Return to resources

Grassroots Advocacy Software + Performance Marketing

March 2811 minutes to read
Grassroots Advocacy Software + Performance Marketing

While CiviClick offers many services—from campaign management to lobbying to marketing—there’s one constant in everything we do: advocacy. We muster our considerable forces, our tools and expertise, to help each client amplify their cause, educate target audiences and make their case to decision-makers.

And when it comes to advocacy, there’s nothing quite like a grassroots, or bottom-up, approach. It’s where you’ll find advocates who are truly dedicated to a cause and willing to do just about whatever is needed to ensure success.

But recognizing the power of grassroots advocacy is not the same as knowing, and truly appreciating, the many ways it can be practiced. There are almost as many methods of, and tools for, grassroots advocacy as there are the types of people, businesses and organizations that employ it.

So, let us break it down for you.

Grassroots Advocacy

“Grassroots,” in the context of public affairs, pretty much means what it says. Operating from the ground up, it’s usually a social or political movement fueled by ordinary people, those who, one way or another, will be directly affected by its results. “Grassroots advocacy” is the process of communicating the many nuances of a specific issue or cause to a target audience, whether it’s a community, the general public, lawmakers or all three. And as part of the grassroots advocacy process, advocates usually reach out to local, state or federal officials, hoping to convince them to vote their way.

But make no mistake: Grassroots advocacy is not lobbying. Yes, lobbyists advocate on behalf of their clients, but their one-on-one sessions with lawmakers and their staffs are paid-for, professional undertakings. Not so with grassroots advocacy; it’s citizen-based, real people fighting for a cause.  

If done correctly, grassroots advocacy is also a complicated process. In the early stages, advocates plant seeds; they make a target audience aware of an issue, then educate the audience about it—whether it concerns the climate, healthcare, small businesses, social justice or any other topic. And if you plant seeds, then water and care for them just right, grass is going to grow.  

These days, grassroots advocacy isn’t just for citizens. Businesses and trade associations now utilize it. Why? Because some causes are closely related to business outcomes. Others aren’t but involve social or political issues a company’s employees are passionate about. Some causes combine the two. For these reasons, grassroots advocacy is being practiced by many parties, including:

  • Civic group
  • Nonprofits 
  • Trade associations
  • Companies 
  • Chambers of commerce

As you might guess, they approach grassroots advocacy in very different ways. But they have two things in common: their end game, which is to affect policy; and the reason they’re all on board—technology.

Advocacy Software

In-person advocacy, which we’ll discuss below, will never go away. It’s especially vital for public affairs and government relations efforts. But digital advocacy enables organizations to create compelling grassroots advocacy campaigns that reach more people, drive more action and collect more data than traditional forms of advocacy ever could.

Digital advocates have a wealth of tools at their disposal, among them emails, text messages, online petitions, social media, websites and virtual-event platforms. In fact, some organizations are digital-advocacy-only, covering issues that appeal to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of advocates worldwide. But, mostly, digital advocacy is a companion to traditional advocacy, enabling digital tool users to amplify their commitment to a cause.

The best way to manage these tools—and ensure an organized, centralized effort—is to employ advocacy software. With the right kind of user-friendly software, including our own CiviClick, there are myriad ways advocates can, among other things, engage with elected officials. For example, advocacy software facilitates email advocacy, patch-through phone calls and social-media and video messaging—all effective, measurable methods that help drive political change. 

Pioneering advocacy software, like ours, is also designed to manage supporter relationships and keep track of which advocates are best-suited for specific efforts. You can quickly share targeted campaigns with advocates, embed action centers on your website and share campaigns via social media. Every action taken via advocacy software strengthens your cause and your grassroots advocacy network. 

Last but not least, advocacy software captures and records all of the data related to your efforts. It tracks the issues your supporters are most engaged in, the campaigns that draw the most supporters and the number of messages you managed to send to targeted audiences, including, of course, elected officials. All of this is only possible using advocacy software.

Performance Marketing

The last piece of the puzzle, before we discuss how to effectively campaign, is performance marketing. The definition is pretty much in the title. It’s a digital marketing strategy driven by performance, or results. And it’s ideal for anyone—business, nonprofit or association—reaching out to advocacy audiences at scale. Why? Because you only pay based on how users interact with the content.

For example, our performance marketing solution is CiviBoost, which we’ve used to send customized emails, petitions, phone calls and videos to decision-makers at every level of government, from local to federal. In fact, using CiviBoost, we’ve helped more than 50 clients discard harmful legislation and pass new laws in 2024 alone.

That’s because with CiviBoost, you can market your policy initiatives to our database of 28 million-plus people across the United States. We have one of the biggest databases of activists in the country, which helps to ensure our clients have access to an almost limitless network.

Via CiviBoost, we also help with email list acquisition, legislative advocacy campaigns, ballot initiatives and referendums, to name just a few campaign-related tools. CiviBoost has roughly 90 policy-interest tags and tracks age, gender, party and religious affiliations and dozens of other data points, helping to target the best advocates for campaigns.

From a financial standpoint, performance marketing is incredibly cost-effective. Clients don’t have to pay set-up or ad creative fees, project retainers or charges for what may turn out to be unproductive activities. With CiviBoost, you only pay for actual conversions, which helps maximize your ROAS (return on ad spend) and increases an advocacy campaign’s effectiveness.

Which begs the question: What do we mean by “effective”?

Effective Campaigns

As mentioned above, effective grassroots advocacy often requires a two-pronged approach: in-person and digital.

