Grassroots campaigns are built by passionate individuals coming together to make a difference for their communities. However, even the smallest grassroots advocacy campaigns have evolved in recent years, relying on new strategies to spread awareness and attract supporters.
Successful grassroots advocacy campaigns rarely come together without dedicated organization and planning. Whether your goal is to educate the public or persuade elected officials to a certain way on upcoming legislation, you’ll need the right resources and strategies backing your campaign. Today, for most grassroots campaigns, those resources and strategies revolve around technology.
To help your modern grassroots advocacy efforts, this guide will explore the basics of grassroots advocacy and dive into five tech-driven campaign strategies that can help grassroots groups make the most of current trends among successful advocacy groups:
For many grassroots advocacy groups, improving their campaign and implementing effective strategies starts with the right advocacy software. Assess your grassroots groups’ current techstack and make note of how you can transform and upgrade your advocacy campaign to launch a truly modern grassroots movement.
Before you can begin your grassroots advocacy campaign, you’ll need a strong foundational knowledge of what grassroots advocacy is and why it matters. Whether you’re an experienced advocacy professional or exploring advocacy initiatives for the first time, it’s important to refresh your knowledge on core concepts as needed.
Grassroots advocacy refers to activities, campaigns, and organizations formed and hosted by concerned individuals for the purpose of influencing political or social change.
Unlike political lobbyists, grassroots activists are individuals with a personal stake in the cause they support rather than paid representatives speaking on behalf of a business or organization. Grassroots movements can have sponsorships and partnerships with local businesses and organizations, but their members are rarely paid or receive other compensation.
Grassroots advocacy movements are an investment of time and effort, and sometimes even the most well-organized campaigns will only see limited results. However, grassroots advocacy is more than worth pursuing for invested individuals. Here are a few benefits that come with grassroots campaigns:
Organizations dedicated to social good, like nonprofits, can also use grassroots activism as a way to further their cause. For example, a nonprofit that supports environmental protection might launch an advocacy campaign to draw attention to a clean air bill or partner with a local grassroots group with the same goal.
Grassroots movements are formed when concerned individuals connect with one another. Explore your community to see if there are any groups already formed around the pressing issues you feel need attention. Organizations looking to get started with advocacy efforts should similarly research current movements in their community before launching their own, new initiatives.
If you are starting your own grassroots movement, you’ll need to study the current state of relevant political and social issues and track legislation concerning key topics relevant to your campaign. Then, use timelines for these pieces of legislation to structure your campaign, planning when you will focus on gathering, motivating, and training supporters.
Modern advocacy campaigns also need modern resources. For most advocacy organizations, these include advocacy software, extensive social networks, and support from their local community.
Effective campaign strategies are vital to the success of both individual grassroots campaigns and grassroots organizations’ long-term stability and impact. Few grassroots groups launch one campaign without any follow-up because many organizations only find success through consistent, long-term action that can span months or even years.
Many grassroots organizations also have limited resources, meaning that making the right strategic investments is necessary for running campaigns with results that are worth their initial costs.
Successful advocacy can be measured in a variety of ways, but most grassroots organizers will likely agree that success can only be achieved when the right strategies are employed. To help inspire your campaign, here are five grassroots advocacy strategies you can adapt for your campaigns:
A strong message or narrative can generate support and inspire volunteers to sign on to your grassroots campaign. Consider all of your organization’s stakeholders when crafting your message, such as your current supporter base, elected officials you plan to reach out to, and other groups you partner with.
Crafting a compelling narrative may take several drafts to get right. You’ll also need to have multiple versions of your mission to share, based on each platform or format you intend to use. For example, the message your volunteers share while canvassing will likely be a lot more condensed and to the point than the one you share on your website, where you have space to discuss the finer points of your campaign.
If your advocacy efforts are one branch at your larger organization, consider how your campaign-specific goals fit into your organization’s overall mission. Your campaign goals will likely be a lot more specific, targeting a unique piece of legislation or a few key pieces of information you want to disperse.
For example, an animal shelter might participate in an advocacy campaign to educate the public on the importance of no-kill shelters, while the shelter’s founding mission more broadly focuses on protecting animals and finding them good homes.
Today, online advocacy is a major component of most grassroots advocacy campaigns. Both large and small grassroots groups can benefit from using the internet to attract supporters online to join in and make a difference.
