Friday, October 30, 2009

Engaging Members & Supporters in Grassroots Lobbying

Many associations and advocacy non-profits engage in lobbying. What sets them apart however from corporations who also lobby is that they have an important asset at their disposal: a membership & supporter base. Understanding this concept, earlier in my career as the Director of External Communications for the Canadian Construction Association, I coordinated a nation-wide campaign initiative to engage CCA members into the 2004 federal election.

Faced with frustration at the lack of attention CCA was receiving from federal legislators regarding its issues, I was assigned with a strategy to raise the association’s profile. Undertaking a full year effort to identify construction industry champions on Parliament Hill and opportunities where significant legislative advances could occur, I developed a strategic plan that included the following:

  1. An interactive website was developed especially where the media could learn about construction issues and members could login specifically to a special area of the website to download a series of manuals and ideas on how to influence candidates in their region.

  2. A specific communications campaign to the Members was undertaken to educate them on the election and how their involvement could make all the difference.

  3. Options for sharing content were provided and members were also trained/ encouraged to forward on news of the campaign to colleagues.

Over the course of a year, I succeeded in earning the association an invitation to participate in consultations with the federal government over reforms to the Bankruptcy Act. Approaching the policy developers of each of the five federal parties present in Parliament, I also succeeded in having aspects of the CCA’s position reflected in each of the party platforms during the 2004 general election.

Now...it is important to note that all this occurred before the rise of social media and social networking. I am currently experimenting means of how these grassroots campaigns can be all that more improved with interesting results. Now, with the expanding world of social media, lawmakers are creating Twitter accounts. Granted, the person actually doing the tweeting probably isn’t the lawmaker, but this does provide another avenue, on top of paper, phone calls and emails, to communicate with elected officials. Other effective means of grassroots advocacy is occurring through specially made applications that permit sharing of content and as a result, engage other supporters as well.

Whatever your strategy, a grassroots advocacy campaign will need to consider the key elements of what will engage and motivate supporters towards your cause.

Give us a call for more information!
Mark Buzan is Principal of Action Strategies, a GR Consultancy for non-profits. If you have questions on how you feel your organization could benefit from legislative monitoring services or even undertaking a grassroots advocacy initiative. Subscribe now to his Lobbying tips newsletter at www.actionstrategies.ca

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