Advocacy in the Modern Era

Even though it wasn’t originally referred to as “advocacy,” the concept goes way back—to, at the very least, the mid-18th century. At the time, a British Parliamentarian named John Wilkes, a champion of individualism and free expression, publicly advocated for reform on a number of issues, among them the right to vote and religious tolerance. Years before the Revolutionary War began, he even supported and inspired the American colonists aspiring to independence.   

But it wasn’t until the 1960s, here in the U.S., that the term “advocacy” began to gain traction. Which makes sense. It was the decade when the civil, women’s and anti-war movements, among many others, took root. And now, more than 50 years later, an argument could be made that “advocacy” is an overused term.  

But it’s also more useful and, with help from technology, effective than ever—not just in the halls of legislature, but at the local, state and regional levels, in non- and for-profit communities. And it’s at the core of what CiviClick does for many clients. 

But what, exactly, is advocacy in the modern era? We have an answer to that question.

A Definition (or Two) and Advocacy’s Early Days

Advocacy,” according to Merriam-Webster, is “the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal; the act or process of advocating something.” OK, so what does “advocate” mean? “[T]o support or argue for (a cause, policy, etc.); to plead in favor of.” This makes sense, as the French word for “lawyer” is “avocat.” And legal advocacy goes back to ancient times, in Rome and Greece.

While the term’s exact origin is tough to nail down, in the mid-1960s a man named Paul Davidoff, a New York City activist and urban planner, penned an article in which he promoted “advocacy planning.” He felt that city government, represented by NYC’s planning commission, should not have the only and final say in how the neighborhoods of underrepresented residents are built and/or altered. The people themselves, he insisted, must have a voice in the process, with support from advocates.

“The advocate planner,” he wrote, would provide information, analyze trends and predict future conditions. “In addition,… he would be a proponent of specific substantive solutions.”

What followed, from the ’60s through the ’90s, was a succession of movements during which communities, supported by advocacy specialists, affected significant changes in a wide range of areas, from anti-nukes to education to veterans’ rights. Then, starting in the ’90s, advocacy was ratcheted up—first via email, then the internet, and, finally, social media. Today, we call it digital advocacy. And it enables just about anyone to advocate relatively easily at some level.

No matter what the means, however, there are a few basic reasons why advocacy is critical to reform.   

Why Advocacy is So Important

Whatever the movement may be, advocacy fosters communities of people who’ve come together to promote their cause in a number of ways, which include:

  • Empowering people and giving them a voice. On their own, people may be hesitant to advocate for issues near and dear to them. But backed by a support network, they’re more likely to speak out publicly. This attracts the attention of the media, politicians, and, in some cases, high-profile figures who can help spotlight the cause and, eventually, bring about change.
  • Influencing policies and educating potential allies. Provided with a platform, advocacy communities make lawmakers aware of previously little-known issues and, through networking, demonstrate ways in which new legislation can positively impact society. They can also educate potential allies—and, in many cases, the general public—about hardships and injustices specific groups face.
  • Promoting participation and problem-solving. Because advocacy at its best is a collaborative effort, advocates and their supporters find ways to solve problems together, through diligence and coordinated planning. Organizing protests, lobbying politicians, and engaging in digital advocacy, to name just a few tasks, require skills that ensure the smooth facilitation of advocacy efforts.
  • Highlighting available resources and services. Rarely does advocacy occur in a vacuum. Well-coordinated efforts make use of already available resources and services. They could be financial resources, the expertise of like-minded organizations, or governmental services. Advocacy enables people to utilize tools that were previously thought unattainable.
  • Fostering respect for a cause. In many cases, advocacy spotlights causes once thought to have little to no widespread relevance. The growth of environmentalist movements over the past century is the most obvious example. Fostering respect often helps propel an advocacy effort forward, enabling advocates and people in power to find common ground and solve problems civilly.

What Advocacy Looks (and Should Look) Like

Speaking of moving forward, where does advocacy’s history leave us today? What does advocacy look like, and what should it look like, in the modern era?

From 30,000 feet, it appears as if advocacy plays two roles: as a support system for those trying to affect change and a potential catalyst for that change. But, ironically, this view is shortsighted. More than ever, the people directly affected by adverse policies have the means at their disposal to do more than just participate in the rules-changing process. They can also proactively shape the lives they want to live.

It’s our job as advocacy professionals to help them. Collectively, we should question whether the fundamental assumptions about advocacy serve people, organizations and businesses as well as they should. For example, while advocacy certainly empowers the individual, should it do so at the risk of alienating like-minded people or organizations that could help individuals achieve their goals?

We must find ways to enable people to express their full selves while, at the same time, involving others—like trade associations, fellow nonprofits and government agencies—who might be able to help them. We also need to transform short-term victories into the realization of long-term goals, so that people are empowered far into the future. Again, the ongoing battle against climate change comes to mind. 


The bottom line is that, as we see from history, advocacy is ever-evolving, regardless of fancy new tools or methodologies. Positive change is best achieved through continual dialogue, collaboration, and a commitment to ensuring that the people suffering the most are heard from.

At CiviClick, we remain ever vigilant and always look forward to working with clients who appreciate the value of support services and the wisdom of advocacy experts across many different sectors, each with one goal in mind: to make positive change a reality.

What Does an Effective Grassroots Advocacy Campaign Look Like?

Each grassroots campaign, one that grows from the ground up, is pretty much what you’d imagine—a social or political movement driven by regular people, those who will be directly affected by its impacts. This means every campaign, focused on a specific goal, is different. Some strive to influence social justice issues, others policies affecting climate change, and still others the elections of political candidates.

For example, Barry Goldwater, the 1964 Republican nominee for U.S. president, wasn’t the establishment’s go-to choice that year. The Arizona senator earned his nomination after galvanizing a grassroots coalition of business folk, Southern and Midwestern conservatives, and libertarians disillusioned with the GOP party at the time. Decades later, Bernie Sanders, the progressive Democratic senator from Vermont, did the same for folks on the other side of the fence, by riding a grassroots wave of support during the 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns.  

While neither gent won the presidency, grassroots efforts certainly bolstered their campaigns. And beginning with the 2016 election, many other groups and individuals turned to grassroots advocacy to raise their voices and promote their causes. By 2020, when COVID-19-related policies and social unrest were making headlines, grassroots advocacy at the local, state, and national levels was almost commonplace.

Therein lies the rub. Any grassroots marketing or advocacy conducted today—by a business, trade association or nonprofit—must rise above the din. Its participants have to work extra hard and be truly creative, to wage an effective advocacy campaign.

How Do You Measure a Successful Campaign?

While each campaign is different, and backed by an army of advocates striving for a unique goal, there are a few basic metrics that help determine whether it’s successful of not:

  • Increased awareness

Did your efforts—whether you’re a business bolstering your brand or a nonprofit seeking change—turn up the volume on your cause? Did it make headlines, draw legions of supporters, catch the attention of legislators? If the answer is “yes,” and you were able to keep track of what you’ve achieved, raising awareness is half the battle.