When it comes to the in-person part, the first step is to enlist support by recruiting advocates and raising funds. With any advocacy effort, it’s always good to keep in mind that collective action is much more powerful than an individual’s efforts. You fight with an army, not just one soldier.

Here are a few ways to get things started:

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

Another great way to get people involved is to host a lobby day. At the state and federal levels, lobby days enable a company, association or nonprofit to gather a core group of supporters together to meet with elected officials for conversations about crucial issues and legislation.

It’s best, of course, to be prepared. We advise clients to meet the day or morning before the actual event to choose the primary speakers, talk about how it’s best to conduct themselves and ensure everyone is fully educated on the topics that will be discussed. This is where talking points come in handy. And if there’s literature or any other relevant materials to be shared with the officials, this is the time to gather those together. These efforts help to ensure that lobby day conversations stay policy-focused and that a cohesive message is being delivered across all fronts.

Just as important is keeping track of everything, ideally by making use of advocacy software. Post lobby day, supporters should report on how the meetings with the officials went, which issues seemed to grab them, and which didn’t. This can all be recorded so that, going forward, the organization can fine-tune its messaging.  

Assuming that you’ve taken most, if not all, of these steps and that your grassroots advocacy campaign, now backed by advocates and supporters, is ready to move forward, it’s time to activate the army, by providing them with tools, resources and strategies. These 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 to help 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. 

It’s also best to ensure you have a well-designed website or microsite, which is typically a one-to-three-page website focused specifically on an issue, cause or campaign. The goal is engagement. You want supporters to proactively interact with the site while you map out their journeys, ensuring they become educated, take action, then share with folks who, ideally, will sign up as new supporters.

Whether or not you’re currently running a campaign, you also want a solid email-marketing strategy, so as to leverage your grassroots advocacy. It keeps people engaged and educated about issues, and you can use it to promote your organization’s events, education efforts and more.

Finally, keep in mind that storytelling is one of grassroots advocacy’s most powerful tools. Elected officials, especially those at the local and state levels, love to hear personal stories from constituents. Just one poignant, truly moving tale from an advocate or supporter can leave a lasting impact.                                             

Just make sure those stories work in tandem with your talking points. The balancing act can be challenging, but if you have lots of personal stories available, you can tailor them to specific talking points. That way, your messaging won’t look or sound too uniform. 

Where Advocacy Takes Place

When it comes to grassroots advocacy, whether you’re a business, chamber, association or nonprofit, you have to know exactly who your audience is. Nine times out of 10, it’s at one of three levels:

  • Local—zoning or planning boards, town or city councils, mayors, school boards. You know the saying: “All politics is local.” For the most part, it’s true. Grassroots advocacy at this level can be supremely effective. Why? Because local policy impacts the lives and livelihoods of every resident, business and association in your town, city or county.
  • State—where most grassroots advocacy occurs. Once again, direct impact is a big plus, but so is the productivity of state legislatures. Compared to the U.S. Congress, they introduce 20 times more bills during a legislative session and, in turn, pass more laws. And they’re much more accessible than members of Congress and grapple with far less gridlock, seeing as they need to tend to the immediate needs of constituents. So, as legislation moves between committees and legislative bodies, advocating at the state level requires highly engaged supporters and a well-managed campaign.
  • Federal—regulatory bodies, Congress, the President. Not easy to access, these folks. Which is why technology is so important. Using optimal advocacy software, it’s relatively easy to drive grassroots action by creating scalable campaigns that enable advocates and their many supporters to, first, raise awareness; second, educate; and, finally, reach out to decision-makers about issues with far-reaching ramifications.  

When Advocacy Takes Place

Once you know your audience, you need to know the best time to strike. If it’s a local-, state- or federal-level cause you’re promoting, you do it when the iron’s hot—when it’s being debated and/or voted on during a city council meeting. Or a state legislative or Congressional session. Just make sure your advocacy team is prepared, that it’s worked out the messaging and modes of delivery ahead of time.  

The best way to do that is to launch a full-fledged advocacy campaign days, weeks, maybe even months before a vote, depending on how complicated the issue is. When it comes to raising awareness, advocacy and education go hand-in-hand. If you want to educate the general public and/or as many supporters for your cause as possible, a well-coordinated digital campaign is essential.

One last thing: expect the unexpected. We’ve all experienced it—a Congressional vote that didn’t go our way, a natural disaster, a virus outbreak, an economic snafu. If it demands a rapid response to ensure your organization’s safety and security, you’d better hope your advocacy or public affairs team is “always on.”

CiviClick’s is a year-round approach. Because we’re constantly upgrading our advocacy programs, we can be counted upon to launch a highly effective advocacy campaign on command. That allows our clients to spring into action as bills and issues pop up. They’ll be able to leverage members, supporters and the general public to use their voices and take action.


We’ve shared a lot of information in this post, for good reason. Grassroots advocacy, one of the most powerful arrows in a company’s or organization’s quiver, is a complicated process. Most of the time, it demands both in-person and digital efforts carried out by scores of people. And when it comes to the digital part of the process, performance marketing and well-designed advocacy software are indispensable.

So, lots of working parts and lots of advocates and supporters, each with an important role to play. This is the way we get things done. Ours is a participatory democracy, not a passive one. And the best way to ensure our legislators are listening, and to remind them how they ended up in office in the first place, is to work with them. Grassroots advocacy backed by just the right software is one of the best ways to get that job done.