Grassroots lobbying is a form of advocacy focused on shifting public opinion and mobilizing citizens to influence policy.
Grassroots lobbying differs from traditional lobbying, which involves directly interacting with lawmakers. In contrast, grassroots lobbying indirectly engages with lawmakers by encouraging ordinary citizens to communicate with lawmakers through phone calls, texts, emails, social media, letters, etc.
By mobilizing large numbers of people to take action, grassroots efforts can create a groundswell of support and pressure legislators to take notice.
The primary elements of a grassroots lobbying campaign are:
- Recruiting advocates to get involved with a campaign.
- Educating advocates on critical issues.
- Mobilizing advocates to take action.
- Reporting back to key stakeholders.
The terms grassroots lobbying and grassroots advocacy are often used interchangeably. But, depending on who you ask, there is a slight difference. For example, some public affairs professionals categorize grassroots advocacy as focusing on a broader cause, while grassroots lobbying focuses on a singular piece of legislation.
For example, a grassroots advocacy campaign might focus on educating the public about the benefits of more pedestrian and bike-friendly pathways in a city. Meanwhile, a grassroots lobbying campaign would focus on a specific bill that earmarks funds for expanded bike lanes.
At Quorum, we use the terms interchangeably.
Disclosure: Lobbying is highly regulated, and legal definitions may vary by jurisdiction. If you are unsure about the laws in your state, please contact a public affairs or legal professional.
Benefits of Grassroots Lobbying
Grassroots lobbying can be more effective than traditional lobbying because constituents may be better at persuading lawmakers than lobbyists — especially on emotionally charged issues.
Grassroots lobbying also allows organizers to reach more members of Congress. For example, if your cause has hundreds of advocates, you’re much more likely to be able to talk to hundreds of lawmakers, unlike a solo lobbyist who can only meet with a small handful of legislators.
Grassroots lobbying is also beneficial to democracy as a whole. It allows people to have a direct say in the political process and affect change on issues that matter to them personally.
Furthermore, grassroots lobbying allows people to connect and work towards a common goal. This can help build a sense of community and solidarity around an issue and help people feel like they’re part of something larger than themselves. This can be particularly important for people who feel their voices are not being heard.
Overall, grassroots lobbying can be an effective way for people to have a say in the political process and to bring about change on issues they care about. By engaging and mobilizing large numbers of people, grassroots efforts can create a groundswell of support that can be difficult for legislators to ignore.