In the last several years, campaign finance, ethics and lobbying reforms have created a new paradigm for federal government affairs programs. Opportunities for lobbyists to build relationships with lawmakers are now fewer and more difficult to navigate, making the role of grassroots advocacy more important than ever.
Grassroots advocacy relies on constituents who are willing to contact their elected officials about specific issues, and technology has and will continue to be the great facilitator to effectively make these connections. Yet the changed government affairs paradigm, which calls for new ways of cultivating meaningful relationships with lawmakers, demands that we take a harder look at the way we “do” grassroots.
Study after study shows that face-to-face, constituent meetings have the most influence on how well lawmakers understand the impact of a policy issue and how they will vote on that issue. This is especially true if lawmakers know and trust the constituents with whom they meet.
It is time to take grassroots advocacy to the next level and build sustainable, qualitative programs that foster constituent-based relationships between your stakeholders and their lawmakers.
A qualitative grassroots advocacy program will strengthen and supplement an organization’s direct lobbying and PAC operations. To achieve this, owever, requires the development of an organizational culture that encourages grassroots political involvement.
How can your organization create a culture of political involvement?
Your leadership must drive this culture shift, but they must first understand and value the benefits of political engagement at all levels. Government affairs professionals must nurture leadership’s understanding and commitment, and they have to creatively and strategically employ this new found political power.
The impact of this new culture should create a rising tide of political involvement that propels your grassroots advocacy program and PAC to new heights of effectiveness.
There is a new dawn in Washington, D.C., and with it, a looming grassroots challenge.
The organizations that successfully meet this challenge will recognize the benefits of qualitative grassroots advocacy and empower their stakeholders in the states and districts to develop and maintain relationships with lawmakers and to communicate with them on the issues.