August 13, 2015

You’ve heard us harp on this before, but it never hurts to drive home a good point. Grassroots campaigns are one of the most important tools in your public affairs toolbox. The power of social advocacy does more than give a personal face to your issue – it’s a way to connect the dots for policy makers by putting stakeholders in front of their representatives. It helps decision makers understand what’s at stake in the real world.

Creating an organic and effective ground game is not easy. It requires taking some risks, coming out from behind the screen, keypad or phone and coming face-to-face with the people you’re trying to influence. It means being genuine, courageous and straightforward. And often it even means being creative enough to find pathways for people on the other side of the fence to see things your way.

Here are three things to remember when designing your next grassroots campaign:

Think Big, Think Broad

While going after the “usual suspects” is a great place to begin, it should only be the starting point – not the ending point or the final goal. Politics often breeds strange bedfellows. To effect real change and build real influence for your issue, your coalition needs to be broad and diverse. You won’t find lasting success unless you’re willing to get outside of the echo chamber.

Go Shake Hands

My first boss taught me a very important lesson about social advocacy. He said, “A cup of coffee is cheap, but extremely valuable.” No one is going to bite you; go meet people. Get to know them, and you’ll realize that it is much harder for people to be rude or sit on their hands when someone they know is involved with an issue. As Morton Blackwell said, “A movement is built on a healthy and reciprocal IOU flow.”

Good Coalition Management

It seems so simple. After all, reasonable people should believe the same as you, right? Wrong. A broad, diverse and comprehensive coalition will elevate an issue to new levels and capture the attention of policy makers, but putting different personalities in the same room is rarely easy. That’s why you need to keep your tools on hand and build bridges. Building bridges between people is often challenging. Yet, if you can focus on common goals to build consensus and strive for inclusion, you will accomplish great things.