  • Impact on policy, legislation, or an election

 Even better is that your efforts resulted in a policy and/or legislation change—in your favor, of course—or the election of a political candidate whose presence in government will benefit you in the future. But this isn’t always easy to measure. Other people, groups or factors may have played a role in achieving such goals. At the very least, you’ve helped accomplish the change you lobbied for. And if you’re a business, you’ll know whether grassroots marketing has helped sell a product or service or expand your brand.

  • Growth

As in the growth of your company, association or nonprofit. By the end of a campaign, you can measure, again by keeping track of, the number of supporters and their engagement during the campaign.

With these metrics in mind, we’d like to share examples of successful grassroots advocacy campaigns, each with valuable lessons to impart.

The Power of Social Media and Storytelling

The first example takes us abroad, to Sweden, where, a decade ago, UNICEF Sweden, which provides humanitarian aid to families in developing countries, conducted what it called a “Likes Don’t Save Lives” campaign. Responding to the obsession with collecting likes on social media, the nonprofit wanted to make the point that likes alone don’t translate into change. So it created several YouTube videos addressing that very theme, each accompanied by a donation button.

The videos went viral worldwide and raised enough money to vaccinate more than 630,000 children against polio. So the campaign, leveraging digital technology, was bold, creative and beneficial to hundreds of thousands of the organization’s core constituents.

Closer to home, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) recently ramped up its advocacy efforts by providing farmers with opportunities to meet with legislators and their staffs in person. To ensure impact—which, in this case, means having legislators remember the farmers and their needs whenever relevant legislation comes up for a vote—the bureau trained its advocates in effective storytelling techniques. It worked. The AFBF reports that the storytellers, in particular, are often called by the staffs of Congresspeople to discuss upcoming legislation.

Storytelling is just one of the bureau’s methods. On its website is a page dedicated to grassroots advocacy as well as a toolkit providing a long list of ways “to increase your effectiveness as a champion advocate for agriculture.” Those ways include creating virtual farm tours, sending personalized emails to lawmakers, attending events and conducting year-round advocacy.  

Appealing to Lawmakers and Celebrating Real People

Another nonprofit that proactively reaches out to Congress is Save the Children, which, for more than a century, has championed the rights of kids worldwide. It, too, has an advocacy page and operates the Save the Children Action Network, which provides advocates with a host of options for getting the word out on specific issues, including a Take Action page enabling people to reach out to lawmakers. The script for each message states the purpose of the action and what a lawmaker can do to help.

Advocacy, of course, isn’t just reserved for nonprofits. One example of how a well-known company used grassroots marketing to burnish its brand took place during the height of the COVID pandemic. In the summer of 2020, Coca-Cola tapped into the widespread feeling of isolation by creating an ad titled “The Great Meal,” an homage, it said, “to the silver linings of a global pandemic.” Produced during the quarantine, the 90-second ad featured 13 real-life households in eight countries preparing, then eating home-cooked meals with Coke on the side.

The ad followed months of Coca-Cola refraining from marketing due to the pandemic. So this was its way of resuming advertising during what was then the new “normal,” living in COVID bubbles pre-vaccine. That normal ended up being temporary, of course, but the company successfully applied a grassroots method to bonding with its consumers during a difficult time.

Promoting Safety and Upping Your Game

Another food-related organization, this one a nonprofit promoting organic and sustainable alternatives to processed food, went the grassroots advocacy route to raise awareness about, of all things, popcorn. In 2015, the Center for Food Safety shared that 40 insecticides, including three that are bee-toxic, were being used in the processing of popcorn products. It created a campaign site that included a petition and social media instructions, with the intent of pressuring companies to pull back on the use of bee-toxic insecticides. And by the next year, it was reported that several big brands had removed them from the popcorn supply chain.

Other organizations, when they’re not launching specific campaigns, are simply looking to up their advocacy game, which is what Veterans for American Ideals (VFAI) recently did. For a long time, it managed grassroots campaigns with Excel spreadsheets and email marketing software. But it wanted to do a better job of activating supporters, so it invested in the kind of grassroots advocacy software CiviClick encourages and quickly realized the benefits of integrating its advocacy work into a digital platform. This enabled the VFAI to upgrade its advocacy page, which provides visitors with information on whom it works with, the help needed, and the ways in which advocates can get involved.


The forms of grassroots advocacy are as varied as the causes for which they are utilized. They range from ad campaigns to social media movements to training advocates on how to meet, greet, and influence lawmakers. For successful campaigns, like those shared above, the bottom line is that they’re bold, creative, and accessible, energizing advocates and enabling them to easily promote a cause.

These examples are meant to inspire and inform. But we also invite any company or organization that might be looking for extra help to reach out to the CiviClick team. We’d be more than happy to show you what we can do to help.

Digital Advocacy 101: How It’s Done

Whether you’re an organization or company engaged in a campaign, or in advocating for a specific policy or cause, there is rarely a break in the action these days. When it comes to “rallying the troops,” off-seasons no longer exist, which means your advocacy teams must be prepared, at a moment’s notice, to leverage digital space to spread the word and mobilize advocates.

Sending emails or text messages, making phone calls, creating social media campaigns — whatever it takes, organizations must be able to move quickly and efficiently to target their intended audiences in support of a campaign or cause.

With deep-bench expertise in advocacy, CiviClick knows just how important the digital component of any successful effort is. But we want everyone else to be aware of its import as well as what it takes to fully ramp up an advocacy campaign. You simply can’t do it without digital tools.

So, welcome to Digital Advocacy 101, complete with the details you’ll need to step up your game.  

What It Is, and Why It’s Important

As noted in an earlier post, digital advocacy, quite simply, is the use of technology to create, promote, and mobilize support for a cause or campaign. Those engaged in the practice employ a whole host of tools, including their own websites as well emails, text messages, online petitions, social media, and virtual events.

While traditional advocacy, including face-to-face meetings, is still highly effective and, indeed, crucial for campaigns, the digital component, over the past decade, has evolved into an indispensable means of bolstering campaigns. Why? Because it is:

  • Quicker than traditional advocacy, reaching more people in a relatively short span of time — especially considering the magnitude of leads and contacts on your advocacy list.
  • Scalable. One email or text can go out to an entire list, then be forwarded to others by supporters. And, on social media, a video can be shared — and potentially go viral — reaching well beyond your list. The same is true of digital narratives, which appeal to younger, highly active audiences prone to sharing on social media.
  • More efficient, thanks to digital advocacy software making it possible to store all in-house info in a central, searchable, and highly functional location. If you need to identify active supporters, or advocates in a certain location, it is relatively easy to do.

There’s a reason so many companies and organizations have made digital advocacy, via social media especially, a crucial part of their daily efforts. As a couple of examples, see what the American Childhood Cancer Association and the Red Cross are doing.

