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From Resistance to Resources: How to Gain Internal Support, Status and Money for Your Grassroots and PAC Programs: Part Four

Emphasis on Results Rather than Activity

One of my Fortune 100 corporate clients wanted to expand their broad-based and key contact grassroots network. However, rather than taking a numerical approach to measuring their success, they were more concerned about finding the right employees with the right legislator relationships.

They did not care if an employee was best friends with the chairman of the Agriculture Committee. They wanted people with contacts on the Ways and Means and Appropriations Committees, and that is where we focused our efforts.

Did it take longer and require more phone calls and research than simply taking a “WB” (Warm Body) approach? Yes, but now they have employees who are willing and able to meet with key Members of Congress.

In the desire to demonstrate any kind of activity, we can sometimes sacrifice meaningful results for “doing something.” We often waste too much time in a scattergun approach to recruitment because we want to show that we have done something — we want to show activity.

I find that a lot of non-profits with a fundraising focus fall into this trap. However, one of our non-profit clients is changing her grassroots culture from activity to results. After a presentation explaining this new philosophy, she secured three new staff members and a budget increase.

Provide Success Tools

To properly lead, we have to give our members the tools to follow. The most successful grassroots and PAC’s do just that. I have never heard a grassroots advocate say that he or she “has enough information to know what to say to a legislator, when to say it, and how to say it.” Similarly, I have never heard a new PAC recruiter say that they are confident in their ability to rebut common PAC objections.

One of our most successful association PAC clients brought their member institution representatives together for several conference calls where I guided them through the science of how people are persuaded to join a PAC. We asked them to create their own scripts and talking points to determine if we indeed gave them appropriate tools.

The result? A 70% increase in PAC revenue and their per-institution contributions increased by over 400%. They also reached their goal three months before any other association. The success tools helped accelerate their results.

Always remember that you have options — while there are optimum settings for learning retention, think of other ways that you can provide tools to your members, whether it’s CD’s, web-based seminars, podcasting, manuals, etc.

Encourage Feedback

Stakeholder feedback is critical at all junctures of the political involvement journey, but it is vital when we are revitalizing our PAC or grassroots program. We find that our “85% Club” clients make an effort to get not only key volunteer input on initiatives, but also feedback from those outside the government relations galaxy. Several of the national non-profits who have hired us are most adept at this practice; thus, it may reflect a culture of inclusiveness. When it’s time to implement the grassroots or PAC changes, it’s hard for those who provided input to disavow their own work.

This practice coincides with one of the main findings in my Fortune “Power 25” grassroots benchmarking research. One of the grassroots volunteer retention competencies they exhibit is to “regularly seek volunteer feedback.” Several of the organizations even have their volunteers review staff documents and grassroots volunteer materials. Another one of my non-profit clients regularly brings in stakeholders and members from throughout the country to rigorously examine new initiatives via surveys, feedback, small breakout groups, and lively discussion. This non-profit has been hailed by management guru Peter Drucker as “the most effectively managed non-profit in the country.”

Reality Check

Ask yourself:
• Do we have a plan to secure internal champions with specific directives on how they should help internally market our PAC and/or grassroots?
• Do we focus on results or activity?
• Do we provide tools to help our members succeed?
• Do we encourage feedback, especially from our volunteers and those outside of the government relations department?