Accelerating Advocacy Engagement and Brand Presence

Pet Partners® is the nation’s leading therapy animal registration organization. It maintains the most rigorous therapy animal and handler registration standards, and promotes a variety of animal species for volunteer work as therapy animal teams.

The combination of Pet Partners® leadership vision with our resources to implement the new advocacy direction has empowered their volunteers to effectively engage in the public policy process.  Our collaboration included:

  • Creation of comprehensive volunteer advocacy manual with procedures and templates for advocacy recruitment, event execution and legislator relationship-building guidelines
  • Facilitation of Public Policy Committee strategy meeting
  • Recruitment of Board and Public Policy Committee members
  • Creation of executive communications announcing the new advocacy direction to strategic partners, volunteer leaders and key stakeholders
  • Delivery of inaugural advocacy training workshop and webinar

“Working with Amy jumped started our program in both time and impact. It would have taken months, possibly years, to reach the same level had we attempted to launch the initiative without her help.  With her experience and ability to understand our organization’s needs and translate it into action made all the difference. Within 10 months we have registered more than 5,000 active and engaged advocates.”–Annie Peters, CEO, Pet Partners

Results

  • Clear criteria and guiding strategy for engagement on local, state and federal legislative proposals
  • Within four months of the advocacy program’s establishment, over 1700 members joined the advocacy program and made more than 2300 meaningful actions
  • Greater local therapy animal club alignment with Pet Partners® brand
  • Defeated Michigan legislation (absent any other animal interest group’s participation)  that would have negatively affected volunteer therapy animal teams via a new advocacy program volunteer
Volunteer Leader Training Reinvigorates a Successful Corporate Employee Grassroots Program

Increasing Action Call Response Rate by 500%, Growing Grassroots Chapters and Increasing Employee Engagement by 37%

HCA Healthcare had an active employee-led volunteer grassroots program, the Good Government Program (GGG). The program was extensive, with over 40 local chapters and 8,000 members. However, after staff examined their mobilization response rates, they knew that program improvements were needed to be a truly impactful employee grassroots organization.

Moving from Quantity to Quality Engagement
In addition to action call response rates, we recommended that we examine additional “quality indicators” throughout the GGG, because that ultimately affects response rates. After we conducted a survey among GGG leaders, we uncovered the GGG best practices that impacted grassroots performance levels, and then determined which practices could be adapted by other GGG facilities. We then incorporated those findings and our proprietary research results on best practices in grassroots recruiting, retention and motivation into a full-day training session with over 30 GGG employee leaders. In addition, we conducted a pre-training survey to determine existing volunteer and government trends, training requirements and grassroots program structure needs. We also created a post-training measurement tool for the HCA staff, and a manual that guides GGG leaders on how to achieve that enumerates GGG leaders’ success metrics and guides them for future activities.

Results
Prior to the workshop there were 40 Good Government Group chapters with 8,000 members and an action call participation rate of .05%. After the training, the number of chapters increased to 54, GGG membership increased by 37% to 11,000, and there was a 500% increase in their action call response rate.

“I have loved working with you. You are a powerhouse and an inspiration.”–Amber Stoner, Director, Public Affairs, HCA Healthcare

Increased Stakeholder Commitment

A nationally recognized children’s hospital had been successful in several important grassroots campaigns, due in part to a committed group of “grasstops” advocates such as hospital executives and hospital board members. However, the grassroots participation was not being maximized among those who benefit from the hospital’s services or physician leaders. The number of grassroots stakeholder audiences made it difficult to customize grassroots communications, as each group had different influence frames that motivated them to take action. Further, due to state legislative term limits, the grassroots network needed to be broadened to reach new legislators throughout the state. The quality of grassroots volunteers also needed to be improved.

Solution
We conducted a needs assessment among several key stakeholder audiences. We found that the preferred method of communication, message frames, and framing of the messages was different for each audience, even though all were hospital employees. We created program templates and appropriate messages for each internal stakeholder group.

Results
The hospital enjoys increased grassroots engagement among hospital executives and physician leaders. For example, physicians encourage their colleagues to participate in the grassroots program, and they provide specific input to government relations staff on the impact of various legislative proposals. The hospital has a reputation for operating one of the most effective and pioneering children’s hospital grassroots programs in the nation.