Depending on what you’re promoting, digital advocacy campaigns can be relatively simple or quite complicated, or somewhere in between. Whatever the goal, there are a handful of steps essential for carrying out a digital advocacy campaign.

Know What You Want

Planning is everything. House-builders need blueprints, triathletes need to know their routes. So make sure to take the time necessary to prepare for your campaign. Establish measurable goals, set a timeline, know exactly how you’ll communicate and meet all the requirements necessary to launch a campaign.

First and foremost, do not have unrealistic expectations. And make sure that the team and tools at your disposal are sufficient to handle however long the campaign may take: a couple weeks, three months, or more. For longer-term goals, you may want to recruit a healthy number of advocates and/or reach out to those policymakers or legislators who can ultimately be of help.

Your Toolbox and Target Audience

Among the essential digital advocacy tools are: a database to maintain your list; email and text messengers to communicate; a website enabling advocates to take action; and an analytics suite to track progress and optimize performance. Advocacy software does all of those things in one place, and it is always the first step. A proven, reliable, easy-to-use system helps guarantee you have the capabilities you need. It also provides the technical support for success.

First, though, know your target audience. From the get-go, identify the advocates who will help spread the message. For some campaigns, you might send a call to action (CTA) to your entire list. For others, it might just be supporters in a single state or region. Choosing the right advocates is extremely important, seeing as you’ll be attempting to engage those most likely to take action. 

Also keep in mind that legislators, if they’re on your list, will listen to their constituents; so that’s who should be sending them emails or letters. Otherwise, you’re wasting time and energy.

Your Message and Advocacy Activities

Carefully craft your message. You need to know what you want to say and what imagery you will use when launching a campaign. And, again, plan ahead of time. If you know your organization’s position on an issue, creating messaging and having it approved in advance can speed up campaigns. Consider too what it will require to mobilize your audience. While some may respond to a simple request, others may need education to get up to speed on an issue.

If you do have to create messaging spur of the moment, you can still be proactive by setting up an approval process ahead of time, so that you can go from 0 to 60, draft to launch, expeditiously.

Once your team is in place, an audience established, and the messaging down, it’s time to launch your campaign’s advocacy activities. CTAs are guided by what works best for the situation and your audience. So they could include advocates signing a petition, sharing materials (such as videos), contacting legislators, or other requests.

Here are several additional ideas:

  • Host fundraising events via social media (e.g., Facebook, YouTube, Instagram) and your website.
  • Offer webinars to raise awareness about your cause.
  • Conduct outreach activities, such as calling and texting supporters, donors, and other stakeholders to garner support.
  • Engage in texting and email campaigns to keep people updated about your campaign or cause.
  • On social media, conduct live sessions with experts.

Ups and Downs, and How to Handle Them

As with everything in life, digital advocacy comes with challenges. Your audience members, for example, may experience digital fatigue and, in turn, be difficult to mobilize. Some may engage on certain issues, not on others. The best campaigns successfully navigate obstacles and continually motivate advocates without being too aggressive.

The rhythm of a campaign is especially important. Email or text too often, advocates may ignore your messages. If you don’t do it enough, they may forget why your issues are important. A winning strategy focuses on specific channels and includes a timeline for what to post and when. These strategies also help boost performance:

  • Educate your audience. Messaging should include links to appropriate resources, like studies and data backing up your assertions. It may also include links to personal stories and your campaign page, where they can find out more or sign up for notifications.
  • Choose the correct channels by knowing where your target audience spends its time. Are emails or texts more effective? If social media is the way to go, which platforms?  You want to match your digital tools with the ways your audience communicates.
  • Send appropriate messages. People don’t act unless they’re connected to an issue. Whether enlisting advocates, sharing info, or reaching out to policymakers, make the message relatable. How does an issue affect them? Why would a change benefit them?
  • Recruit grasstops advocates. These are usually high-profile people who’ve shown interest in advocacy and have close relationships with policymakers and legislators, people who, once you share impactful information with them, can help boost campaign performance.
  • Re-engage advocates. By tracking campaign activity, you can find ways to reactivate advocates who haven’t taken action and increase their participation. See who’s acted the fewest number of times, then provide them with resources designed to energize them.

Assess Your Campaign

After your campaign is done (or is put on hold or is shifting gears), it’s important to evaluate its performance. If you have, indeed, set measurable goals from the outset, you can look back and assess whether or not the goals were or have been met. As mentioned above, with the right software, you’ll have insights into which efforts yielded the most impact so that you can optimize your strategy moving forward.


Digital advocacy is no longer a sidekick to traditional advocacy. It’s a crucial part of any advocacy efforts, so long as you employ the appropriate tools and set up teams able to handle them. While it doesn’t substitute for traditional advocacy, it hones, quickens and makes more effective those efforts.

But digital advocacy is not easy. You need a team focused on digital tools and how to use them, and your messaging, audience and ways of communicating must be mapped out ahead of time if you want to succeed. And always assess how the campaign is doing so that, afterward, you know what worked and didn’t work and can adjust for future campaigns.

Taking all these steps will help to ensure that your organization’s advocacy efforts are more efficient and effective than ever before. Don’t ignore digital advocacy; embrace it. 

What Is Public Affairs, and How Does It Work?

Whether you’re affiliated with a business or a nonprofit, you operate within an ecosystem where multiple entities—such as lawmakers, stakeholders, and, to some degree, the public—play vital roles. You do not, in other words, operate in a vacuum. 

And in that ecosystem, public relations, utilizing marketing and advertising techniques, helps to promote your brand or cause. But it’s public affairs that provides you with the means to communicate in nuanced ways with your various constituents and, in turn, to shape public debate around issues that directly impact your work.

“Nuanced” is key here, as public affairs, practiced effectively, is a long-term, multi-pronged effort. But before we get into details, it’s good to know what we mean, exactly, by “public affairs.”

What Public Affairs Is and Isn’t

Three terms that often get confused with each other are public relations, government relations and public affairs. This is, of course, understandable, so it’s worth distinguishing between the three.

The aim of public relations is to generate positive publicity, to help build loyalty for a company or organization and promote its brand. Government relations, meanwhile, serves as a branch of public relations, facilitating, in particular, communication between an organization and government officials. It’s the process of influencing public policy on various levels, from local to global, depending on the issue and who’s doing the influencing. The goal is to persuade government officials to change or maintain a policy, usually one that fits the needs of your organization.  

Public affairs extends far beyond the government. It’s a service that helps you interact with your stakeholders, legislators, and the media. Focused primarily on policy issues, public affairs experts, like those at CiviClick, concentrate on finding solutions to problems. They serve as a liaison between you and your community, the government, and the media, mostly by disseminating information intended to influence public policy and build support for your organization’s agenda.

