I am seeing a lot of turn-key tools for grassroots professionals who need to give their grassroots volunteers something to do. I agree that volunteers need to have clear direction on the best activities to build awareness of your issue and your organization before elected officials and opinion leaders. However, doing that in absence of a strategy simply takes us farther along the “activity without results” road.
People tend to make strategy harder than it needs to be. Nevertheless, the reality is that strategy is about future-oriented vision and it’s also about actionable, tactical things. There are several questions that move logically from the first to the last that can help you develop strategy which leads to appropriate grassroots advocacy plans and tactics which lead to results, not just activity for activity’s sake.
Have you asked your team (key volunteers and staff) and yourself:
1. What are our “big picture” aspirations for our grassroots organization or PAC?
2. What are the goals against which we can measure those aspirations?
3. Across our many audiences, stakeholders, and customers, who might engage in our issue?
4. Where will we choose to play and not play?
5. In our chosen playground, who is our competition? How will we win against them? (Too many government relations professionals take knives into gunfights.)
6. Based on our playgrounds and our opponents, what capabilities do we need to build to win?
7. What management systems and reinforcements are necessary to operate in this new reality, to maintain these new capabilities?
8. How do we get buy-in at all levels? Remember – it’s about exemplars, not banners in the halls.
9. How do we communicate the new vision to all internal stakeholders?
10. How will we measure communication effectiveness?
11. What is success, and how will we measure it?
Many organizations start at the top with some kind of mission or vision exercise that drives people crazy because it’s extremely difficult to create a meaningful vision in the absence of an idea of where you want to play and how you’re going to win. This is why those conversations tend to be very circuitous and people can’t agree on much.
Probably any mission or vision will do if you don’t give thought to where you’ll play or how you’ll win…so think of where you will engage and how you will achieve success.