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The Miracle of Grassroots Politics – What and How to Organize (with Examples)

Published: Jun 25, 2021

A grassroots politics movement utilizes the public in a district, region, or community as the base for a political, social or economic movement. Grassroots movements and organizations use collective action from the local level to inspire change at the regional, national, or international level.

In this article, we demystify some of the most commonly asked questions about ‘Grassroots Politics’.

What is a grassroots party?

Grassroots parties, using self-organization, 

  1. Take help from the public to identify pain points and issues.
  2. Urge them to contribute to the success of the movement by taking charge and working for their community

Grassroots parties employ different strategies to enable these functions, starting from an active political dialogue to fundraising and inspiring legislative change.  

These campaigns start with grassroots advocates. They’re the core members of grassroots politics who contact elected officers to discuss why they should support a specific cause or movement.

The objectives of particular parties change, but the movements strongly align with their focus on growing the crowd involvement in politics. 

Running a grassroots politics campaign is quite challenging, so you may need a little help to take off. In the next section, we discuss how you can run a grassroots politics campaign.

How to run a grassroots politics campaign?

Grassroots politics campaigns are considered successful when a collective target is achieved. They need a set of strategies to achieve those targets. 

By learning the basics of running a successful grassroots politics campaign, you can support your movement and candidate in enormous ways. 

Grassroots politics campaigns use various strategies to establish roots in the local communities. The aim is to: 

  • Raise funds. 
  • Build communities.
  • Increase awareness and build familiarity. 
  • Encourage political participation.
  • Bring about a defined, desired change. 

To achieve these goals, grassroots politics campaigns use a broad range of strategies, including:

  1. House parties or meetings
  2. Campaign literature to draw attention
  3. Petition signatures
  4. Letter-writing and email campaigns
  5. Phone banking
  6. Texting
  7. Information tables
  8. Social media marketing.

Let’s discuss these popular and successful grassroots politics campaign strategies.

Host house parties or meetings

House parties are great for nurturing relationships with people who have a lot to offer to your party. This is also a great strategy if you are focusing on expanding your connections in the neighborhood. 

Usually, in house parties, a member of your grassroots party gathers colleagues, family, friends, neighbors in his/her home or a specific location. However, to increase the impact of your efforts, you could also invite your

  • Candidate
  • Legislator
  • Party activists
  • Volunteers
  • Community leaders.

The agenda of the gathering must mainly focus on the social aspects and the action goal. For instance, you have food and drinks for the attendees to enjoy and focus on planning the next canvassing. 

The casual setting and existing connections among people encourage further engagement. This can help people network easily and bring more people to your community. 

Remember that this party is an effort to build your community while strengthening your relationship with the existing community. So ensure you promote the event to a large set of people.

Put up posters, distribute flyers, and go door-to-door

Door-to-door canvassing involves knocking on doors in a particular area to educate and engage the citizens. Speaking directly with voters can increase the ability to engage and ask for an action. 

The opportunities for taking actions at the door are infinite, depending on the ingenuity of your campaign. For example, you can request them to sign a petition. 

You can also put up posters and distribute flyers in high-engaged areas in and around your target localities.

It’s crucial to have printed campaign materials such as flyers so once you persuade the voters, you can leave them with something to ponder upon. In addition, a mixture of printed materials and verbal communication can help the public realize:

  • How an issue or campaign can influence their living. 
  • How they can contribute to or improve the outcome of the campaign. 

Related Reading: Writing’s On The Wall: Why Political Campaign Posters Are A Powerful Tool Even Today.

Collect signatures for petitions

Making a hard-copy petition and gathering people’s signatures along with contact details can help you build on your list of local supporters. Door-to-door canvassing and events are a great place to collect petitions. 

Powerful petitions are tactically made and distributed. Scheduling your petition distribution session at the right time is the key to getting the most signatures. For example, your local officials could talk about your causes and persuade the public for support. Right after this, you could start distributing the petitions and collecting signatures. 

Online petitions too, are commonly used to build the supporter contact list. Here’s an example of an online petition initiated by Debbie Field from Montréal, Quebec, submitted to the Minister of Health.

grassroots politics online petition example
Source: Parliament of Canada

Deploy letter-writing and emailing campaigns

A letter-writing campaign is a simple yet powerful tool to express your thoughts about certain issues. The letters can be directed toward a high-ranking government official, carrying the grassroots support (e.g., in the form of signatures or testimonials). 

