Grassroots Tips

Six Basic Online Campaign Tools and Activities

knifeSince we’ve been discussing online activity and organization lately, I wanted to give some thoughts on some of the specific but basic things that you can do online in support of a campaign or organization, (or to augment any “offline” organization activity).

Here’s a handy list of six basic online campaign tools and activities that you should incorporate into your organizational strategy.

1) Create an online campaign:

Some services let you use their sites to host campaigns where you can set up online petitions, online faxes to members of Congress, private online groups for your supporters, etc.  These services are usually free, (or at least cheaper than creating your own website!).

2) Online polls and surveys:

Conduct opinion polls of members or supporters.  These can also be useful when trying to identify prospective supporters, (ex. set up an online survey that asks questions that will help you identify likely prospects and capture their email addresses – then email links to the survey to your supporters, encourage email forwarding, post it on Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

3) Build your database:

Once you’ve got a spot online, you can have a central place where people can sign up for a newsletter so you can communicate with them on a regular basis.  (You can do it yourself with your own email programs, or online solutions such as Constant Contact, Mad Mimi or others).  Just be sure to provide a webform or clearly visible link to where they should sign up…and promote it!

4) Post Information:

Create a central place where supporters can come and get important information about your cause that they can use to help recruit others and/or communicate to elected officials in lobbying efforts, (such as talking points, flyers, voter guides, scripts for telephone calls, etc.).  You can also offer your information in a PDF format that supporters can download and print on desktop printers to distribute in “off line” environments.

5) Provide links:

Offer a list of important and useful links that supporters can use, (such as to key contact information for elected officials, local newspaper “letters-to-the-editor” information, talk-radio call-in numbers, voter registration links, etc.).  Also post links to your Facebook and Twitter accounts, (if you have any).

6) Online scheduling:

You can use online calendar services to maintain a schedule of important dates, activities and events to easily update and keep people informed, (free services such as Google Calendar even allow people to sign up for email alerts from the calendar).  Make it easy for people to keep up with what’s going on and when they can get involved.


All of these online campaign tools and elements should eventually be incorporated into any online organizational strategy.  If you’re not online, or you don’t give people an opportunity to “sign up” online, then you’re missing out on a tremendous opportunity.

A good Internet presence, (web site, blog, email and social media), better enables you to be found by potential supporters, to communicate and get them organized.

Remember, it’s not just about who YOU know, or who may stumble across your information, but it’s about your supporters – and who THEY know.

Be a resource!


(Get more tips like these in my “Grassroots 101 Training Series“.  Check it out!)

Three methods for conservative grassroots organization

grassroots organization

Whether you’re organizing for a campaign, a group or just an issue you care about, there are three areas where it pays for conservatives to focus their time.  And each area has different benefits and challenges.

1) Precinct Organization

Organizing by precinct is more geographically focused and as a result can have a more direct and greater potential impact on a specific area.

Political power in American flows from the precinct level upward, because precincts are the building blocks of the American political system.

Virtually every election district, from the school board on up, is a combination of various precincts.  They’re like the small pieces in a bigger jigsaw puzzle, which means that if you’re organized in the precincts you can influence an election – or have influence on an elected official who is interested in running for re-election.

2) Church Organization

Organizing in churches allows you to work with people you’re probably more familiar with, and are likely to have more in common with.  As a result, you may be able to get things moving more quickly.

Since a typical church’s membership may be spread across multiple precincts, focusing on churches also has the benefit of helping you “sow seeds” of activism in more than one area, (which means church organization can quickly feed “precinct organization”).

3) Online Organization

Online organization can exist on its own or as a compliment to church and/or precinct organization, (ex. online “groups” via Yahoo, Google, Ning or Facebook; or online petitions and campaigns at AktNow – or a combination).

And when you organize online, you make it easier to share information with others and for others to find you.

Online organization is also a great way to being to build a list of supporters that you can contact and keep informed.

Where to Focus Your Time?

In order to determine where you should focus your time and efforts, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What specifically do I want to impact or accomplish? Is it more educational and/or issue related, or is it more political?
  • Where do I know the most people who think like I do, and who are willing to help? (Hunt where the ducks are!)

Whichever type of organization you plan to focus on, remember that it all comes down to people. Politics is people.  And when you get enough people together with a common purpose, you’ve got grassroots organization. 

Real grassroots organization leads to political impact!


(You can find tips like this and much more in my “Grassroots 101: Grassroots Training Series“.)

