Ultimately, leadership determines the advocacy culture. Culture determines behavior, and behavior (“exemplars vs. banners in the hall”) determines PAC and grassroots participation.
The success or failure of many PAC and grassroots programs can be traced to whether the organization is imbued with a political involvement culture (PIC).
Why is a culture of political involvement important? If you only encourage activity in an election year, or when a high profile issue is being debated, you are forced to rejuvenate your stakeholders when the next critical issue arises. I have seen too many EYO (Election Year Only) grassroots and PAC programs. They less effective than consistently-executed programs, and they are inefficient.
Here are some PIC indicators for your consideration. Portions of this assessment are taken from TSG’s exclusive benchmarking study of Fortune magazine’s “Power 25” list of the most powerful lobbying groups.
Take this quick assessment by indicating “yes” or “no” to the statements below and add up your scores.
1. Our senior management consistently reiterates the importance of grassroots advocacy in meetings, speeches, and newsletter articles.
2. The pictures in our office suite of PAC members and grassroots volunteers outnumbers pictures of staff with legislators.
3. Members of our senior management team/board regularly attend our PAC and grassroots events.
4. We conduct events to promote the grassroots and PAC all year, not only during election years or during a critical issue campaign.
5. We consistently have grassroots-related features placed in our company/association newsletter.
6. We have a section of our organization’s web site dedicated exclusively to advocacy.
7. We have a budget to informally and formally recognize our productive advocates and PAC contributors.
8. I have direct access to our board chairperson/CEO to discuss grassroots and PAC program needs.
9. We have clear success metrics to demonstrate grassroots and PAC ROI.
Add up your number of “yes” responses.
8-9 Congratulations! Leverage your organization’s culture to build an innovative PAC and/or grassroots program.
7-6 You have several key ingredients in place for a positive political involvement culture. Build from your strengths to go to the next level.
5-4 Identify key organization leaders who have benefitted from grassroots and/or PAC programs. Ask them to help you promote the grassroots program and PAC.
3 or less: Get outside help to hone your internal sales skills. While you cannot alone change your organization’s culture, it’s your job to educate your colleagues who are outside of the government relations department to the value of PAC and grassroots functions.