Grassroots movements get their name from the fact that they start from the ground and build up. By definition, it is when “ordinary people” are “regarded as the main body of an organization's membership.” Functionally, it is any organization or movement that is driven by its members, rather than outside organizers or leaders.
Running a grassroots movement is a big challenge on its own, but before you can handle the day-to-day operations of the movement, you have to get things off the ground. If you’re thinking about starting a grassroots movement, you need to accomplish four essential steps:
- Gather the right people to buy into your ideas and goals.
- Make the right connections with movers and shakers in the community.
- Motivate people to commit to being involved in order to make a difference.
- Effectively spread the word so that you can grow and accomplish your goals.
In this blog post, I will break down some essential steps and suggest how you can accomplish them most effectively. Let’s start with what you can do even before that first step.
What Do You Need to Do Before You Get Started?
Before you start reaching out to like-minded friends, colleagues, and community leaders to launch your movement, there are things you can do to plan for your grassroots movement. These are things that will help you be more prepared to discuss your goals and recruit active members and donors.
First, Identify Your Movement’s Purpose
Dreamers and planners are often prone to thinking big—sometimes too big. I don’t say that to quash your dreams and ideas. It’s just really important to make sure that you have a focused goal for your grassroots movement because a clear purpose will make you more effective. If you’re still developing your goals, or if they’re still in flux, it’s hard to convince others to join if they can’t share in the clear and specific vision.
Identify the purpose by asking yourself questions like these:
- What does this movement care about most?
- What issues are important to us, yet secondary to our main goals?
- Will we measure our success by policies we influence, funds we raise, candidates we get elected, or by some other measure?
- What do we want our movement culture to be like?
Next, Communicate With Your Existing Networks
This is important: now is not the time to reach out to the public. Now is the time to connect with people within your existing networks to find out who is ready to get involved. If you are starting this movement as an individual, brainstorm a list of people you know and organizations you can reach out to and share your vision with who are likely to understand and be willing to support your efforts. We recommend doing this step with a small group of planners and organizers. Pool your social resources in order to create a bigger and more substantial list of potential members, donors, and partners.
Make a Decision About Whether or Not to Incorporate as a Nonprofit
You may want to incorporate as a nonprofit. Holding official nonprofit status will give you tax benefits, as well as limited liability protection. However, it also means you will be operating under additional laws and regulations. One of those requirements is that you will need to have a board of directors. Be sure to choose your first board members wisely. They can shape the future of your organization in countless ways.
Depending on how you incorporate, you may also be prohibited from donating directly to political campaigns and your lobbying activities could be limited.
Seek Donations for your Initial Operations and Programs
Eventually, you will want to provide ways for anyone who cares about your goals to donate to your cause. However, in the early stages, you want to make sure that your fundraising focus is on the people who are most likely to donate: those who are already involved.
Grassroots organizations are funded first and foremost by their members. Seek donations for your programs from those who are ready to get involved at the earliest stages of your organization as members and donors. You will not only be more successful than if you just try to raise donations from anybody, but you will also help create a sense of ownership and involvement among your first members.
One important thing to consider throughout your movement’s journey is its various technological needs.
Identify your Technology Needs
Early in the process of launching your grassroots movement, you should evaluate your technology needs. Today’s tech tools allow you to stay connected with your constituents and leaders, become a more effective fundraiser, complete productive canvassing events, and reach potential new members.
Campaign Now provides our clients with all of the technology support they need to meet their organization’s goals. Some of your technology needs may include:
Predictive dialing helps your volunteers reach more voters in less time, by speeding up the process of dialing phone numbers with computer software instead of having to manually dial the numbers. If your organization makes calls to inform voters of important issues, collect information, or communicate with large numbers of people, predictive dialing software will save you time and make your work more productive.
In addition to reducing the amount of time spent looking up, entering, and tracking phone numbers, software we use can be customized to be used for different campaigns that target specific states, regions, and communities.
Action Management Software
This software gives you more control over your organization’s day-to-day operations than operating without it! The software Campaign Now uses allows you to control your campaign remotely from laptops, tablets, and smartphones alike. You can view and respond to real-time data, manage automated calls, and coordinate door-to-door ground teams no matter where you are.
Campaign Now uses canvassing technology that can revolutionize how your volunteers canvas neighborhoods and communities. For example, the Cyrus Canvassing App eliminates hours of walk sheet preparation and data entry. When you use the app, you will be able to plan efficient canvassing routes, run automated reports, analyze individual canvasser results, and track real time progress of your team of volunteers.
Get Out There
Field work is one of your most important and vital tools as a grassroots organizer.
Whether you are canvassing neighborhoods or facilitating community events, getting out there and communicating with people is how you are going to make a difference in the world. Campaign Now provides experienced, qualified personnel to supplement your existing volunteer base and provide training on best practices for outreach and field work.
Get in Touch
Are you looking for some expert support to help grow your movement?
Some of the relevant services we offer include:
- Organizing and training volunteers
- Advocating for issues and candidates with clear and effective language
- Planning events from start to finish
- Raising awareness about candidates and issues
- Following-up with event attendees and participants
Contact us today for a consultation.