When trying to educate lawmakers on issues important to your organization, nothing matters more than relationships. No, I’m not talking about relationships between lawmakers and your lobbying team. I’m talking about relationships between lawmakers and their constituents. Building an effective grasstops advocacy, or “Key Contact Program,” is one of the most important aspects of your organization’s advocacy when it comes to making a real impact on policy outcomes.
There are three main “pillars” that you and your organization need to focus on to either build a new Key Contact Program from the ground up or to develop an existing program further. The pillars of grasstops advocacy are as follows:
Identifying advocates who can serve as Key Contacts for your organization is of the utmost importance. If your organization follows these strategies to correctly identify the right advocates to participate in your Key Contact Program, your program will grow exponentially.
Survey Your Stakeholders
Surveying your advocate base is an easy and effective method to uncover hidden relationships with lawmakers. A family friend of a Congressman or a college roommate of a State Senator, you would be surprised to see what kind of relationships arise when you simply ask your stakeholders. You can use these surveys to find these relationships. Additionally, you can leverage these surveys to gauge the relationships strength, what outreach methods the advocate would be comfortable utilizing when contacting the lawmaker, and other important factors that can help you effectively “tier” your Key Contacts later. Tiering your advocates will help you better understand which Key Contacts are the strongest and which need more training and guidance.
Train Your Top Grassroots Advocates
Finding any/all existing relationships between your stakeholders and lawmakers is vital when building out your Key Contact Program. However, do not overlook elevating your top-tier grassroots advocates into Key Contacts. The advocates you lean on to do any/all advocacy activities because they are always enthusiastic and willing to participate. You can leverage these individuals to become excellent Key Contacts with the appropriate training and guidance. Do not rely on the finite universe of advocates with existing relationships. Lean into your network of stellar grassroots advocates and help elevate them to the grasstops level.
Audit Existing Advocate Data
As your organization captures and tracks the activities of your advocates, it’s essential to analyze this data to help you identify your “top” advocates. Every organization has advocates who engage with all their advocacy efforts, but finding each of these individuals is key when looking for advocates who can serve as Key Contacts. Enthusiastic, top-tier advocates can cultivate relationships with lawmakers given the right tools and information. Leverage your existing advocate data.
Leverage Outside Data
Whether you have an existing group of Key Contacts or are starting a brand-new program, using demographic, contributor, and voter data from external sources can help you find potential Key Contacts within your organization. Which individuals are politically active? Which individuals contribute internally to your PAC and externally to organizations/candidates? All these questions can help put you on the right track to finding new Key Contacts, and they can be answered by utilizing outside data sources.
Turn your best Key Contacts into recruiters (and trainers, but we will address that in our next article) for your Key Contact Program. If you’ve ever done any work for a PAC, you understand the power of peer-to-peer interactions to get stakeholders to participate in political giving. The same is true for advocacy programs. Establish a peer-to-peer program to incentivize and motivate your existing Key Contacts to recruit their peers to participate.
Identifying Key Contacts through the above strategies will expand your organization’s Key Contact Program. Your program will grow, and you will find qualified advocates to serve as Key Contacts. Finding the right advocates can be difficult, but these best practices will put you and your organization on the right track to begin expanding your grasstops advocacy.