One example of public affairs is the ways in which Walmart supports policies that positively impact not only its business, but the interests of its customers and other stakeholders. Among its activities are advocating for policies at various government levels; encouraging its employees to vote; and working with trade associations to advance issues that affect its stakeholders and business.

Why Public Affairs is So Important

Public affairs applies to trade associations and nonprofits as well. It provides a framework for guiding key advocacy activities with stakeholders, including allies, policy influencers, lawmakers, and government officials. These are people whose policy decisions extend far beyond business, affecting people, charities, and multiple organizations as well. By making stakeholders aware of your agenda, and your key “asks,” you ensure that your stand on issues are understood and help influence policy change.

Local and state governments throughout the country pass regulations and laws that touch multiple industries and communities. The way businesses are licensed to operate, the distribution of food and utilities—these are just a few examples of decisions made by governments at various levels. With this in mind, it’s imperative that the voices of an organization and its stakeholders are heard on regulations directly impacting day-to-day operations. Public affairs teams, employing a formal strategy, ensure that those voices are heard in the halls of power.

Public Affairs Strategies

Because what and who shapes policy is so important to organizations, government relations and public affairs often work hand-in-hand, providing a one-two punch, if you will. Ideally, teams working in both areas can craft a strategy that, first, defines an organization’s goals, then identifies important legislation and leverages relationships with stakeholders and decision-makers to achieve optimal results.

Here’s how it works. When proposed legislation is set to impact an organization, government relations specialists meet with and discuss the legislation with the appropriate decision-making parties while the public affairs team shares information about it with stakeholders, the media, and, if applicable, the general public. 

It can also work the other way. If a specific community expresses concern over an issue, one for which there is no existing rule or regulation, it’s the responsibility of the public affairs team to come up with possible solutions and, with help from the government relations team, convince government officials to act in a way that addresses the community’s concerns.

Advocacy: a Key Component

Public affairs, therefore, entails many responsibilities and demands that its experts specialize in a number of areas, including:

  • Lobbying local, state and national lawmakers on specific policies or legislation
  • Providing stakeholders with pertinent information, either directly or through the media
  • Monitoring political activity and information
  • Advising an organization’s leaders
  • Advocacy

The last one is especially important. As we’ve noted in previous posts, advocacy campaigns—whether legislative, grassroots or nonprofit in nature—are often vital to achieving the specific or overall goals of an organization, making advocacy a key aspect of a successful public affairs strategy. Developing and maintaining relationships that will benefit your industry or cause are vital to influencing government actions, including lawmaking.

For similar reasons, lobbying is important as well. Lobbyists, whose role is to take part in an organized attempt to influence legislators, are professional advocates for individuals and organizations. Any advocacy efforts they participate in can help introduce, shape, and support laws and regulations crucial to an organization’s cause.

Finally, public affairs teams must cultivate fruitful relationships with the media. All forms of media, from print to digital to social, serve not only as a means of sharing important information and issues with your stakeholders; they have the power to sway the general public as well. So building a healthy relationship with the media is key.


To reiterate, an effective public affairs strategy provides a business, trade association or nonprofit with a solid framework for guiding key advocacy activities. It combines stakeholder outreach with expertly handled government and media relations aimed at achieving an organization’s short- and long-term goals.

The most adroit public affairs experts, many of whom are employed by CiviClick, perform a variety of all-important tasks, including: maintaining ongoing relationships with lawmakers and government regulators; informing and reassuring stakeholders; monitoring policies relevant to a client’s industry; and leveraging media to help influence public policy.

If it sounds like a bit of a balancing act, it is. But the payoff—both protecting and bolstering a client’s work and well-being—is a huge one. 


8 Reasons CiviClick is Different From Its Competitors

In today’s world—with the many ways we communicate, share information, and push for causes and campaigns—one major way to serve a client is by leveraging the latest technology in ways once unimaginable. 

While other advocacy technology platforms continue to operate pre-pandemic systems, CiviClick leverages modern AI to improve on advocacy campaign content and delivers more customization options to advocacy professionals.

We’re a company of former campaign veterans, political consultants, and public affairs practitioners with decades of experience at the intersection of politics and technology. We engage in product design with direct input from those on the frontlines: Hill staffers, political campaign operatives, lobbyists, and grassroots advocacy professionals.

CiviClick’s core objectives include:

  • Use ground-breaking AI, machine learning, and gamification technology to modernize how advocates communicate with lawmakers.
  • Make advocacy fun, engaging, and highly interactive, applying the Octalysis Framework. (More on that later.)
  • Enable companies and organizations to grow their advocate communities via technology, surveys, social listening, community-building activities, and access to CiviClick’s 58-million-person owned audience database of online activists.

What distinguishes us from our competitors in the use of technology is a bit more complicated, and worth digging into. Below, you’ll find eight reasons why CiviClick is different from its competitors, and most likely a great fit for your organization’s needs.  

QR Codes and Video Messages

These days, we rely on our phones for just about everything. That should include advocacy. CiviClick’s technology allows our clients to create custom quick response, or QR, codes linking advocacy actions to any and all related materials.

Think about it. Your organization has just launched a campaign, and you’re looking for advocates, people who can join and promote the cause. A QR code—one that links to a membership sign-up—can easily be displayed on any number of promotional tools: yard signs, posters, table and tent placards, even T-shirts, all in an effort to solicit engagement.

But a QR code has the potential to serve many other purposes. For example, it can be used to: link to a donation form; sign up for text alerts and direct mail; add a name to a petition; and access information on laws, policies, lawmakers, and voter registration. It can also be used to facilitate conversations between advocates, who can exchange stories, videos, and information.

Just as QR codes can play a vital role in your advocacy efforts, the same goes for video messaging, which often packs more of a punch than anything written down. A truly effective video, featuring a speaker or speakers sharing their passion for a cause, can go a long way in convincing a lawmaker or a potential advocate or donor that a cause is worthy.

With this in mind, CiviClick has developed a robust system enabling advocates to record short video messages, then easily share them with appropriate elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels. For a variety of reasons, our biggest competitors do not allow for video messages to be recorded by advocates and sent to elected officials. But our system ensures that tastefully produced videos end up in the right hands.

Built-In Advertising Database

When it comes to trying to change a law or a policy, we need to be honest. No matter how important, even earth-shattering, your cause is, if you can’t get lawmakers to listen, you’re not going to have much of an impact. But because we have a massive database, CiviClick can market your policy initiatives to tens of millions of people in various ways.

We offer “pay-for-performance” data and advertising solutions, which help expand your reach by attracting the right advocates to generate momentum for your campaign. With an owned audience of 85 million-plus activists in the United States and Canada, we can advertise an advocacy campaign to a vast pool of potential advocates with interest tags for over 40 policy issues.

We also give clients the opportunity to build custom audiences and target supporters through emails, text messages, live operator phone calls, direct mail, social media ads, display ads, and hundreds of web properties within our partner network.


