In working with organizations that utilize grassroots tools to help improve their advocacy efforts, we’ve noticed there is a gap between those that are successful and those that feel that their system has not had the traction they need to justify the effort. While some audiences are not concerned enough about the issues to warrant an advocacy network, there are three elements grassroots organizers can implement to improve the chances that their advocacy network will be a success.
Start With A Plan
Grassroots lobbying takes effort, and in order to assure that the work you put into the process is beneficial you need to have a plan set in place. Gathering a large group of supporters and blast emailing them with a call to action every time you have an issue is not the best way to approach a grassroots lobbying campaign. Start slow and build up a network of interested parties that are willing to answer a call to action. Keep them informed on issues and educate them about your message. We have heard time and again from grassroots organizers that are surprised by the low response rate their calls to action receive. People that are unaware or under-informed about issues are much less likely to act. Formulate a plan to make sure that you are gathering quality supporters and continuing to reach them.
The Laws of Direct Marketing Apply
In the marketing world there is a general rule that says for any given call to action you are likely to get a 2-3% response rate. The same rule can be applied to grassroots efforts. If you issue a call to action to a potential supporter audience of 1,000 people don’t expect 500 responses. A good turnout here would be 20 to 30 people. If you only communicate with your audience when you need their support, a 2% or 3% response rate is likely, however if you are continually contacting them and keeping them informed on the issues you can drive up the response rate even higher. A response rate of 10% from a group of 1,000 supporters can be 100 well informed supporters that are ready to make calls and write letters which can be as effective as 200 uninformed responders.
Lobbying is a Year-Round Process
Many people think that lobbying is only done during the legislative sessions. Today though, meetings are held and decisions are made through-out the year and implemented during the session. This means grassroots organizers need to be able to keep their supporters aware of what is coming down the pipe. Your grassroots tools should do more than just issue a call to action, and they need to be able to distinguish the casual supporters from the ardent ones. If your supporters have a relationship with elected officials you can use the off-session time to reach out and touch the politicians when they are less busy. Your grassroots tools should help track these relationships as well. Lobbying does not start and end with the legislative session, so your grassroots support system should not either.