available options for nonprofits:
(Blog Updated 10/28/2019 to reflect changes in grassroots advocacy software market)
Constituent communication is an essential part of the policymaking process. Legislators rely on receiving feedback and requests from their voters in order to craft policy that reflects the wishes and needs of the community they serve. Successful grassroots campaigns can effectively shape lawmaker behavior and legislative outcomes. However, grassroots campaigns can also be unsuccessful if executed without considering several important factors, as this blog post outlines below. The single most important piece of advice to remember when developing a grassroots campaign is to aim for authenticity. Constituent communication derives its power from the sincerity behind genuine citizen engagement. It is vital that a massive grassroots campaign doesn’t bury authenticity and that individual constituent voices are not lost in the noise.
If you are the leader in your organization facilitating grassroots campaigns, there are several measures you can take to increase your advocacy efforts' influence.
We’ve worked extensively with both association and nonprofit professionals, learning how these leaders engage their members and supporters in their organization's legislative and political advocacy initiatives.
As we continue to speak with professionals involved in government relations with nonprofit organizations, the more we understand how significant the method is that they use to execute their advocacy strategy. Here are four reasons why using an online advocacy service can improve your method to approaching advocacy and net greater legislative results:
“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” -Aristotle
Why is a blog dedicated to association and nonprofit advocacy is quoting Aristote? Consider this post a reminder that an association’s grassroots advocacy efforts are only as strong as the individual efforts of its membership. Transforming political advocacy into an empowering experience for your membership is the key to successful government relations.
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:
When was the last time you reached out to your most active members and thanked them for their active participation in your organization's political advocacy efforts? Recognizing and thanking your “five star” advocates is a win-win strategy. Not only does shining a light on your most active advocates strengthen your relationship with them, but it also increases the likelihood that they will continue to engage in your association or nonprofit's advocacy initiatives.
Have you ever heard of “slacktivism”? The idea of slacktivism “posits that people who support a cause by performing simple measures are not truly engaged or devoted to making a change”, according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. The term implies that signing a petition, or digitally engaging in advocacy suggests that someone is a slacker because taking action only took a few seconds to perform. The word itself is composed of “slacker” and “activism”.
“Political mobilization is seldom spontaneous” - Jack Walker
Many organizations exist for the purpose of political advocacy. Their lifeblood is the promotion of a particular cause in the public sector. Therefore, it is of critical importance that these organizations have a strategic approach to advocacy that allows these groups to be efficient and successful year round. Digital advocacy is a key component in motivating supporter action by engaging them through online platforms. We’ve put together a simple checklist to help highlight the important consideration in developing a digital advocacy strategy.
In the increasingly digital world where all nonprofits and associations operate, technology has dramatically changed the way that advocacy is conducted. Gone are the days when grassroots advocacy meant canvassing door-to-door or wielding megaphones to amplify one’s voice. Innovation in technology has not only enhanced organizations’ general effectiveness in achieving their policy goals, but also completely transformed the way that communication occurs between an organization and its contacts. To this end, groups on a mission to influence public policy need to integrate digital tools into their advocacy strategies. We’ve created a three-pronged approach to evaluating the reasons why it is vital to leverage new technology as a key to affecting social change (as you can tell, we LOVE the intersection between advocacy and technology!):