Perhaps you’ve heard the term before but aren’t quite sure what it means. “Gamification” is an interactive design approach that focuses less on functionality and more on what motivates human behavior. It takes elements from video and handheld games and applies them to real-life activities, including healthcare, education and, in our case, advocacy.

We base our design on what’s known as the Octalysis Framework. Created by veteran game designer Yu-Kai Chou, the framework revolves around eight “core drives”: epic meaning, accomplishment, empowerment, ownership, social influence, scarcity, unpredictability, and avoidance. With CiviClick’s state-of-the-art technology and gamification modules, clients are able to create custom advocate segments that engage their users by actively rewarding participation and increasing engagement.

AI-Generated Email Content

In a digitally-fueled universe, email marketing is a critical tool for connecting with customers, members, and advocates. But with so many organizations vying for attention in recipients’ inboxes, how do you stand out? AI-generated content is quickly becoming a way to create personalized, engaging email content at scale. 

CiviClick’s technology is the first AI-powered stakeholder mobilization platform of its kind in the advocacy space. Integrating a proprietary blend of cutting-edge AI technologies, we’re able to generate email content for action alerts that can help increase conversion rates and move towards a successful outcome. This offers an unparalleled level of content variation that truly sets us apart.

For example, prompted with a default message or document, CiviClick’s AI determines the most appropriate messaging strategy based on campaign targets. Our AI also generates customized lawmaker content based on their voting histories. And our system prompts the AI to generate content that mimics a client’s tone of voice or background, taking even regional dialects into account.

Automated Thank Yous and Email Throttling

Our competitors typically say “so long” to advocates after they’ve completed a desired task. But with CiviClick’s technology, our clients are able to send automated thank you texts and emails to advocates. This achieves two goals: keeps the advocates engaged and lets them know that their dedication to a cause and our client’s ongoing work is greatly appreciated.  

Other advocacy firms also tend to send emails off to advocates as soon as they press “send now.” But through a process known as email throttling, or the regulation of deliveries during high-traffic periods, CiviClick enables its clients to control the cadence of message delivery. This crucial feature allows companies and organizations to create a steady drumbeat of support to help accomplish their goals.

Professional Services

Most advocacy companies provide their clients with an account manager, to answer basic technical and product inquiries. But winning advocacy campaigns require data, planning, strong messaging, and omni-channel engagement with a focus on both grassroots and grasstops.

So, at CiviClick, we provide an extra layer of support via our professional services team. These are seasoned advocacy professionals who are also digital advocacy practitioners. They can assist your team with services such as: copywriting, messaging, strategy, audience segmentation, campaign planning and execution, and legislative research. They can also guide you through the advocacy process from start to finish, from budgeting to hiring vendors to deploying data solutions.


We know it’s not easy to choose from among the many public affairs advocacy firms in business today. But at CiviClick, we not only offer advocacy expertise; we have the tech savvy to help you successfully navigate a digital landscape that is so important to advocacy efforts. And it’s a landscape that’s continually changing, thanks, in no small part, to the fast-paced evolution of AI.

For the eight reasons mentioned above, CiviClick leads the pack in helping clients engage in digital advocacy efforts and campaigns. If you need even more reasons, we invite you to schedule a no-obligations demo with us. That way, we can decide together whether CiviClick is the right fit for your organization.  

Back From Recess: Congressional Challenges, 2023

Soon, the clock will start ticking.

In early September, after a roughly six-week recess, the U.S. Congress will return to Washington, D.C., to vote on a dozen spending bills that will determine the ways in which the government operates and spends taxpayer money. And, as many of you know, a lot is at stake. But three significant issues, in particular, loom over the last days of the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30th.   

What are they? The Defense Reauthorization and Farm bills and, if other spending bills end up being political footballs, the possible shutdown of the U.S. government.

The last time we had a shutdown was in late 2018 when President Trump and House Democrats were battling over a proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall. Lasting just over a month, it deprived 800,000 federal workers of paychecks and hampered federal services, including food safety inspections and the operations of the IRS and national parks and museums.

Shutdowns, in other words, are not optimal. But this year, preventing one won’t be easy. Below, we share why, first with a look at the history of what some believe is an overly long Congressional break.

The Recess: A Brief History

It may sound like a waste of time, but there are a few good reasons for the recess the U.S. Congress takes from late July through early September. Prior to the 20th century, when politics was a part-time job for Congressmen, reserving time to run their businesses made perfect sense. But as the gig’s responsibilities piled up, the members of the House and Senate found themselves with very little time off. In 1963, a record-setting year, the U.S. Senate convened in January and didn’t adjourn till December.

Congress, at that point, consisted of many younger members who’d had enough. They advocated for a work-life balance, including time spent with family and constituents back home. So Congress enacted the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970, requiring a recess in August.

Fifty-plus years later, with even more on Congress’s plate and a 24/7 news cycle, the length of the recess is often questioned, in part because it leaves the House and Senate relatively little time to wrap up each session’s business. And when Congress adjourned in late July, they’d only jointly passed one of 12 appropriations bills, each funding a different part of the federal government.

The Senate returns on Sept. 5 and the House on Sept. 12, which, collectively, gives them just under three weeks to resolve any differences before the end of the fiscal year. So let’s see what we’re up against.

Defense Reauthorization

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), established in 1961, is an annual piece of legislation that sets guidelines for the U.S. Department of Defense and covers military-related programs operated by other federal agencies, including the Department of Energy and the FBI. Its passage is usually unaffected by bi-partisan politics, but this year, just before their August break, the Republican-controlled House and the Democrat-controlled Senate passed very different versions of the NDAA, setting the stage for a potentially volatile reconciliation process in the coming month, during which committees from both chambers will have to iron out the bills’ disparities.

First, here are a few items both the House and Senate see eye-to-eye on:

  •  A 5.2% pay raise for military service members 
  • Allowing the U.S. Treasury Department to use sanctions against any person or organization involved in the international fentanyl trade
  • Facilitating better access to mental health care for sailors (following a recent spike of suicides in the U.S. Navy)

But the House version, which includes amendments pushed by some of the chamber’s more conservative members, included a few deemed unpalatable by their Senate counterparts:

  • Not allowing the Pentagon to cover travel expenses for out-of-state abortions
  • Eliminating medical procedures for openly transgender service members
  • Doing away with the Pentagon’s diversity, equity and inclusion offices

Otherwise, both versions of the bill, funding-wise, come close to the figure recommended by President Biden—$874 billion for the House, $886 billion for the Senate.

The rub is that the two chambers will now have to negotiate and devise a final version of the bill, which will test the resolve of certain Congresspeople whose political priorities may serve as impediments.

The Farm Bill

What’s known as the Farm Bill, a multi-year law governing various federal agricultural and food programs, is also susceptible to intra-Congressional disputes, only neither chamber got around to voting on its renewal pre-recess. So when they return, the House and Senate will have to sprint to achieve its passage before the fiscal year ends, with many expected disagreements on the horizon.

