Archives for grassroots lobbying

Choosing the Right Grassroots Lobbying Methods

Grassroots Lobbying MethodsAs the old saying goes, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat”. So it is with trying to have an impact on your government. There are lots of ways to go about it, but there are tradeoffs between different grassroots lobbying methods that you should be aware of.

Generally, the more personal and spontaneous the action the more influential it can be, but the harder it can be to generate big numbers. For example, it’s easier to get thirty people to sign a pre-printed postcard than it is to get them to write their own letters.

The type of lobbying that you should choose to do depends on your situation.

Before deciding which methods you’ll use, give some thought to the resources (current and likely) that you, your group or your cause can bring to bear. Make a list.  This will give you a better idea of your strengths. Choose those that you’re best equipped for and that everyone is most comfortable with.

Don’t try to do everything. Focus. It’s better to do a few things really well than attempt to do a lot and only manage a half-way job. This can make you look weak.

As a guideline, here is a list of lobbying techniques in a general ascending order of effectiveness:

  • Petitions: either printed versions that you distribute to get signed, then collect and deliver to your targets, or online versions (so long as you can print a list of those who have signed).
  • Pre-printed post cards: cards that you’ve had pre-printed with a message about your issue and pre-addressed to targeted officials…needing only a signature from a supporter.
  • Personal letters: sent from supporters to targeted officials based on some pre-written “talking points” on the issue that you’ve provided, (encouraging people to put things in their own words).
  • Phone calls: made by supporters to targeted officials, working from pre-written “talking points” on the issue.
  • Town-hall meetings: holding a meeting in your area on the issue and inviting targeted officials to attend and answer questions.
  • Personal meetings: individual supporters go meet personally with targeted officials.
  • “Lobby day” at the legislature: large groups of supporters go to meet with targeted officials on the same day.
  • “Grasstops” lobbying: any of the same personal types of contact, but made by individual supporters who are also very influential or well known in the community.

Also, don’t forget one of the most often overlooked lobbying techniques: saying “thank-you”. Meaning, remember to thank those who are helpful or “vote right” when you need them. It will be that much easier for you to go back to that well the next time if you didn’t poison it this time by being rude or forgetful.

Remember that you can use online “groups” from services such as Google, Yahoo, Facebook or Ning to coordinate your activities. And don’t forget to leverage your efforts by focusing your time on officials where you can have the greatest impact and not to waste time on “hopeless” elected officials.

In the end you want to use the methods that you have the resources to use well. And focus them where they will have the greatest impact.

Local Lobbying (or How to Fight City Hall)

local lobbyingHave a problem with local government? You’re not the first and you certainly won’t be the last. But what can you do about it?  That’s were local lobbying comes in.

Keep in mind that there are some key differences between lobbying for local change, versus at the state or national levels.  And there are some specific tactics that you should keep in mind to be more effective in local lobbying.

Unique Aspects of Local Government:

One Chamber: As opposed to state legislatures and Congress, whether you’re talking about school boards, city/county councils or commissions, you’re only dealing with one group of elected officials, rather than two.

Fewer Officials: The typical local government has fewer elected officials to keep an eye on, (the national average is six), versus potentially hundreds at higher levels.

They Represent Fewer People: Local elected officials represent far fewer constituents.  This means that they are more susceptible to organized, outside pressure.

Fewer Targets: When you have fewer elected officials that means that there are going to be fewer “undecided” or persuadable officials that you need to target…possibly just one or two.

Local Lobbying Tips:

Learn the Process: There can be wide variances in the legislative process (from cities, to counties, to school boards), so research how the process works in your area.  Contact your local council or board member and ask for information.  The more you know about the process in your area, the more effective you will be.

Do Your Research and Identify Your Targets: Find out exactly where they stand, and then relentlessly focus all of your time and attention on the undecided/persuadable votes.  When you consider that you’re focusing on just a couple of officials who themselves represent a small number of constituents, this gives you tremendous leverage.

Choose the Right Lobbying Tactics: Phone calls, letters, emails, personal visits, petitions, something else or all of the above?  “What” you do can depend on how much time you have and how many people are willing to help.  Choose those that best leverage your resources.  (You can see some of the basics in my “Nine Grassroots Opportunities” report).

Get to Know Them: Personal relationships at this level of government go farther than at the state and national levels.  Make an effort to get to know them personally.  Contribute to and help the ones who think like you do.  Be active in local organizations that they are involved in (especially the local GOP).  Remember, “politics is people”!


You can “beat City Hall” (or any other local government), but you need to do your homework first.  And don’t forget, most state and national politicians used to be local politicians – so investing in local lobbying can pay big lobbying dividends in the future!

The Five Types of Elected Officials

elected officialsIf you’ve been paying attention to politics for any length of time you’ve probably noticed that there are several different types of elected officials. Not just in terms of partisanship or ideology, but in the sense of how active or vocal they are.

If you’ve ever done any lobbying, you’ve noticed a difference in how reliable they are in terms of their vote and how hard you have to work to nail them down.

Here’s a shorthand way to categorize elected officials:


These are the guys (and gals) that are so far on the other side of the street that you can forget about wasting the time even thinking about getting them on board with anything you support. Pretty much all liberals will fit into this category.

High Maintenance:

These are officials you have to constantly watch and check in with on virtually every issue. Whether it’s because they are constantly trying to make everyone happy, have their fingers in the wind, or are just more concerned about themselves, you end up spending a lot of time chasing them and bringing pressure on them to make sure they vote right when the time comes. And even then sometimes you come up short.

Low Maintenance:

They’re not completely reliable, but it doesn’t take as much time or pressure to bring them around. But the point is that they still require some time and effort.

No Maintenance:

Just like the label implies, you never have to question what they will do and you can always count on them to vote right, whether they get pressured or not. They’re “on the team”, and you don’t have to waste time on them, freeing you up to focus on the first two groups.

Team Leaders:

Not only are they “No Maintenance”, but they will actively help move ideas, drive debate and publicly advance the cause.  Whether it’s the public speakers or the behind-the-scenes legislative “mechanics”, they’re the true leaders of the conservative movement in government at all levels.

Knowing what type of category elected officials usually fit into can help when it comes to doing any type of grassroots lobbying, as it gives you an idea of who you have to work on, who you can count on no matter what, and who will help you advance your agenda.

If you’re actually engaged in any sort of grassroots lobbying on any issue, take some time to take inventory of the elected officials you have to deal with and categorize them accordingly so you’ll know where to spend your time, energy and resources.

Now, quick quiz: which one of these five types of elected officials do we need more of?

The more conservatives who actually get involved and “do something”, the more maintenance we can do on the elected officials who need it – and the more people we can elect who will actually help advance the cause.