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Five Steps to Building a Successful Grassroots Campaign

Five Steps to Building a Successful Grassroots Campaign

If your organization is looking to make an impact on an issue, kickstarting a grassroots advocacy campaign can be an effective way to get in the ear of members of Congress. For example, say your organization is looking to increase science funding in the federal budget. Here are five key steps to build a grassroots campaign to move the needle on the issue.

Identify Your Target Legislators

First, a key initial step is to identify a subset of target legislators with whom your organization wants to build relationships. With a new endeavor, it would be a challenge to build relationships with all 535 members of Congress, so finding champions is necessary to get off the ground. These target legislators come in two main buckets—who should care and who is already active.

The members who should care are comprised of those whose districts are significantly impacted by the issue you care about or members who sit on the relevant committees. In the case of science funding, you would want to look to members on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology or members with a high number of constituents employed in science and technology.

The group who is already active is measured based on those who are speaking out about the issue, even if their link to the issue is less clear than in the first bucket. This would include members of Congress sharing their interest in science on social media or those who are cosponsoring existing legislation about science-related issues.

Develop an Ambassador Program

An ambassador program provides an opportunity for grasstops advocates to build relationships with the target legislators identified in the first step. To find the right people to participate, it is important to survey your network to identify an individual for each target legislator.

To make sure those individuals are effective advocates, it is necessary to structure your program with clear goals and action items in order to build a back-and-forth relationship between that individual and the legislator. Key action items entail tasks such as scheduling a meeting with the member in the district, attending events where the member will be present, visiting the member in Washington, and making a smaller ask in advance of a bigger ask such as introducing your target legislation.

After a long-term relationship has been built between the ambassador and the legislator, the ambassador should make a bigger ask of their member to introduce or sponsor a significant piece of legislation regarding science funding.

Build Your Pitch for Each Member

Once you have built relationships with your target legislators and had a piece of legislation introduced, you have to build support in the full chamber. You’ve already solidified your pitch to your target legislators, now expand that to a broader pitch that encompasses how your legislation will impact each individual state or district.

Would the additional science funding allow a facility to be built in a district? Would it employ more constituents in their district? Would it allow school performance in STEM to improve? Any way your legislation impacts their voters can be valuable information to get them on your side.

Set Up a Webpage

Now that you’ve built solid, long lasting relationships between grasstops advocates and members of Congress and begun pitching to the wider chamber, you need a strong website to prove your legitimacy as a policy advocate. This plays a factor on both the side of the member digging into whether this is a cause worth supporting and the side of the advocate deciding whether to join in your movement.

But what should you put on your website? The most important piece is a widget for advocates to easily write their member of Congress without needing to leave your site. This allows you to both keep your message on the minds of members of Congress and capture the contact information of advocates to keep them informed to updates on your issue.

Activate Your Advocates

With a website that has the tools for advocates to write to their legislator, you need to create a campaign that activates those advocates to take advantage of your resources and write, call, and tweet their member of Congress. One way you can get potential advocates to find your action center is to run web and social media ads targeted at your preferred audiences.

Once you have a collection of advocates who have entered their information into your widget and showed interest in your cause, you can use their contact information to keep them up to date on activity related to your issue. For example, if science funding legislation progresses or stalls in the chamber, or if there is a key change in language that has significant implications, let them know and push them to reach out to their legislator again.

By following these steps, an organization can get their grassroots campaign off the ground by building a strong foundation of grasstops with relationships with target legislators. Fostering a strong grassroots movement doesn’t always happen overnight, but taking clear steps toward your end goal can lead to success.