“We have a diverse grassroots membership with various subgroups and cultures. It is important for us to persuasively communicate with these groups. Amy conducted research with each subgroup and revealed the message frames and message delivery tactics that are most likely to gain their participation. In fact, I refer to the research results frequently when planning our grassroots program initiatives and crafting important grassroots communications. As a result, we have significantly increased our “grasstops” participation of hospital executives and physician leaders.”–Morna Smith, PhD, Director of Federal Relations and Health Policy, Nationwide Children’s Hospital

Making the Good Great – Next Level Grassroots Persuasion

The Challenge
A national non-profit with over 10,000 members and 79 chapters is the nation’s premier green-building organization. It has a structured volunteer network that has succeeded in receiving attention from local elected officials and community opinion leaders. This has resulted in a high level of grassroots advocacy credibility at the local level, which has enabled them to receive many tax incentives and grants that further their mission. As I reviewed their organizational structure and volunteer activity, I noted a pattern of dedication and commitment uncommon in many other organizations. Their volunteers actually go to meetings, meet with local elected officials and community group leaders, testify at public hearings, and conduct regular chapter meetings. They were positioned as the experts in their local municipalities and regions. I recommended that this strong foundation would enable them to take their skills to the next level-to the State House.

The Collaboration
However, they would need additional skill sets to get there. Due to state budget deficits, the legislative and political environment in many states was not favorable to tax incentives and grants for their initiatives. There was greater competition, and hence, a much different influence challenge than at the local level. The volunteers needed new strategies and tactics. We collaborated on the design of a rigorous, high-level training curriculum that emphasizes legislator and coalition relationship building, persuasion and credibility strategies, as well as how to build volunteer advocacy teams. In addition, the staff correctly understood that the chapters must demonstrate a willingness to not just attend a training, but to move forward with concrete advocacy plans. Therefore, we created a formal screening process which requires the chapters to demonstrate a track record of grassroots advocacy achievements, as well as plans for implementing the insights gleaned during trainings.

Results
A majority of the chapters have established a formal grassroots advocacy committee. All chapters trained in the last year have conducted a State House lobby day event and are incorporating state-level grassroots into their chapter programs. The organization has hired us for five consecutive years to deliver these workshops. Of note, we conduct rigorous evaluations after each workshop. The participants are asked to evaluate us on a 1-7 scale, with 1 = poor and 7 = excellent. Our average rating from over 25 workshops is a 6.5 out of 7.

New Message Narrative

A Fortune 300 company needed to overturn a 30-year law that prohibited their expansion into larger markets. Their opponent was a major industry competitor who outspent them 8 to 1 in advertising, lobbying, and grassroots advocacy. In addition, their opponent had been engaged in local, state and national organizations for thirty years longer than our client. While our client had lots of national, state, and local goodwill, and is consistently ranked as one of the best places to work, their opponent had deeper ties to the third=party groups that mattered in this influence campaign. We were hired to research prevailing public attitudes toward their legislative goal, as well as attitudes toward their opponents. We employed the Crossfire technique, which revealed that the economic arguments frequently used by the company to persuade citizens and legislators, while accurate and compelling, did not test as favorably as the messages we uncovered. Our messages generated more public empathy and understanding, and successfully positioned them as “David” to their opponent’s “Goliath.” We counseled the staff to integrate the new messages into all advertising, grassroots advocacy and legislative communications, and designed a narrative turn-key presentation for staff and employee ambassadors. They carried the story to community groups, which resulted in new surrogates and supporters. Our clients’ legislation was passed, their customer volume is up 20% in the targeted market, and the overall growth has moved their Fortune 500 ranking up 33 spots.

American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Increased Grassroots Focus and Engagement

The ASCE has over 140,000 members, and wanted to capitalize on the vast membership to improve itsÂ’ grassroots results. However, the existing culture did not facilitate increased member grassroots engagement. This was partly due to the achievement of a major legislative initiative that was attained without a highly visible grassroots program—the Society became a victim of its own success. The staff wanted to capitalize on the legislative victory and expand its grassroots organizing potential through the highly organized state and local chapter organizations. The society staff hired us to help implement a plan that would result in more committed, motivated advocates who would also inculcate the SocietyÂ’s culture with an even greater appreciation of (and resources for) political involvement.

