Recently, a discussion on LinkedIn made me think about online grassroots campaigns. The author of the discussion asked “How much should one focus on an online campaign?” While it may be incredibly unsatisfying, the answer is: “It depends.”
Yes, it is important for grassroots organizers to focus on an online campaign, but the problem begs a question that is much more useful for grassroots organizers. “How can my online tools be implemented into my strategy effectively?” Some online tools are more effective at specific tasks than others, so it is important that you utilize the right tool for the right job. Here are three parts of a campaign to keep in mind and the tools that can support each piece.
Publish Your Issues
The first step of a grassroots campaign is to inform your audience of the issues that are important to your organization. If your supporters are not knowledgeable about your organization’s issues, it is unlikely that they will answer your call to action. A website is a great online tool to publish your issues and any news that may be related to them. Your website can offer content that keeps readers up to date on the latest information about your topics of concern. If your issues are affected by legislation, consider implementing a legislative tracking system into your website so readers can monitor the bills that are important to the organization.
If your issues appeal to a wide variety of people, social media can be an effective tool to gather supporters and draw them to the content on your site. Start a Facebook group that discusses your issues and point your group’s followers to your website to convert them into supporters.
For organizations that have a more specialized target audience, social media may not be an effective medium. A more targeted strategy, such as a blast email campaign, may be more effective at informing a specific audience. Your emails can be short and informative with links to more information.
Convey Your Stance
While publishing your content, be sure to convey your organization’s stance on the topic. Your stance may not always be as simple as “We support” or “We oppose” a particular issue. Could a few minor changes to a piece of legislation change your opinion on an issue, or should the bill be thrown out entirely? As the primary informer, it is your job to make sure your audience not only understands the issue, but to make sure they understand exactly what your organization’s stance on it is and what should be done to fix the problem. The online tools you choose to utilize here should help to convey this message. Consider publishing editorial articles about particular issues on your website in the form of a blog, or find discussion boards about the issue online and voice your opinion.
Enable Your Audience to Act
Once your audience is informed and understands your stance it may be necessary to call them to action. An effective call to action has three key components: a clearly defined task, a specific targeted recipient, and an easy action process. For an effective grassroots call-to-action, you need your supporters be able to easily contact specifically targeted officials with a clearly defined message. Write an email for your supporters to send and post it on your website, and provide them the addresses of those that they should send it to. For those grassroots organizers that do this type of call-to-action frequently, consider adding a grassroots campaign application to your website. This type of system allows organizers to automate the process for supporters to quickly communicate to their legislators. With a grassroots campaign system you can create a custom email for your supporters to send to preassigned targeted elected officials with a simple click of the mouse. You can even monitor which supporters sent emails and what they said, allowing you to see what type of correspondence each lawmaker receives.
Make sure your online strategy utilizes the right tool for the right job. If you would like to learn more about how online tools can help advocates create effective grassroots campaigns, be sure to sign up for our webinar “Best Practices in Advocacy.”