Tips for Effective Confrontation in Politics

ramsThe principles that are at stake in American politics sometimes require that conservatives be willing to be confrontational. If we’re always fighting with one hand tied behind our backs, we can’t very well expect to win.

But it’s one thing to point out the need to be willing to be confrontational, and another to go about it in a way that helps your cause.  So how do you go about it? Just like most other things in politics (and life), it helps if you have a plan.  The following is a list of general tips for effective political confrontation.

Know Yourself and Your Opposition

“Know thy enemy as well as thyself” is an old military truism, and it’s just as true when it comes to political activism as it is to military operations. In order to be effective at confrontations, conservatives must not only know the opposition, but also know the basis of their own beliefs and be ready to defend them.

Frame the Debate

This is a strategic way to present issues in terms that help shape debate in your favor. For conservatives, the basic method is to “get to the heart of the matter”, which is usually the opposition’s Achilles’ heel. This should be the fundamental guide whenever initiating a political offensive or responding to an attack. When going on the offensive, if you fail to get to the heart of the matter, you’re likely to get sucked into a debate that is centered on the liberal world view. In other words, you end up fighting on their terms.

Remember, framing the debate is easier when you initiate the debate. Talk about what you want to talk about, not what they opposition wants to talk about. (For more details, check out my post on “How to Frame the Debate”)

Go on Offense

Whether you like it or not, the aggressor usually shapes the debate in politics. This means that it’s best to be on offense so that you can advance your agenda on your own terms and on your own schedule. The reverse scenario is that you get blindsided and are forced to respond to your opposition. The more unprepared someone is to respond, the less effective their response will be, and the more likely that they’re constantly playing defense, (and it’s hard to fight on your heels).

In American politics, liberals (excuse me, “progressives”) are usually the aggressors. Generally speaking, they are the ones who want to change the pre-existing, more conservative norms of society and government, (you know, “hope-n-change”, etc.).

This fact has several ramifications: First, it allows liberals to set the terms of the public debate and put conservatives on the defensive, and second, it usually makes us look negative, (as liberals will generally push until the conservative opposition starts to look hysterically negative…which makes the news media happy since they love to show conservatives in a negative light).

At this point, they may take a step back from their own radical position and offer a compromise in order to appear “reasonable” and “moderate”. Of course, if the “compromise” is accepted, they have still advanced their agenda.

The solution is for conservatives to be the aggressors. We need to spend more time being the proponents of “change” – as in changing things to better align with, protect or reclaim conservative norms. Things that average people can connect with and relate to on an everyday basis. Given the current state of our country, there’s no shortage of things to be aggressive about.

Remember, the best defense is a good offense.

Never Compromise First

It’s a basic principle of negotiation in business never to be the first one to name a price. Usually, that person loses. You’ve given away valuable information and may be underselling yourself. You can apply the same thing in the political arena. Never be the first one to compromise. If you are, you’re probably losing something. They know how weak or strong you think your position is. And they know what you’ve got to give up, and then they’ll want more.

Take your time. Gather information and carefully asses your strengths and weaknesses. Then see what they’re willing to put on the table.  (For more info, see my post on “Basic Political Negotiation Techniques”)

Maintain Steady Pressure

The most effective confrontation is persistent confrontation. When you’re pushing an issue, don’t give your opposition time to breathe. Don’t let them collect their thoughts and figure out how best to derail your plans because you’re constantly ramping up the pressure…announcing new supporters…doing press releases or op-eds pointing to personal examples that show the logic of your position, or polls or petition announcements demonstrating its support. Friendly legislators can help with this through scheduling meetings, hearings, or issuing government reports as time goes on.

Be persistent. It will help you bolster your momentum and can keep the opposition off balance.

Take Your Case to the People

Public policy is all about politics…and politics is people. Don’t rely solely on the legislative process and politicians to accomplish your agenda. You have to engage the public. Specifically, you have to engage and activate those who are already predisposed to care about your issue. Turn THEM into lobbyists too.

Stay Positive

Effective confrontation requires a positive attitude. Even though you may get dismayed (rightfully so) about the condition of our nation and society, you can’t let that keep you from staying positive. Remember what you’re “selling”. You’re advocating your principles, and negativity isn’t going to help you “sell” them. People buy in to hope. Despair they can get on their own. Remember, nobody likes a “negative Nancy”.


Like it or not, confrontation of often a necessity in politics. Instead of maintaining a defensive posture, conservatives should look for issues where our opponents are vulnerable and be steady and relentless in promoting our agenda.