Email is a good communication tool for an online campaign. For every $1 spent, email marketing generates $38 in ROI. Email is also an affordable medium to reach out to your supporters. However, you must build an email list first. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Put up the petition form on your website.
  • Create and distribute surveys.
  • Launch lead generation ads on social media.
  • Have lead magnets on your blogs.
  • Exchange business cards.
  • Run a contest.
  • Buy voter lists.
  • Ask people to subscribe to your lists at events.

Pro-tip: You need to update your email list regularly to keep it clean, removing invalid, unsubscribed, and non-responding email addresses periodically. 

Use phone banking

Phone banking involves a team of volunteers calling a list of contacts and encouraging them to support you. The ask could be something like, “Will you be attending our event?”. 

Having a great script and a tool that connects with your CRM helps you personalize your campaign messaging with voter profiles. The one-to-one conversation drives more persuasion than a few passive ways of acquiring information, like email. 

Patch-through calls can help grassroots politics connect the common individual with someone in a position of authority to make relevant legislative decisions. This is how it works on CallHub:

Step 1: Call your supporters 
Let your volunteers call your contacts to identify your supporters and people affected by your cause.

Step 2: Educate them about the problem
Communicate the problem to your supporters in detail. These long, meaningful conversations should significantly impact and convince your connections to take the required steps, such as speaking with authorities in the governmental offices.

Step 3: Connect to your decision-maker
The agents should give your contacts an option to talk to a representative. When your supporter agrees, agents can patch them through. The agent can still stay on the call to monitor or take notes.

Patch through calling is a direct line between those who are affected and decision-makers. It is a vital tool for grassroots politics to show its strength truly. Try out CallHub’s patch-through calling tool here.

Use texting

The Liberal Party of Canada has adopted text messaging to reach supporters and potential voters directly.  

“As we all work to finish the fight against COVID-19, Canadians are starting important new conversations about the kind of future we want to keep building together. This is a new and creative way to stay in touch with Canadians directly, and sharing an idea will be as simple and fast as sending a quick text”, Braeden Caley, the party spokesperson, tells CTV News.

Like the Liberal Party, several other grassroots political parties have increased text messaging for better campaign results. 

You too, can adopt it. 

What is the best way for you to use text messages for your grassroots politics campaign? 

Inbound texting and outbound texting. 

Inbound texting is used for voter acquisition through an SMS opt-in service. This means your supporters are the ones texting you first. Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Rent a dedicated number & keyword to use for your campaign. 

Step 2: Promote the number and the keyword at all your events and marketing channels, asking people to text the keyword to your number. 

Step 3: Design a conversation flow to hook individuals as soon as they text the keyword.
On text marketing tools like CallHub, you can design conversation flows by adding auto-responses when you get a trigger word. Organizations can use this to collect information on the texter and make future conversations more informed.

For instance, set up an auto-response asking for their name when a person sends the keyword. Set another auto-response thanking them and asking for more information, like a cause they support, when they reply with their name.

CallHub will gather their information through a sequence of predefined interactive text messages, sync the information with your CRM and build detailed contact profiles for each supporter. Try out CallHub’s SMS opt-in tool here.

grassroots politics inbound texting example

Outbound texting means you text your supporters to drive action and engagement for your grassroots politics campaign. With the information you have on your supporters, you can run personalized outreach campaigns through mass texting

You could send quick updates like event invites, rally reminders, links to a petition, etc. Various sources report SMS open and response rates as high as 98% and 45%, respectively — in contrast to corresponding figures of 20% and 6% for email.

Here’s how mass texting works on CallHub:

Step 1: Add Contacts to CallHub
Upload your list of contacts to CallHub. You can also import contacts directly from your CRM.

Step 2: Create a campaign
Follow the simple instructions to create your campaign, and choose the required list/s of contacts. Then, rent/select a number to use as the Sender ID/Caller ID. 

Step 3: Add the message
Add the text message you wish to send to your contacts, personalizing it with merge tags like {first-name}.

Step 4: Schedule your campaign
Schedule your campaign by selecting the date and time range.

grassroots politics mass text sms broadcast example

Peer-to-Peer texting is another texting tool that helps you engage your contacts in meaningful, one-to-one conversations. You can engage with a large group of contacts simultaneously, making it easier and quicker to nurture them. 

Here’s how P2P texting works on CallHub:

Step 1: Craft a compelling initial message
Draft a message with plain text or questions (multiple choice or numeric) to send out to your contacts. Add merge tags.
Add expected replies for FAQs or other queries. Agents can select these responses to go directly, saving their time and ensuring uniformity in your answers. 

