It’s easy to encounter an issue in your community and tell yourself that someone else will fix it. While that passive bubble of inaction is present in every individual, it is necessary that we break free of it and take action to see change.
Grassroots advocacy campaigns revolve around issues that directly affect individuals. This means that participants of your movement are highly motivated to get on the ground and find a way to solve the problem.
Are you a grassroots activist?
Do you have an issue in your mind that you want to resolve?
This article takes you through the steps to get started on your grassroots advocacy campaign.
Define advocacy for yourself
The extent of the different kinds of advocacy is hard to put in a single box. It’s important for you as someone who plans to start an advocacy campaign to define what advocacy means to you. What kind of cause will you be championing, and what activities will you and your campaign be undertaking for the cause?
A distinction to make here is between lobbying and advocacy.
Lobbying is the act of approaching lawmakers in order to influence legislation. Lobbying always comes under advocacy and is certainly a big part of it, but not all advocacy is lobbying.
Here are a few other ways you can advocate for a cause:
Education involves raising awareness about your cause in order to bring in supporters and convincing them to take action to bring about change.
This facet of advocacy involves working within a court system in order to push for your cause. While not directly influencing legislation, it is connected with the law.
A primary goal of advocacy is to organize and mobilize supporters. Funneling and amplifying the voices of your supporters is how your grassroots advocacy campaign can bring about lasting change.
When it comes to advocacy tools, many of them are intended to help you contact your people of interest and connect them with their respective legislators. Defining your advocacy campaign early on will help you choose the tools you need to get the job done.
Identify your cause
The first step is to identify your cause. Yes, you probably do have a cause in mind. But rather than look at the overarching problem, break it down into smaller solvable pieces.
Accept that you cannot solve every challenge facing your community. If the issue is that of polluted water resources, the cause could be the dumping of industrial waste, sewage, or untreated wastewater. Once you pinpoint the exact cause or causes that you can fight for, you can go ahead with creating an advocacy strategy to solve it. Brainstorm ideas that could lead to a possible solution. You will need the help of other stakeholders. This can include others in your area affected by the problem and organizations willing to take up the mantle for your cause.
Commit to staying focused
Unless you already have a base of engaged supporters, your grassroots advocacy campaign is not going to gain momentum overnight. In the case of most grassroots campaigns, they start small and gain momentum as they pull in more supporters through word of mouth throughout the community.
With so many other organizations and movements working on the same or similar problems, you will face trouble getting people interested in your cause. Win them over by staying focused on your mission.
Prepare the literature
You’ll now have an idea of which issue to address and the gist of how you are going to achieve it. Now, it’s time to put the strategy into words and create a detailed plan and campaign literature. This should cover grassroots campaign activities, events, and task allocation to volunteers and staff. Having a written strategy in place helps you align campaigning activities towards a specific goal and keep yourself on track through the duration of achieving that goal.
Ready your technology
A grassroots advocacy campaign relies on the support of people in your locality to grow and create impact. This makes community engagement an intricate part of grassroots campaigning. Unlike big firms, your grassroots advocacy campaign may not have money to burn on marketing strategies and advertising. But there are a plethora of tools now available to cater to the outreach need of grassroots campaigners.
Email and social media still remain effective and affordable means to reach out to the community. You can use an open-source website creation tool like WordPress to create a basic website. It should have details about the campaign, about how to donate, and any other campaign updates. You can follow that up by creating a fundraising page on GoFundMe or Razoo and adding it to your website.
For community engagement, phone banks and peer to peer texting will provide the kind of personalized engagement that is essential to grassroots advocacy campaigns. For engaging policymakers about the issues affecting your community, in-person meetings and phone calls offer the most effective approach followed by conventional mail, email, and social media.
Pro tip: Check out this article which gives tips on how community organizing can be done in the right manner.
Identify your core support
Your core supporters are the ones that dedicate their time to your movement. With so many causes and campaigns out there, ask yourself, why did they choose to support yours? Often, your most dedicated supporters are going to be those that are personally invested in your cause.
Identifying these supporters and channeling their energy is how you start creating the greatest impact for your campaign.
Volunteers form the backbone of every grassroots advocacy campaign. They help with door-to-door canvassing, working the phone banks, doing data entry work, and staffing events. Social media, emails, flyers in community boards, reaching out to people who have volunteered in the past are all good ways to get the word out about your volunteer requirements. You can include a Call To Action at the end of your phone banking script asking supporters if they would like to volunteer. If text messaging is part of your campaigning efforts you can set up a sign-up campaign to recruit volunteers.
LGBTQ+ advocacy group NEAT used phone banking for their campaigns. They made calls with the aim of finding interested persons willing to phone bank, attend events, or engage in canvassing activities for NEAT and their partner organizations. Read more about their story in our case study.
Once you’ve got your campaign off the ground, it takes a consistent long-term effort to see it through. With the support of your community, dedicated volunteers and staff, and an ongoing engagement plan with policymakers, you stand a much higher chance of building a successful grassroots advocacy campaign.
If you’re thinking of reaching your supporters through calls and text messages, you’ll need a tool to help you do it: