When setting up a grassroots organization, you can organize the network in one of three different ways.
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With and organized formal membership, those who join are formal members who are either current or potential grassroots activists. They may be organized into local or state chapters. Labor unions and established trade associations are considered to be formal membership networks. One of the most essential elements of effectively developing an formal organized grassroots network is ensuring you have an active commitment of the association leadership. The advantage of this type of group is that you have a large pool of prospective advocates.
Your job is to develop existing members into a strong network of informed advocates. A good portion of the foundational work will already have been done, but you must work toward motivating members and recruiting new individuals. One of the most common challenges with this type of group is there is sometimes a lack of consistency between the local and national groups.
Another option is an unorganized formal membership. There are usually formal members but those members are not organized into local groups or chapters. In most cases, the formal members are businesses or individuals on mailing lists. They may rarely meet or never even meet at all. This type of situation naturally presents more of a challenge in regards to developing members into a strong network. You will need to focus on developing strategies for organizing and engaging members.
You might also find it helpful to provide them with a chance to join a more organized effort through a coalition or network to provide better results.
Yet another option is no formal membership. In this type of situation, you have a portion of the population that supports your issues. You reach out to organizations that might be allies as well as to citizens to assist you in building a grassroots effort.
With both the organized and the unorganized formal membership groups you have the potential for establishing a stronger organization over a period of time. You also have the advantage of being able to develop a separate resource for legislative efforts.
To learn more about grassroots campaigns and networks, consider these Capitol Learning Audio Courses: Building and Nurturing Your Grassroots Campaign, How to Organize a Capitol Hill Day, and Visiting Capitol Hill for First-Time Grassroots Advocates: An Introductory Course.
Reference: Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelak, Section 7.3 Checklist for Organizing and Maintaining an Effective Grassroots Network.
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