Setting a SMART grassroots advocacy goal

January 3, 2018 ACSA Writer

Grassroots advocacy (instigating change via public perception or public policy) can range from bringing up public education in a conversation or sharing an article on social media to inviting Assembly members or Senators to your district for a tour. The key to a successful grassroots advocacy campaign is preparation and a clear message.

First, do your research and find the support you need. Reach out to your Region Consultant to help start building your team. Contact your Region VP for Legislative Action. Current and former VPLAs are great resources if you are looking to dive into regional politics; they participate in political activity and organize regional groups for Legislative Action Day. Talk with fellow ACSA members – you might be surprised to find out which of your colleagues lives down the street from your Senator, or whose children play sports with their kids. ACSA’s Political Affairs & Governmental Relations teams are there for you – call or email them for guidance.

What is a SMART goal?

Being smart means setting a Specific, explicit goal for your team. Some examples: “Secure a meeting with Senator X regarding school safety,” “Get a piece of legislation passed,” or “Build a mutually beneficial relationship with my legislator.”

Make sure the goal is Measurable. If your goal is to educate your legislator, mark their engagement during your meeting and how often you interact with them afterward. You can also measure things like parental engagement via website traffic or board meeting attendance.

Is your goal Attainable? Asking a small group new to grassroots advocacy to hold a large event in four weeks is unrealistic. However, asking that same team to research their legislator(s) and contact their scheduler(s) in that same timeframe is doable. Be Realistic and practical. Ask yourself and your team:

  • Is the capacity for an event realistic? How time-intensive is this project?
  • Will this event require funding? How much?
  • Are there significant political barriers to this project?
  • How likely are you to get support from influential leaders? What is the best way to pitch ideas to them?
  • Is your team big enough? Are their individual skills being utilized to their full potential?

Include a Timeline for a major deadline. You may not always be able to meet it, but having a detailed calendar creates structure and accountability. Setting shorter timelines within a larger plan is another effective way to engage your team.

Build up a strong, inclusive community

Your grassroots advocacy campaign is only as strong as your community is organized. Regardless of your event size, capture your community’s message and voice. Start the campaign small and strong. Set the tone by working with key leaders, letting people share ideas and concerns. Reach out to people you have worked with in the past as well as interested individuals with new visions. Encourage active listening, brainstorm agendas with your team, maintain a list of actionable items and create an email chain. Utilize ACSA Region consultants, Region Leadership, and Region VPLAs.

Finally, seize the opportunity! Pre-planned events, like award ceremonies, roundtable discussions, or district-wide celebrations are great times to host your legislator and let them connect with students. These events are also ideal for social media promotion and public perception.

Learn more about ACSA’s Advocacy in Action and see our latest updates.

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Defining your grassroots advocacy message
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