Our Collaboration
The Society hired us for numerous projects, including, but not limited to:

  • Facilitating a grassroots strategic planning process which included customized benchmarks and metrics
  • Creating and administrating research to determine member expectations of grassroots involvement and commitment levels
  • Next-level grassroots influence workshops for the most active grassroots volunteers
  • Production of a grassroots DVD which has helped promote a positive grassroots culture within the Society

“Our collaboration with Amy has given us a strategic plan with a clearly defined work schedule. It increased our program focus and we’ve been able to see results and grow the program because of this increased focus.”–Brian T. Pallasch, CAE, Managing Director, Government Relations and Infrastructure Initiatives, American Society of Civil Engineers

Results

  • The annual membership survey shows greater desire for legislative issue information and ways to get involved, which is a strong indicator of culture change
  • Internal culture change that increasingly recognizes the value of grassroots advocacy and devotes organizational resources to grassroots activity. As a staff member said, “Our members feel it is more acceptable to engage in legislative activities.”
  • >Grassroots membership increase of over 2,300
  • 41% increase in Capitol Hill Fly-In attendance
Award-Winning Corporate Grassroots Program Raises the Bar

The Westfield Group has received national recognition for its pioneering employee grassroots program (GrOW) – Grassroots of Westfield) which is marked by volunteer employee management of the program s’ goals and objectives. The GrOW Board of Directors represents a diverse cross-section of departments and disciplines, none of which are from the government relations department. This very characteristic is what sets them apart from about 90% of all corporate grassroots networks, and is what garnered them the Showalter Innovation Award in 2007.

The Challenge
The Westfield team could have coasted on its achievements. Instead, they conducted an employee survey to determine employee attitudes toward the grassroots program, as well as the PAC. The survey revealed misconceptions, so the government relations team and the grassroots leaders didn’t wring their hands, they got to work. They decided they needed to do a better job of communicating their mission and brand.

Our Collaboration
The company hired us to conduct an interactive half-day workstorm for the program’s board of directors to solidify their roles, expectations, and to facilitate the development of success metrics beyond the number of legislator contacts. The group is now developing member relations tasks, setting membership targets, as well targets by business units. They have also established volunteer accountability through regular reports. The volunteer leaders who report to the board, known as “Ambassadors,” have integrated themselves into business unit staff meetings to create program awareness and continue to debunk program misperceptions.

“Our collaboration with Amy will help us move our employees through the advocacy life line from inactive, to online, to actively engaged. We are positioning our program as a professional development opportunity for employees as well as a “feeder system” for future board members.”–Nicholas Piekarski, Chairman, Board of Directors, Westfield GrOW Program

Increased CEO Support and Advocacy Quality

One of the patterns we see with our consulting collaborations is increased senior management support, visibly and financially, for the government relations function. In fact, over 85% of our long term consulting clients have experienced an increase in senior management recognition, human resources and financial support. Sometimes clients can make significant improvements with a one-day “tune up.” They have the right foundations and structures in place for grassroots involvement, but they have reached a “success plateau” and want to integrate more best practices into their operations. Because we are constantly conducting research among high-performing government relations operations, we have the answers.

The Challenge
A major national professional society wanted to increase the quality and quantity of their grassroots network involvement. They also faced challenges in capturing their grassroots success stories, which negatively impacted their grassroots culture. Because they had the right foundation and structure to move forward, we conducted an intense, one day consultation to focus on aligning the objectives of all government relations staff with the grassroots objectives. Our goals for the session were to:

  • Determine how to gain more quality grassroots involvement
  • Gain more senior management support
  • Increase the quality of advocate to lawmaker communications

