Advocacy Strategies for a Successful Grassroots Campaign

Last Updated June 29, 2023

In a world filled with complex challenges and systemic issues, it’s easy for individuals to feel powerless or overlooked. But every problem, no matter how daunting, carries within it the potential for change. 

Grassroots campaigns emerge as a response to such problems—inequalities, injustices, and pressing concerns that demand attention. They give voice to the unheard and shed light on issues that affect communities at their core. 

But what exactly is a grassroots campaign?  

A grassroots campaign is a movement that mobilizes people in a district, state or community to drive collective action or advocate for a cause. They hold a special place in the realm of community organizing, political participation, and social activism. 

However, without effective advocacy strategies, these campaigns risk fading into the background, losing momentum, and failing to achieve their desired outcomes. 

From mobilizing supporters and connecting with stakeholders to influencing legislation and fostering social change, there are actionable steps you can take to ensure your grassroots campaign leaves a lasting impact.

Let’s dive in!

Advocacy strategies for a grassroots campaign

In this section, we will explore proven advocacy strategies that are designed to help you engage stakeholders, capture the attention of legislators, and build a strong movement around your cause. 

1. Build real relationships

When we talk about making a difference in our communities, it all starts with connecting on a personal level. Researchers like Brian D. Christens have emphasized that building grassroots movements requires building relationships.

Think about it: If someone you don’t know approaches asking about your deepest concerns and struggles, would you open up to them? 

Probably not. 

Trust, empathy, and understanding are essential ingredients in establishing connections with community members. 

It takes time and effort, but the results are worth it.

  1. Building real relationships helps you identify the problems individuals face within your community. You’ll find common ground and mobilize others who are also dealing with similar issues. This collective effort strengthens your advocacy.
  2. Consumers are more likely to trust recommendations that come from individuals they know and respect. This holds true in various settings, including advocacy. When you establish deep connections with people, they become your strongest supporters. They’re more likely to respond to your initiatives, participate in events, and contribute through donations or volunteering. These connections will amplify your impact and create a ripple effect throughout the community.

Let’s take a look at an example from MN350, an advocacy group focused on climate justice. They effectively used text messaging to mobilize young climate activists.

grassroots-campaign-mn350

Through this approach, MN350 achieved several important outcomes.

  1. Text messaging allowed them to gather valuable information about their supporters’ demographics and preferences. With this data, they could segment their contact list and send targeted messages, ensuring their communication was relevant and impactful.
  2. Personalized peer-to-peer texts helped MN350 recruit organizers who were passionate about their cause. By reaching out directly and establishing connections, they were able to bring in dedicated individuals to drive their initiatives forward.
  3. Text messaging proved to be instrumental in mobilizing supporters for rallies, events, and art builds. MN350 used this channel to keep their network informed and engaged, resulting in successful turnouts and increased participation.

Maintaining regular communication through text messaging helped MN350 build lasting relationships with their supporters. These connections extended beyond the initial mobilization, allowing them to engage their network in additional actions, such as signing petitions. 

In fact, their last petition received an impressive response rate of 22%!

2. Automate personalization

In today’s digital world, personalization refers to tailoring your messages and interactions to the specific needs, interests, and preferences of individuals. It involves using data and automation to deliver targeted and relevant content that resonates with everyone on a personal level.

Therefore, personalized messages are more likely to capture the attention of your audience and drive engagement. A study conducted by Campaign Monitor revealed that personalized email messages have 26% higher open rates and 760% higher click-through rates compared to generic emails.

When individuals feel that your campaign understands their specific concerns and values, they are more inclined to participate and take action.

Why automate personalization?

Grassroots movements aim to mobilize a significant number of individuals. Automation allows you to scale your personalization efforts without sacrificing quality. 

When you have a vast contact list of 50,000 people, each with their unique interests and ways of supporting you, it can be overwhelming to tailor messaging and channels for each individual. In today’s world, where political parties gather a wealth of information, including up to 3000 data points on each voter, it’s crucial not to fall behind using impersonal or generic outreach methods. 

The solution lies in leveraging the power of CRM and communication tools like CallHub.

Instead of manually crafting personalized messages for each contact, your role here is to define conditions, triggers, and actions within workflows or journeys in your communication tool. 

For instance, set conditions based on factors like your contact’s survey responses or specific actions they’ve taken. Set triggers based on events such as a contact replying positively to a survey and actions like sending a text message, making a call, or any other relevant communication.

Setting up these automated workflows ensures every contact is nudged in the right direction based on their specific characteristics and interests. The behind-the-scenes technical work may seem detached from your goal of driving real change, but it’s what enables you to deliver targeted messages to the right people at the right time.

This can result in, say, the following outcomes: 

  • Jake, a 34-year-old who experienced medical negligence resulting in his wife’s death, receives a message about the importance of universal healthcare. 
  • Max, an 18-year-old vegan, receives a text survey about climate change. 
  • Barb, a 60-year-old, gets a call on her home phone to discuss corruption.

The tailored messages mobilize individuals like Jake, Max, and Barb against candidate A, who has been linked to a company responsible for illegal deforestation and has a monopoly on insulin shots.

