Grassroots Mobilization: How It Works

October 30, 2018 - 11 minutes read

A grassroots movement is one that is driven by the community. This movement or campaign uses the collective action from the local level to effect change at the local or national level. Its main purpose is to encourage community members to contribute to their community by taking action and being responsible for their neighborhood.

Grassroots movements make use of a variety of strategies to fundraise, increase voter registration, and encourage political conversation. These movements can give you the momentum you need to address a community concern, win an election, or advance a public policy agenda.

How to Get Started With Grassroots Mobilization

Step 1: Prepare campaign literature- Once you have your issue in place, you need to pen down a strategy based on a realistic timeline. A written strategy helps you align campaign specific activities, events, and tasks to your goals. This should also include the development and distribution of effective literature, that includes posters, flyers, brochures, etc. This gives voters something to hold onto, absorb at their convenience, or refer back to your campaign.

Step 2: Make use of technology- Email and social media are effective mass outreach tools for reaching out to your community. Use phone banks and text messages for more personal campaign messaging after identifying people who are receptive to your campaign messaging.

Step 3: Gather your volunteers and staff- Your volunteers are your most important assets. They help with door-to-door canvassing, phone banking, managing social media pages, and much more. But many of your campaign volunteers are bound to be rookies who are unaware of the intricacies of campaign software or how to carry out a conversation with a voter. Make sure you provide volunteer training before getting started.

The Grassroots Mobilization Cycle

  1. Make a clear assessment of the needs and interests of the community: For your grassroots initiative to be successful, you need to understand the day-to-day circumstances of people living within the community. For this, get a wide range of community members to voice their concerns or issues by conducting surveys or engaging in meaningful conversations over channels like peer to peer text messaging.
  2. Raising awareness: The best way to raise awareness for your cause is going door to door, discussing issues relevant to people and why their participation in the community is important. Other methods include handing out pamphlets, advertising in local newspapers, community radio, or even television, and if possible, in local languages.
  3. Identify and train community leaders: It is crucial to identify and collaborate with influential community leaders to kick-start a grassroots mobilization effort. Engaging without establishing community channels may limit or delay your success in mobilizing communities to participate. The commitment of community leaders inspires others to join the effort. Your leaders can include educators, religious leaders, and others who can mobilize their neighbors and community members to take action.
  4. Partner with local organizations: In every community, there are various organizations or agencies that work independently to achieve similar goals. It is important that you identify these organizations and partner with them. This will make it easy for you to reach your goal while increasing the scope of your outreach. The partners may be religious institutions, nonprofit organizations, universities, etc.
  5. Implementation of the plan of action: Once you have your community leaders and partners you need to assign each one with a clear role and educate them on how they can be involved. Remember, communication is key to a successful program.
  6. Evaluation: Monitoring and evaluation is an essential element of community mobilization. It enables you to check whether the action plan has been implemented effectively and if you’ve met specific objectives. The evaluation stage also helps you understand what went wrong so that you can modify it to achieve your goals.

Principles For Working Grassroots

  • To enlist grassroots supporters you need to inspire citizens through several initiatives, events, and campaigns. Make them understand that the cause is worthy of their wholehearted support. People respond to sincere appeals, so persuade them with reason.
  • Education is the backbone of any grassroots campaign as people don’t participate in anything they don’t understand.
  • Once inspired, give your grassroots activists meaningful tasks to do. For example, if your goal is to get citizens to engage with reps, then detail out specific actions to be taken and give each person a meaningful task to do. Some volunteers can give voters the latest information, others can tell them what questions to be asked, how phone calls are to be made, and how individuals can effect change in politics.
  • Personalize all communication through phone calls, text messages, in-person contact, patch-through calls, direct mail, and emails.
  • You must keep your activists, volunteers, and staff motivated and help them if they cannot achieve the set goal.
  • Don’t just raise an issue, tell a story. People must be able to emotionally connect with your campaign so you need to make a human connection through storytelling.
  • You must trust grassroots activists to take initiative. If you want to mobilize grassroots you must nurture an attitude of freedom and creativity.
  • Harness momentum by funneling supporter engagement into clear advocacy action, both online and offline.

Strategies for grassroots mobilization

Host House Parties Or Meetings

An easy way to mobilize people is to host a party or meeting at a community member’s house. Informal gatherings like these offer a great way for community members and campaigners to get to know each other and discusses the finer points around the issue. People who might be close-mouthed during routine campaign outreach are more open to sharing their concerns in such settings. These get-togethers also increase the probability of people signing up as volunteers in the future.

Engage With People Both Online & Offline

Social media platforms offer plenty of channels for you to engage community members. While these platforms help you reach out to mass audiences they aren’t always effective in engaging them on a personal level. So you need to balance your online interactions with offline activities. These activities can include phone calls from volunteers, personal text messages, door-to-door visits, town halls meetings, setting up information tables in high-traffic areas etc.

Hold Successful Town Hall Meetings

Town hall meetings give your organization or party a chance to meet the community in person and answer their questions. It is also an important part of your grassroots campaign. Therefore, you need to make sure that your candidate is well prepared for the meeting. Since such an event gives you an opportunity to reach out to new supporters make sure you have a registration table or a text-based registration process (eg. Text CHANGE to 52322 for updates!) to keep a track of those who come to the meeting.

Grassroots Advocacy Definition, Strategies and Tools

Use Social Networks For Grassroots Mobilization

You can use social media to enhance your campaign awareness and build relationships with your audience. These networks help you deliver real feedback to strengthen your message. For example, The Tea Party movement is a good example of grassroots growth. It was a community-based initiative that made use of digital media such as Facebook to coordinate protest events and to rally support for the cause. On Facebook, a page was created to share campaign literature and to start conversations around sensitive issues.

Hashtags are another way to influence and organize people. Use hashtags to group together postings from across the network under a unifying message. Some grassroots movements which used hashtags to organize and advocate people on a large scale on social media are #BlackLivesMatter, #LoveWins,#Resist, etc. These tags show how something that starts as a media campaign takes footing to embody a social movement. The ‘#resist’ hashtag was even used by event planning sites like to bring together members of a community that want to get involved politically. #Resist: Dallas is one such example.

Grassroots mobilization helps political campaigns, advocacy groups, and nonprofits encourage political conversation and effect change at a local or national level. It gives you an opportunity to make a lasting impression on communities by constantly engaging with them through conversations that matter to them. The key is to develop a message that works, test it on different mediums, and enlist community leaders to spread your message. Keep these tips and strategies in mind for your grassroots mobilization efforts.

Related: Guide to Devising Great Community Outreach Strategies That Win Big

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