Imagine you are a state legislator. It is Monday morning and you arrive at your office, sit behind your desk, and open your email account. There are 5,000 unread messages. You check your voice mail. There are 300 unheard voice mails. How many of these messages will go unread?
Legislators are bombarded with communications from supporters, from lobbyists, from organizations, and from the public. This can cause your message to get lost in the shuffle. Legislators are telling lobbyists that thousands of the same emails are not enlightening, they are mind numbing. More messages do not get the point across better.
Every organization that lobbies should be asking what they can do to cut through the clutter and get their efforts and constituents heard. If you are considering purchasing or replacing existing grassroots tools, here are a few recommendations.
Quality can be more important that quantity
Effective campaigns are not about large numbers of messages when you are lobbying, they are about reaching the legislators with a quality message that can influence them. Your grassroots system needs to be able to segment your database into three groups: total constituents that live in each area, the constituents that live there and are willing to support your efforts, and the constituents that have a direct connection to a legislator. A segmented grassroots system allows you to choose a strategy that can better accomplish your goals. Some times ten messages from quality sources can be as influential as one hundred emails from constituents.
Find tools to help gather information
Look for intelligent grassroots tools that allow you to gather information from your supporters. Good information can be the difference between run-of-the-mill supporters and quality supporters. While this may seem like a daunting task, a good grassroots system will automate this process. Knowing who your supporters are, what they are willing to do for your cause, and most importantly, who they know and can influence, is vital to having quality messages. Using grassroots software that asks the member to enter this information can take loads of work off of you or your lobbying staff.
Use small armies
Small groups of quality supporters can have just as much, if not more, influence as large armies of constituents. While you may end up with a smaller database of supporters who are connected to the legislator, these people will have more influence. A short call from a friend is ultimately more influential than one thousand anonymous emails.
Shape your message
When it is time to start an email campaign it is important that your supporters have a unified message. As a lobbyist, you know what you need your supporters to say. Your grassroots lobbying software should help you get your supporters on the same page. Make sure your software allows you to provide your supporters text for their emails or allows them to edit the text for their message. Leaving it up to the audience to craft their own message can often lead to poor responses from under-informed constituents.
Two types of email campaigns
It is important to remember that there are two types of targeted grassroots campaigns. A targeted legislator campaign is when you need your message to get to a specific person or committee. This requires all your supporters to contact a small selection of people. The other is a constituent campaign, when you need your constituents to contact their specific local representatives. Your software should be able to pair constituents with their local representatives to accomplish this goal automatically. Utilizing these two strategies can be the difference between using a rifle and a shotgun. Both can be effective, but they are each better at their specific tasks.