While the automation takes care of the initial touchpoints, nurturing these contacts towards your ultimate objective still requires the dedication of your volunteers and staff. However, knowing that your CRM triggers are aligned with each contact’s interests ensures that people who don’t resonate with a particular cause won’t be bombarded with irrelevant messages. 

This targeted approach enhances your credibility and shows contacts that you are serious about the issues that matter to them.

3. Educate or train supporters to talk to legislators

Since 2014, the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) has trained over 98,000 citizens, delivering more than 1,160 presentations, webinars, and videos on effectively communicating with Congress. This extensive training has equipped individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to engage in meaningful conversations with legislators. 

Moreover, their advocacy training has proven effective in preparing citizens for their meetings with congressional staff. In anonymous surveys conducted by CMF, 97% of congressional staffers reported that they found these individuals to be “very prepared” for their meetings. 

Clearly, providing your supporters with the necessary knowledge, skills, and confidence empowers them to advocate for your cause in a compelling and impactful manner. 

Here’s how to educate and train supporters before patching them through to legislators:

  1. Prepare talking points that align with your campaign’s objectives. These points should clearly articulate the issue, the desired outcome, and any supporting evidence or personal stories. Be concise with your talking points to ensure supporters can effectively convey their message within the limited time they have on a call with a legislator.
  2. Conduct training sessions either in-person or virtually, to educate your supporters on the talking points. During these sessions, explain the importance of their role as advocates and equip them with techniques for effective communication. 
  3. Provide informational resources, such as fact sheets or FAQs, that supporters can reference during their conversations with legislators. Make these materials easily accessible through your campaign’s website or by sharing digital copies with your supporters.
  4. Organize mock calls where supporters can practice their conversations with volunteers or campaign staff. These simulated phone calls help build confidence, refine talking points, and allow supporters to receive feedback and guidance on their communication skills. Provide tips on how to address potential challenges or objections from legislators.
  5. Facilitate peer-to-peer training sessions to foster a community of learning and support among your volunteers. Encourage them to share their experiences and insights with each other, either through online forums or in-person meetings.

4. Develop an ambassador program

According to a study by Gallup, engaged employees are 21% more productive and are more likely to be committed to the organization’s goals. Similarly, engaged supporters are more likely to actively advocate for your campaign.

An ambassador program leverages the enthusiasm and dedication of your supporters to amplify your message and establish meaningful relationships with target legislators. 

Here’s how to develop an ambassador program:

  1. Identify and recruit ambassadors within your supporter base who demonstrate strong commitment and enthusiasm for your campaign. Look for those who actively participate in events, share your content, or show leadership potential. Reach out to them personally and invite them to join your ambassador program, explaining the benefits and responsibilities of being an ambassador.
  2. Provide training and resources to ambassadors to equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to effectively represent your campaign. Provide them with resources such as campaign materials, talking points, and FAQs they can use to communicate your message accurately and persuasively. Conduct regular meetings or webinars to keep ambassadors updated on campaign progress and provide ongoing support.
  3. Schedule face-to-face district meetings between your ambassador and the legislator. These meetings provide an opportunity to establish a personal connection, discuss your campaign’s objectives, and share personal stories or data that support your cause. 
  4. Attend public events, town halls, or community gatherings where the legislator is present. Encourage your ambassador to attend these events and actively engage with the legislator. This creates visibility and allows your ambassador to discuss your campaign’s key points or concerns in a public setting. 
  5. Initiate smaller requests before making larger ones to establish credibility and build a rapport with the legislator. This could involve asking the legislator to attend a community event, share information about your cause on their social media platforms, or join a caucus relevant to your cause. 

Your ambassador now has the opportunity to make a significant ask of the legislator—to introduce or sponsor a crucial piece of legislation related to your cause. 

5. Develop a peer-to-peer strategy

Events that incorporate peer-to-peer fundraising have a conversion rate of 47%, which is the highest among all types of campaigns. This means that when individuals talk on behalf of a cause or organization, they are more likely to generate successful outcomes. 

The same principle can be applied to advocacies. 

A peer-to-peer (P2P) strategy harnesses the personal connections and networks of your supporters to expand your reach and influence. Using relational organizing and assigning dedicated points of contact for communication (POC) helps you create a sense of familiarity and trust. 

Here’s how to develop a peer-to-peer strategy:

  1. Encourage your supporters to reach out to their friends, family, colleagues, and community members who may be interested in your campaign. Provide them with resources, such as sample messages or talking points, that they can use when communicating with their contacts. Emphasize the power of personal connections in driving change and encourage supporters to share their personal stories and reasons for supporting your cause.
  2. Assign dedicated points of contact for each supporter. These POCs can be campaign staff or experienced volunteers who are responsible for maintaining communication with specific supporters. Assigning consistent POCs ensures your supporters have a familiar contact person who understands their concerns and preferences.
  3. Provide comprehensive training and ongoing support to volunteers so they are well-equipped to handle supporter communications. Train them on effective communication techniques, active listening skills, and how to address common questions or concerns. Empower them with resources such as FAQs or campaign materials they can use in their conversations and provide accurate information.
  4. Encourage volunteers to build authentic relationships with supporters by providing personalized support. Volunteers should strive to understand supporters’ unique perspectives and motivations, tailoring their communication accordingly. This personalized approach strengthens the bond between the campaign and its supporters, leading to increased engagement and loyalty.
  5. Provide accessible and efficient communication channels to volunteers. This can include dedicated email addresses, phone lines, or platforms where supporters can reach out to their assigned POCs directly. Ensure that volunteers respond promptly and provide valuable guidance or assistance to supporters.