Step 2: Assign contacts
Select from your pre-uploaded contact list(s). Select all or some agents to run this P2P campaign. You can also add an introductory note or brief for the agents at this stage.

Step 3: Reach out to the contacts
Once you schedule and start your campaign, agents start sending the texts to the assigned contacts and have one-to-one conversations while making notes of the interactions. All the data is synced with your CRM automatically. 

Set up information tables

Setting up a table at a public event related to your cause can increase the chances of your community’s growth. You can network with the attendees, increase awareness of your grassroots party and collect their contact information directly or indirectly. 

For instance, you could initiate a conversation, offer your visiting card and ask for theirs in exchange. Or, you can ask them to sign a petition or sign-up for an event and collect their contact information in the process. 

These gatherings also provide great opportunities to recruit new volunteers. Here are a few other tips to have a successful tabling:

  • Have a professional setup, so the attendees notice you even from a distance. 
  • Have all the information in place through flyers, pamphlets, and brochures.
  • Keep a set of goodies for people who sign up as your volunteers.
  • Ask people to take a specific action related to your cause right there. 
  • Appoint trained staff who are good at engaging people.
  • Most importantly, have a plan of action in place to get you through the event with the desired outcome.

Use social media

The digital space has generated several communication channels that play an essential part in circulating news. Today, social media use is widespread across age groups:

  • 90% of Canadians between 15 to 34 are active on social media.
  • About 80% aged 35 to 49 use the platforms regularly.

Social media has the power to influence people to a great degree. This is important in collective action in grassroots politics because when you clearly express your needs, political recognition is only steps away.

Related reading: Top Grassroots Fundraising Strategies so you never run out of Funds.

Grassroots politics examples

In Canada, grassroots movements for political change generally occur at the provincial and local levels. We have highlighted two such examples.

Anti-HST movement in British Columbia

This movement came into existence when the provincial leaders in British Columbia brought the Harmonized Sales Tax to the province. 

On July 23, 2009, Gordon Campbell, the liberal leader, and provincial premier then, announced British Columbia would shift to a Harmonized Sales Tax or HST. The new 12% sales tax would replace the old 5% Goods and Services Tax and 7% Provincial Sales Tax as per the new tax rules. 

The declaration saw strong resistance from opposition parties, media, and the public. 

The whole issue gained great attention when former BC premier Bill Vander Zalm started a grassroots movement. The movement involved a petition seeking a referendum to cancel the HST. In addition, Vander Zalm launched a website, FightHST, to promote the case. The provincial Liberal government reacted to this campaign by dedicating a part of their website to include the positive aspects of the HST.

In June and July 2011, Elections BC conducted a referendum via mail-in ballot regarding the sales tax. The question for the referendum was, “Are you in favour of extinguishing the HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) and reinstating the PST (Provincial Sales Tax) in conjunction with the GST (Goods and Services Tax)?” with a “Yes” or “No” response. 

On August 26, 2011, Elections BC disclosed the referendum results: 55% of 1.6 million voters favored abolishing the HST. The BC Liberals revealed a plan to return to the old sales tax, with a target date of March 31, 2013.

Mayoralty contest in Calgary

Naheed Nenshi, the 36th mayor of Calgary, first tried his hand at elections in 2004, running for a seat on Calgary’s city council without success. However, his 2010 campaign for mayor followed the ‘Purple Revolution’, and used social media to a great degree to promote the cause. 

grassroots politics campaign example
Source: WayBack Machine Archive

As a part of the campaign, volunteer teams promoted the cause through creative guerrilla marketing strategies. For example, Nenshi’s supporters gathered in the city in a mass rally on the evening before election day. They also put up posting signs and slogans on the pavement of high-traffic locations.

The campaign also held many coffee parties in Nenshi’s supporters’ homes, where Nenshi spoke to the public about his platform. These parties offered a casual atmosphere for people to discuss political issues. 

As a result, Nenshi’s grassroots campaign continued to gain popularity, and he earned 40% of the ballots cast, leading 8% ahead of McIver.

Get Started!

Grassroots politics is all about mobilizing citizens or communities to join a movement that you lead. For a significant change, you require the fervent support of common individuals. While we covered the definitions and effective strategies surrounding grassroots politics, engaging the masses is a different ball game. 

This guide will help you gather and nurture that support. Learn more about grassroots engagement here. 

If you have any questions, feel free to drop me an email at [email protected].

Featured Image Source: Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels

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