A successful grassroots campaign starts with a well-informed, enthusiastic base of supporters. So how can grassroots advocacy managers gather a group of powerful advocates that will answer their calls to action? Consider building a grassroots network of advocates.
Start With Your Base
A grassroots network is an online environment where potential advocates can indicate they are interested in joining your cause. Whether you work for a university and the alumni are stepping forward or you are advocating for a particular issue and supporters are finding you on the internet, the fact is that people out there are willing to help. The key to gathering these interested individuals is to make it easy to find you and easy to join your cause. New advocates should be able to sign up on your website by entering their email address. Entice new sign ups by offering information about your cause like weekly newsletters, updates on important legislation, or tools to help them find their elected officials.
Once your advocates join your network, it is time to learn something about them. Here is some information you should consider collecting on all of your advocates in your network:
Simple data like the advocate’s name, address, email, and other basic information will be incredibly useful to you when creating an advocacy network. Having your advocate’s email addresses ensures that you will be able to engage your network with informational updates or calls to action, with blast emails. With the advocate’s home address you can assign them to their legislative district using geo-coding techniques so you can look at your database and see how many supporters you have in each elected official’s district (Click Here to learn more about Geo-coding). This is a valuable tool, especially when you are speaking with legislators. Walking into a meeting with a list of supporters that live in a legislator’s district can give you the upper-hand when trying to advocate for your issues.
Level of Commitment
When advocates join your network you need to find out what they are willing to do for your organization. Some people that sign up will have no interest in sending emails or making phone calls on your behalf. Others will be eager to make calls, send emails, testify at committee hearings and generally perform anything to support an issue that your organization has… Learning the distinction from the moment an advocate signs up will give you a better understanding of the level of action that you can expect from individuals. If your network has 1000 people in it and 200 people have stated that they are not willing to participate in grassroots campaigns, then when your call to action goes out you have a better idea of who will really be participating.
Having advocates tell you who they know in your state or at federal level is potentially the most valuable data you can get from an advocate. Politics is a business of relationships, and who you know can be more important to a grassroots campaign than how many people you have participating. One advocate that has a personal relationship with an elected official can have as much of an impact on them as ten random constituents. When your advocates sign up for your grassroots network, consider capturing some information on who they know at the capitol. Elected officials are citizens of their districts, so they are bound to have neighbors, friends, and associates that live in their district that may support your cause. Perhaps one of your supporters lives next door to an elected official or has social contact with him/her once a week. If you never collect political relationship information then you may be missing out on the best way to extend your reach into the capitol (Click Here to learn more about collecting political relationships).
When you have collected all this information you end up with a segmented database that is a powerful tool you can use to improve your voice at the capitol. You will have the ability to look at an elected official and see who lives in their district, who knows them, and who is willing to step forward and contact them on your behalf. With data like this your next grassroots campaign can be targeted better and more effective.