6. Localize issues

To effectively engage stakeholders, connect national or state-level issues to their day-to-day lives or local communities. Demonstrating the relevance and significance of your campaign at a local level increases the likelihood of garnering support and influencing decision-makers. 

Kimberly Gray, the (formerly) events & communications coordinator at the Associated General Contractors of Alaska, emphasizes this point, stating, “People want to talk about their own people.” 

Here’s how to do that:

  1. Understand the specific challenges, concerns, and priorities of the local community through research. This understanding will allow you to tailor your messaging and present a compelling case for why the issue matters to them. 
  2. Gather local data and examples to support your arguments and demonstrate the impact of the issue on the local community. This can include local economic data, environmental reports, public health studies, or personal stories from community members directly affected by the issue. Use credible data sources and local case studies to strengthen the credibility of your message.
  3. Highlight local benefits and consequences of addressing the issue or alleviating local challenges. For example, if advocating for renewable energy, emphasize how it can create local job opportunities, reduce energy costs for residents, or improve air quality. Conversely, highlight the potential negative consequences of inaction or unfavorable policies to underscore the urgency of the issue.
  4. Collaborate with local partners such as local organizations, community leaders, and influential stakeholders who share common interests or are directly affected by the issue. Collaborative grassroots efforts increase your campaign’s visibility, credibility, and capacity to effect change at the local level. Engage local partners in joint advocacy initiatives, community events, or grassroots movements to amplify your message
  5. Engage local media outlets to raise awareness of your campaign’s issue within the community. Provide them with stories, data, and expert opinions to encourage them to cover the issue. Leverage social media platforms to amplify your message and engage with local residents directly.
  6. Tailor communication for local audiences to appeal to their specific concerns. Use language that is accessible, relatable, and free from jargon. Frame your arguments in a way that connects the issue to the values, aspirations, and well-being of the local community. Personalize your communication by sharing stories or testimonials from local residents who have been impacted by the issue.

7. Storytelling for the win

According to a study by Stanford University, stories are 22 times more memorable than facts or statistics alone. 

Storytelling allows you to connect with your audience on an emotional level, making your campaign more relatable and memorable. Sharing compelling stories effectively conveys the impact of your cause, engages supporters, and inspires action. 

Here’s how to harness the power of storytelling for your grassroots campaign:

  1. Craft authentic and compelling personal stories, anecdotes, or real-life examples that illustrate the impact of your campaign’s issue. These stories should evoke emotions, create empathy, and resonate with your target audience. 
  2. Connect stories to the broader campaign issue, demonstrating how individual experiences are representative of a larger problem or systemic issue. 
  3. Use vivid language and imagery with your words to captivate your audience’s imagination. Use descriptive language and sensory details to create a clear mental image of the story and its impact. This makes your stories more engaging and memorable.
  4. Demonstrate the potential for positive change and your campaign’s role in creating solutions. Show how collective action and engagement can lead to tangible outcomes and improvement. Leave your audience with a sense of hope, inspiring them to join your cause.
  5. Invest in different storytelling mediums to cater to different audience preferences. This can include written narratives, video testimonials, social media posts, or visual storytelling through infographics or photographs. Adapt your storytelling approach to the platforms and channels most relevant to your target audience.

Discover how you can captivate audiences, evoke empathy, and drive meaningful change with this comprehensive guide on storytelling for advocacy.

8. Leverage emotional triggers and ride the wave of trending topics

The “Ice Bucket Challenge” campaign for ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) raised over $115 million globally in just eight weeks. The campaign’s success can be attributed to its emotional appeal, as participants poured buckets of ice water on themselves to experience a fraction of the discomfort faced by ALS patients. 

The ALS Association reported a 3,500% increase in donations during the peak of the campaign.

This shows that emotions have a profound impact on human behavior and decision-making. Tapping into the power of emotions helps you effectively spread the word about your grassroots campaign and inspire others to take action. 

Here are some strategies for using emotional triggers to engage and mobilize supporters:

  1. Identify emotional triggers that are most closely tied to your campaign’s issue. Is it anger, compassion, hope, or a sense of justice? 
  2. Craft powerful messaging using evocative language, powerful metaphors, and vivid descriptions to elicit a strong emotional response. Keep your messages relatable and accessible to resonate with a broad audience.

Empower your grassroots campaign with effective advocacy strategies

Now, it’s time to take action! 

Use the insights gained from this blog post to refine your grassroots campaign and make a difference. Discover how CallHub can amplify your advocacy efforts and help you reach and mobilize supporters effectively. 

Your voice matters, and your campaign has the potential to make a real difference. Let’s stand together, advocate for change, and create a better world for all.

Featured image: Photo by Kelly