Online advocacy can be conducted by both your organization and individual supporters, though in slightly different ways. Here is how digital advocacy might look for your organization and supporters:
Be sure to track your supporters’ online advocacy efforts. For instance, many grassroots advocacy groups encourage supporters to get in touch with their elected officials. However, you’ll want to have a system in place to see which supporters actually followed through on your call to action and sent a message on your behalf.
Canvassing, whether in-person or online, can help grassroots advocacy groups establish themselves in their community while generating interest, educating the public, and collecting donations.
Strategic canvassing helps your organization form personal, one-on-one connections with members of your community, earning leads for future donors and volunteers. Plus, when volunteers canvass their own communities, they’re likely to attract the attention of friends, family, and acquaintances who will be more inclined to stop for a moment to speak with a friendly face.
Before letting your volunteers loose with clipboards and pens, consider investing in canvassing software. Traditional paper forms may get the job done, but this process requires tedious data entry, as you’ll need to input collected names and contact details into your system one at a time.
By contrast, canvassing software streamlines the data entry process, automatically updating your database with each supporters’ information collected. Plus, with canvassing software, you’ll be done with having to decipher difficult handwriting or smeared signatures.
Your supporters have contacts outside of your organization who may be interested in donating or offering their support if properly persuaded. This is where peer-to-peer campaigns come in to boost your grassroots advocacy campaign’s momentum.
Peer-to-peer campaigns leverage your supporters’ networks to attract new supporters, more donations, and spread awareness about your campaign.
Before launching a peer-to-peer campaign, make sure you have the proper software support to stay organized. These campaigns rely on many volunteers independently campaigning on behalf of your grassroots group, meaning they often have several moving parts and can quickly become overwhelming if not adequately prepared for in advance.
Peer-to-peer software also comes in a variety of solutions, such as event-specific peer-to-peer software that can help you check in guests quickly and connect your peer-to-peer campaign to other activities at your organization.
Events help raise awareness for your cause, while also building a sense of community amongst your supporters and earning your grassroots advocacy group donations. Nonprofits who recruit volunteers to help run their events can even earn more for their campaigns through volunteer grants.
Planning an event is a multi-step process, and events without proper forethought can create a fun experience for guests without establishing their organization’s message and the event’s overall purpose.
To host events that interweave your grassroots advocacy campaign’s mission while strengthening your connection to your supporters, take the following steps to plan your event:
Remember that your event begins long before guests enter your venue or log onto your virtual meeting, and it doesn’t end until you’ve thanked them for their attendance. Streamline your registration and check-in processes to provide access to your main event activities as quickly as possible. Then, after your event’s conclusion, follow up with guests to thank them for coming and deliver one last statement about your cause and their impact on it.
Advocacy software can help you take your grassroots campaign to the next level. Grassroots advocacy starts when local community members come together, but with the right advocacy software backing them, these movements can stretch across the country.
Fortunately, you don’t need to be a tech expert to make the most of your advocacy software. The best solutions out there prioritize user convenience and simplicity, helping busy activists stay organized while running their campaigns. While almost every advocacy solution has an onboarding period in which you might experience minor slowdowns, the right solution will ultimately be a time-saving tool.
Grassroots campaigns are made up of diverse groups of people with a variety of concerns. This means no two campaigns are exactly the same. However, many of them will share similar software needs. Here are a few core features to look for when assessing advocacy solutions:
Assess your advocacy group’s current technology and look for an advocacy software solution that fits with your unique circumstances. In addition to these basic features, most advocacy software solutions have specialized features ranging from tools that help put your supporters in touch with elected officials to robust canvassing technology.
Grassroots Unwired’s virtual canvassing software offers grassroots advocacy groups a modern, flexible way to attract new supporters through canvassing. Grassroots groups looking to canvass their communities either in person or virtually can make the most of Grassroots Unwired’s canvassing solution with features such as:
Grassroots Unwired’s virtual canvassing solution is built to help bring concerned supporters together even when they are physically remote. This solution allows your organization to continue advocating even in the face of disruptions to in-person activities.
Running a grassroots advocacy campaign requires staying on top of many changing, complex trends while managing a wide range of supporters with unique concerns and interests. While the variety of moving parts can make running a grassroots advocacy campaign intimidating, proper research and investment in cost-effective resources can reduce many administrative and technological burdens.
Adapting popular advocacy strategies to work for your campaign requires analysis of both your current efforts and long-term goals. Here are a few guides to help you learn more and get started with the right tools: