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Advocacy Basics: 10 Things You Need To Know About Grassroots Advocacy

By: Chazz Clevinger & Josh Habursky


1. Authenticity

To build a successful advocacy program you need an authentic issue to solve and a group of genuinely concerned citizens that are willing to stand up for their point of view in front of policymakers. Organizations can support these movements, but the issues and sentiments must be organic. 

2. Time

A successful advocacy program will require time of staff and volunteers, financial resources, and technology tools to support the communications and mobilizing functions of a given campaign. Advocacy software and skilled professionals that utilize this tool are paramount to the overall sustainability of a campaign or movement. 

3. Patience

Chances are that you’re not going to build a grassroots army overnight. An advocacy professional must be patient and take necessary steps for gradual growth and seize opportunities during the right period of time for exponential growth. You need to have the pulse of the public policy process. 

4. Strategy

You need to have a plan and a set of achievable goals. Whether you are setting up a brand new advocacy organization or facilitated a program that has been around for decades, you need to have a well-thought out strategy and work to execute the strategy while being able to adapt to new challenges and opportunities. A plan and strategy are required, but you shouldn’t be afraid to call an audible. 

5. Persistence

You should not expect to win every campaign. Grassroots advocacy is a combination of art and science with a degree of trial and error. You need to be able to learn from both the successes and failure of campaigns to adapt your strategy and program. The art of persistence is key to grassroots success. 

6. Efficiency

Modern government affairs requires a grassroots or grasstops program to be effective and efficient. Grassroots advocacy is one of the many spokes that move the policy wheel. If your organization has not set up a program, now is the time to invest in this critical function. Covid-19 has changed the world. In person Hill Days are no longer possible in many states. Digital tools for grassroots advocacy are more important than ever for success. 

7. Specificity

Trade associations, corporations, and nonprofit organizations can all have a grassroots program. However, the style and tactics will vary based on specific factors that are connected to the type of organization. A program in a large corporation may be vastly different than in a small nonprofit. However, the different types of organizations should maintain some of the same factors in the program. Your campaigns should be specific to your organization's culture. 

8. Cumulative

You might not have a constant flurry of action alerts, but you can still nurture your grassroots program by building civic education resources, information, and training to equip your advocates for the policy challenges ahead. Your program should be cumulative and never be dormant. You must constantly be building new and current resources to engage and motivate your advocates, and keep them interested in your issues. 

9. Integrated

Grassroots advocacy is not a replacement for direct lobbying. A well-run online advocacy campaign should complement the efforts of your direct lobbying team or contract lobbying firm. The degree of integration between digital advocacy, public relations and direct lobbying will often determine the success or failure of an initiative based on the coordination and cooperation between these functions.

10. Multifaceted 

Grassroots advocacy can come in many forms ranging from a simple retweet on social media to a face-to-face meeting with lawmakers in Washington, D.C. A skilled advocacy professional will leverage the tools and technology to deploy these forms of advocacy at the appropriate time during the legislative or regulatory process.

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