In the House, Democrats and GOP moderates aren’t happy with a push by conservatives to bar mail delivery of the abortion pill mifepristone, while the House Freedom Caucus wants stiffer work requirements on nutrition programs and deeper spending cuts across the board.

But a number of issues are considered contentious. As part of the negotiations leading to the debt-ceiling agreement reached a couple of months ago, for example, Republicans are looking for ways to ensure the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, includes work requirements for beneficiaries. State agencies have already begun to increase the number of people whose food-aid benefits will be severely limited unless they can document that they’ve either been working part-time or receiving work training.

There have also been discussions about repurposing nearly $20 billion provided for Agriculture Department conservation programs to address climate issues, programs favored by many farmers, but only if federal funding can help cover upfront costs.

Also at issue is a proposed cut in funding for WIC, the federal voucher program that helps pregnant women and young mothers afford food. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities warned it would remove up to 750,000 beneficiaries from WIC while reducing benefits for another 4.6 million nationwide.   

While other issues hang in the balance, the overall cost of the Farm Bill is projected at more than $1 trillion, a huge price tag considering that one item House conservatives, in particular, are insisting upon is an overall pull-back in government spending. In fact, that’s at the heart of the shutdown threat.

 To Shut Down or Not to Shut Down?

Back in late May, when the debt ceiling deal was negotiated by President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, it specified that most federal government funding should remain flat for the next two years. Some House Republicans, however, are in favor of going further, by spending in fiscal year 2024 what was spent in 2022—amounting, in essence, to $115 billion in cuts.

That’s the backdrop for any and all funding votes when Congress returns from recess. To reiterate—lawmakers will be trying to approve 12 appropriation bills in total. In the past, some or all spending bills have been rolled into single “omnibus” packages. But earlier this year, when McCarthy was vying to win support for his nomination as speaker, he promised that the House would handle each separately.

The backup plan is to pass a “continuing resolution” (CR) allowing the government to continue operating at current levels, even after the Sept. 30 deadline, until all the bills are passed.

But agreement on that is not assured. Spending hawks have threatened to vote against temporary measures, and with recent inflation and other indicators hinting at a potentially unstable economy, senior Republicans are pushing for more cuts.

Because so little has been voted on, and so many issues remain unresolved, it’s difficult to predict what might happen in September and, if a CR is passed, this fall.


The legislative process, especially at the federal level, has always been a complicated, often frustrating one. As to whether Congress’s summer recess is too long, strong arguments on both sides have been made. Perhaps more important is what Congress accomplishes before the recess begins. And this year, it can be argued, the two chambers came up a bit short.

Beyond the issues discussed above, Congress has no shortage of legislation to tackle after its members return next month. CiviClick advises our clients to follow the status of the bills closely and be prepared to spend money on paid media to support a digital advocacy campaign at scale. 

Many organizations are limited in impact by small membership pools and an even smaller number of participants in digital advocacy efforts. We believe that reaching beyond your base of supporters, to find new advocates is critical to achieving success in terms of driving constituent engagement and showing lawmakers that their voters care about specific issues.

Reasons to Engage in Digital Advocacy

If there’s one thing the pandemic taught us (and it taught us many things), it’s that digital advocacy is a necessity when it comes to promoting a cause and/or seeking change. At the height of the pandemic, when we weren’t able to do anything in person, we did everything online—networking, advocating, fundraising, political campaigning, and selling products and services.

As a result, all of us, not just members of the generations weaned on digital tools, got used to using them. And the upgrades to technology were constant.

Today, there’s no going back. And there shouldn’t be. While digital advocacy will never completely replace face-to-face efforts, it serves as a lightning-quick, scalable, and powerful addition to traditional advocacy. For these reasons, we’d like to share what you should know about digital advocacy—if, indeed, you want to ramp up your own advocacy efforts, whether you’re a company, association, or nonprofit.

What is Digital Advocacy?

Digital advocacy is the use of technology to mobilize support for a specific cause or campaign. Digital advocates utilize a wide variety of tools, including, but not limited to, emails, text messages, online petitions, social media, websites, and virtual-event platforms.

Some organizations subsist solely on digital advocacy, sometimes by covering issues that appeal to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of advocates worldwide. But in most cases, digital advocacy is a complement to traditional advocacy methods, enabling users of digital tools to amplify their dedication to a cause.

For example, the Virginia Nurses Association, which, at the height of COVID, leveraged its website to lobby their governor to establish safety protocols for both patients and healthcare workers, has a page dedicated to online advocacy. Among its offerings are ways to take action, receive alerts, learn about policies, and reach out to legislators.

The point is, digital tools shouldn’t be used willy-nilly, or simply because they’re “cool.” As with traditional advocacy, each tool serves a specific purpose and should contribute positively to an organization’s overall efforts.

What You’ll Need

So, what “tools” are we talking about? Big Picture-wise, they should include: a database to maintain your list of advocates; either a staff member or a team capable of sending out emails and text messages; a website enabling advocates to take action; and an analytics suite to track progress and optimize performance. We’ll get into more detail about that last one below.

Meantime, as with any traditional advocacy campaign, including those for nonprofits, you should take a few basic steps when setting up a digital advocacy campaign. They include:

  • Identify your audience, meaning your fellow advocates. Keeping their interests, skills, and expertise in mind, who would best serve as supporters of a specific cause or campaign? 
  • Know exactly what it is you want to say about an issue or cause in emails, texts, and on social media. Also, think about the imagery you’d like to use. Words alone don’t do the job; you need to capture people’s attention with visuals.   
  • Use social media platforms to help engage supporters effectively. For instance, Facebook, Instagram, and X (formerly known as Twitter) can be great tools for connecting with potential allies on a personal level.
  • Identify calls to action most suited to your cause. They could include recruiting advocates, reaching out to legislators, organizing a rally, or getting out the vote.  
  • At some point during the campaign, and definitely after it’s finished, evaluate your performance. What worked and didn’t work? How can you improve for the next campaign?

This is where analytics come in handy. Choosing the right advocacy software is essential to an impactful program. Many software programs, including our own CiviClick, are designed to help manage supporter relationships and keep track of which advocates can best contribute to specific efforts.

What You Should Do

While digital advocacy should be tailored to fit your organization’s ultimate goal or goals, there are several strategies common to just about every successful digitally-supported campaign. First, keep these things in mind:

  • Establish realistic goals. Don’t shoot for the moon. Formulate concrete, measurable goals, whether around fundraising, mobilizing supporters or moving legislation forward.
  • Create appropriate content. Once you’ve identified your target audience, develop content that speaks to those folks and provides them with reasons to care about and join your efforts.

When it comes to content, you also want a coherent strategy, one that focuses on appropriate social media channels and contains a timeline with plans for what to post and when. It is then very important to send relatable messages, educate your audience, and continually re-engage them so that they don’t forget about your cause.   

If possible, you should also identify and engage grasstops advocates, individuals who are established leaders, politicians or celebrities, or all three. They have high-level influence, sometimes with policymakers and politicians. And because they’re so well-connected, they can use digital tools to boost support. 

Finally, make getting involved easy. This can include creating message templates, pairing supporters with their representatives, and even telling them when to act. The most successful digital advocates complement these online actions with offline marches, demonstrations, and vigils to push for change. And they mobilize fellow advocates rapidly, offline and online.

The Payoff

Digital apps, social media and mobile browsing have altered the way people connect. Many digital practices make running an advocacy campaign more convenient, while also empowering advocacy groups to make an even bigger impact. The tools they use allow organizations to reach more supporters, advocate more quickly and, with the aid of advocacy software, collect key data.

Digital advocacy is also changing the ways in which association professionals, public affairs experts, and lobbyists perform their roles. It’s an efficient, effective, and key component to any strong government relations program, affording increased accessibility. 

And the results often have long-term effects. Those using digital advocacy have helped change legislation, further their own organization’s goals, and experience growth in membership during campaigns.


Bolstered by our need for virtual connection during the pandemic, digital advocacy is here to stay. While the adoption of some digital tools takes practice, many are now much easier to use than they were just a few years ago. And some, including advocacy software, help organizations adapt quickly to changing circumstances and improve their advocacy strategies in both the short and long terms.

One thing hasn’t changed, however: People remain at the core of every advocacy effort. The digital tools organizations employ are only as good as those using them. Experience, expertise, and personal connections are still instrumental in ensuring the success of advocacy campaigns. Digital tools help to streamline the process, expand an advocacy constituency, and keep an ongoing record of what works and what doesn’t. 

Conducting a Nonprofit Advocacy Campaign

If your nonprofit organization is passionate about a particular idea or cause, and eager to share it publicly, it may be time to launch an advocacy campaign. For most, “campaign” evokes images of a politician running for office. But advocacy campaigns are different. They are a set of activities designed to bring about a specific result—in this case, to garner support for and advance the cause your organization is passionate about.  

Passion, however, only goes so far. Lots of other organizations are advocating for their own causes, so your campaign, if you want it to achieve a specific goal, really has to stand out. That requires establishing clear objectives from the get-go, as well as a strategic plan. Below are instructions, with examples included, to help your organization conduct a successful campaign.

The Goals of an Advocacy Campaign

First, let’s be clear about the difference between advocacy and services. If you help build houses for impoverished people, that’s a service. But if you promote setting aside affordable housing whenever new residential units are being built in your community, that’s advocacy.

It follows that advocacy campaigns are designed to target specific issues, whether at the local, regional, state, or national level. More often than not, they are led by a core group of leaders backed by a larger group of supporters. The activities associated with advocacy campaigns include, but are not limited to, circulating petitions, fundraising, holding rallies, contacting public officials, and lobbying. Whatever the activity, the overarching goals are to raise awareness about an issue, change behaviors and attitudes about that issue, and, if possible, influence legislation.

A successful campaign not only alters attitudes and policies, it improves lives. For example, some campaigns have organized supporters to contact state lawmakers to encourage them to pass laws allowing for universal pre-K for all residents. Others have used effective storytelling techniques to engage with community members and legislatures about issues affecting their livelihoods.

The Traits of a Successful Advocacy Campaign

Once you’ve identified an issue and set your goals for achieving change, it’s time to put together a network of supporters who can ramp up your advocacy campaign. But how do you build and maintain a strong support system?

A successful advocacy campaign’s key components include the following:

  • Effective messaging. If you want to draw supporters, make sure the campaign is relevant to their lives. Explain to each individual or group how your cause will positively impact them. This could include lawmakers on both sides of an issue. If they’re already aligned with you on, say, creating more affordable housing, encourage your fellow supporters to thank them and provide context as to why the issue is so important. If lawmakers oppose your goal, you and your supporters should still send messages, emphasizing why the policy is so important and encouraging them to vote accordingly.
  • Easy mobilization. Not only is it advisable to get your message out to people efficiently and effectively, but you should also make it easy for supporters to take the next step and mobilize. The easier it is for potential supporters to learn about your cause and take action, the more likely they will do so. Consider employing multiple techniques and creating spaces for supporters to connect and stay up to date on the status of an issue. 
  • Use advocacy software to track progress. In this age of AI, it’s obvious that technology is a great accelerator. When it comes to advocacy, the right software helps you engage and re-engage supporters, send personalized messages and cultivate grassroots supporters. Being able to quickly generate reports and perform analyses also helps to piggyback on successes and improve results down the road. 

Creating an Advocacy Campaign

Once you have gathered supporters, and are ready to get started, there are a few crucial steps that will help you create a successful advocacy campaign.

First, know exactly what you’re aiming for. Many advocates get off on the wrong foot by not clearly establishing their cause and/or goal. Their hearts may be in the fight, but they’re lacking a well-defined statement for their cause. And if you’re going to continue to draw supporters, and let your potential opponents know exactly what it is you’re fighting for, you need to share a specific, measurable goal. That’s the best way to readily identify appropriate actions and measure progress.

Second, choose the right people. Identify the individuals and organizations best suited to not only support your campaign but to help reach a broader audience. As alluded to above, they should be folks who have a good reason to get involved or, at the very least, something to gain. To achieve this, you may have to clarify exactly what their benefits will be. The point is always to be ready to shift gears, without compromising your integrity, in ways that further the cause.

Third, reach out to policymakers. Backed by a solid team of advocates, use your resources to enlist the aid of legislators. This could involve developing a letter-writing or email campaign, with your fellow advocates messaging key players en masse. Or working directly with lobbyists or other organizations with high levels of influence. Whatever the strategy, the goal is to enlist the support of those who could be instrumental in driving the change you desire.

Inspiring Example 

As with any endeavor, it’s advisable to study how others achieved the goal they set for themselves. What follows are two inspiring examples of successful advocacy campaigns and their tactics.  

Because we all carry smartphones, a digital advocacy campaign is a great way to spread the word. Recently, the National Restaurant Association did exactly that, using text messaging, email, and social media to empower its members to contact legislators about the threat COVID posed to their businesses. The association mobilized 200,000 advocates to send half a million messages to the U.S. Congress, ensuring their voices and concerns were heard.

Increasing voter turnout in elections is yet another way to drive change. With this in mind, Providence, a not-for-profit healthcare system, devised an advocacy campaign called “Vote for Health.” It enables people to register to vote and find information on health-related ballot measures. The campaign’s goal is to empower people to play an active role in improving their communities, which it’s been able to do by providing patients, employees, and caregivers with easy access to voter registration and resources in their respective states.


Suppose your organization is passionate about a specific cause or issue. In that case, an advocacy campaign can be an effective method for driving a significant change in attitudes and policy at the local, regional, and national levels. First, you must clearly state exactly what the issue and your intended goals are. Next, you gather a team of dedicated advocates to help you carry out a series of activities intended to achieve those goals. Once the campaign is well underway, and if the circumstances are appropriate, you can reach out to lobbyists and/or policymakers, who can leverage their positions to amplify your cause and possibly affect legislation.

An AI-Powered Content Boom Is Coming to Advocacy

Advocacy tech is getting its own AI race with the newly launched CiviClick aiming to challenge established companies like Quorum and Speak4.

The platform, launched by Chazz Clevinger, wants to appeal to advocacy clients, partly, because of its ability to offer clients content variation, created from “a proprietary blend of different AI technology platforms.”

How Does It work?

The way CiviClick works is the client prompts the platform with a default message or a default document the AI uses to determine the most appropriate messaging strategy based on who the targets of the campaign are.

“If a public affairs professional is running an issue advocacy campaign and wants to generate content specific to an individual lawmaker or group of lawmakers based on their voting history or their personalities, they can generate content that is more conservative leaning, more progressive leaning, that is more logical in its tone or happy or angry,” Clevinger told C&E. “It can take into account things like regional dialect — speaking like someone from South Boston would speak. There’s a lot of different variations and layers to the way that we have designed the technology.”

Ultimately, this content curation is what Clevinger believes will help set his platform apart from the advocacy tech competition: “AI is helping to achieve a much greater degree of content variation for the clients that we’re working with,” he said.

The Value of Grassroots Movements

Depending on where you look, the definition varies slightly. But Merriam-Webster, as good a source as any, defines “grassroots” as “basic, fundamental.” Reportedly, the term started popping up in a political context in the early 1900s. Albert J. Beveridge, a U.S. Senator from Indiana, for example, used it to describe the then-popular Progressive Party: “This party has come from the grassroots. It has grown from the soil of people’s hard necessities.”

Whatever its origin, what is recognized today as a “grassroots movement” is a social or political movement fueled by ordinary citizens, people directly affected by its outcomes, rather than prominent politicians or other people of influence. Operating from the bottom up, grassroots movements typically focus on specific causes—social justice, human rights, and climate change, to name just a few.

They also go back hundreds of years and span the globe. In the United States, what would later be known as the civil rights movement began at the grassroots level, with an Alabama bus boycott sparked by Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat to a white person. More than 100 years earlier, in 1848, a relatively small group of activists kicked off the push for women’s suffrage, which resulted in the passage of the 19th Amendment, granting their right to vote, in 1920.

Notable grassroots movements abroad include the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa in the second half of the 20th century and, more recently, the Arab Spring, which was amplified by the internet and social media, making it easier for people to organize and mobilize around a cause.

So, why might companies and organizations choose to participate in grassroots movements? Some movements focus on issues closely related to business outcomes. Others have no tie whatsoever to business but involve social or political issues a company and its employees are passionate about. Some movements combine the two.

Whatever the reasons, certain basic steps are necessary when planning to either participate in or support a grassroots movement.

Building a Successful Grassroots Strategy

Before you launch a movement, you need to know exactly what it is you and your fellow activists want. You’re starting at point A and want to get to point B, which means you need a roadmap. The Alabama bus boycotters had one thing in mind: Make every inch of public buses accessible to all, no matter what their skin color or ethnicity. The suffragettes wanted the same political freedoms as men. These are great examples because driving change within your local community, for example, is much different than doing so on a national scale.

And no person, especially when it comes to politics, is an island. The first step to launching a grassroots movement is enlisting support, which means recruiting advocates and raising funds. A core tenet of grassroots movements is that collective action is more powerful than individual action. An army can get more done than one soldier.

Here are a few tips on both recruiting for and launching a grassroots movement:

  • Hand out flyers, posters, and other informational materials to spread awareness.
  • Create a petition and gather signatures, either in person or online.
  • Use social media to share information and mobilize supporters.
  • Engage with community members by canvassing door-to-door.
  • Organize marches and/or rallies to show support and visibility.
  • Create a website that serves as a hub of information and resources.

Once the movement’s up and running, and supported by a dedicated corps of advocates, grassroots organizers activate those advocates, by providing them with tools, resources, and strategies. They include:

  • Setting up digital systems enabling advocates to make phone calls, text or email elected officials.
  • Drafting talking points and elevator speeches clearly communicating the goals of the campaign.
  • Making use of advocacy software, a tool that helps build strong relationships with constituents and more effectively mobilize supporters. 
  • Identifying policymakers and other stakeholders relevant to the campaign’s goals and building relationships or partnerships with them.

Adding Grasstop Strategies

What’s the opposite of “grassroots”? That would have to be “grasstops.” And in this context, it refers to individuals who are established leaders, politicians, or celebrities—or a combination of all three. Successful grassroots movements, especially those beginning to achieve national-level renown, often use both grassroots and grasstops strategies.

It helps to distinguish between the two and to know the appeal of each for target audiences. Grassroots strategies focus on engaging and mobilizing “ordinary” people, usually at the local level—town, municipality, county, maybe even state. Whereas grasstops strategies focus on engaging and mobilizing already established community leaders or, if needed, the folks mentioned above. One of the reasons for involving grasstops advocates is, they can help to build relationships with high-level policy- and decision-makers, who, in turn, can facilitate access to resources and support.

Of course, the strategies used in grassroots and grasstops campaigns vary. Grassroots strategies, for example, rely on “boots on the ground” tactics, such as door-to-door outreach, rallies, and social media campaigns. Grasstops strategies often involve more traditional lobbying efforts, such as building relationships with legislators and participating in policy discussions.

Don’t Lose Sight of What a Grassroots Movement Is

While some of the most well-known examples of grassroots movements—the suffrage and civil rights movements, the Arab Spring—eventually achieved a level of world renown, it’s good to remember that, usually, grassroots movements don’t make the national news. Whether they’re pitching for safe city playgrounds, protesting the building of a nuclear power plant, or advocating for the construction of a memorial in the town square, many grassroots efforts fly under the news-cycle radar. But many also have the potential to influence policy and laws at the state, federal, and even international levels.


By raising awareness and driving change, grassroots movements have the potential to benefit businesses, organizations, and the general public. One big advantage of grassroots movements is, they can be initiated and driven by one person or a small group, meaning they don’t require massive amounts of funding or resources. So grassroots groups have the potential to be highly democratic and inclusive, allowing ordinary folks to have a voice and make a difference.

Large-scale grassroots movements are driven by nonprofits, advocacy groups, and, in some cases, corporations. While they may have an elaborate infrastructure and many more resources, they can also employ the same bottom-up approach of traditional grassroots efforts, with similar results.

Speaking of, if you have the resources, it behooves the drivers of a grassroots movement to measure the success of a campaign. Did it achieve its goals? And in what ways? How effective were your digital efforts? How many people attended your rallies or other events? Knowing and analyzing the answers to these and other questions can help those taking on other issues to use grassroots campaigns as powerful tools for advocacy and change.