“As a result of our meeting last summer, my bosses now better understand the importance of me getting out and traveling to the locations where our members are. Previously, they wanted me here now just in case something came up. Now, they are encouraging me to get out and meet with members to train them and be more effective communicators with Congress. As a result, my lead volunteers are now getting advocacy sessions implemented in all of their 11 regional conferences next year. This is a culture change, and a clear indicator of success. Your research showed that consistent senior leader advocacy about the grassroots function helps change culture. My CEO now contacts me before every speaking engagement to ask me what our advocacy team needs, and what our goals are. She also takes grassroots network sign up forms for people to opt into the grassroots network after every time they hear her talk. Also, my department head has started to speak directly about our grassroots network whenever he is speaking with our members. Per your suggestion, we started to reach out to groups of people who are not members of our association but have a vested interest in getting common legislation passed. This not only helps us grow our membership, but has offered Congress a different perspective on our issues. We have increased our membership by 52%. The quality and quantity of our letter writing campaigns have increased significantly. We are now seeing more great personal stories in these letters. Per your recommendation to create a story culture, we started putting excerpts from some of the most effective letters on our website. It gave us a chance to recognize our members for their letters and prove to them that it does make a difference. Our members get excited when I ask them if I can post letters on the website. These are just a few of the examples of how the training session with you has really boosted our participation and outcomes. Thanks for everything, Amy!”–Director of Grassroots for national professional society, (contact information available on request)

Corporate Grassroots Advocate Development

For Kentucky and Tennessee State Farm Insurance employees, we delivered a campaign involvement school to facilitate employee relationships with elected officials. We also assisted the staff with participant screening and evaluations, and provided implementation timelines and benchmarks to maintain the post-training momentum. Within a week of training, over 70% of the participants signed on to a campaign. For State Farm Insurance employees in Colorado, we conducted a Key Contact workshop that resulted in a 300% increase in Key Contact and lawmaker interactions.

“Thank you for the excellent campaign-training program that met and exceeded my goals and expectations. Over 70 percent of the participants are working on a campaign. It is apparent that the trainees were very motivated by your training techniques. Your knowledge of the insurance industry, extensive grassroots experience, and the enthusiasm you have for your work was very inspirational during this process.”–Dustin Miller, Public Affairs Specialist, State Farm Insurance Companies (formerly), Public Policy Associates, LLC

National Association Grassroots Staff Development

For the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) we designed and delivered a series of staff development workshops. We began with a detailed survey of their most productive grassroots advocates and staff members, and then reverse-engineered the process to deliver their highest priority training outcomes. Our curriculum included, but was not limited to: increasing advocate meeting attendance, persuasive recruitment tactics, presentation skills development, and how to use the science of influence to increase member commitment and loyalty.

Corporate Grassroots Program Launch

Auntie Anne’s Pretzels needed to create excitement about their re-vamped grassroots program to thousands of their franchises. We collaborated on the design of a persuasive grassroots recruitment presentation, and advised the staff on appropriate language and messaging for calls to action and newsletter communications. As a result, the responses to their grassroots employee mobilizations tripled.

“Amy's direct consultation was precisely what we needed to target and prioritize action items that are essential to starting a grassroots program. That is what is so great about Amy! Whatever the status of your grassroots program, she meets you where you're at and gives you the tools and direction to build the kind of grassroots results that will enhance your ability to share and influence public policy. As a result of our collaboration, one franchisee after another came up to me and said it was the best and most interesting presentation of the whole two-day event. They admitted that they used to delete my emails when they received them, but after my presentation, they want to get on board with grassroots advocacy. The President of our company even thought it was great. After conducting just three of these meetings, our action call participation rate jumped from 7% to over 22%.”–Andrew Weikert, Government Affairs Liaison, Auntie Anne's, Inc.

National Non-Profit Grassroots Strategic Plan & Plan Implementation

The American Heart Association hired us to provide counsel and materials development for their five year grassroots strategic plan. Our collaboration included counsel on the plan presentation to senior AHA leadership, the creation of a strategic plan implementation manual, facilitation of affiliate staff meeting to create plan buy-in, and customized staff training workshops. Advocacy is now an integral part of how the AHA meets its objectives.

Corporate Key Contact Program Establishment

For New York Life Insurance, we counseled staff on appropriate Key Contact selection, communications, and motivation strategies, as well as general employee grassroots communications and programming. We also created Key Contact role descriptions and an annual grassroots communications plan. The staff can now more easily manage their multiple grassroots and PAC responsibilities. We also analyzed existing PAC recruitment communcations for their scientific influence quotient, and recommended appropriate PAC recruitment messages based on the current employee attitudes and scientific influence strategies.

“We hired Amy because of her extensive knowledge of how to create sustainable grassroots and PAC programs. My staff was very comfortable working with Amy. As a result, they quickly organized a new Key Contact network, started a headquarter office grassroots program, and are gearing up to increase our PAC's visibility and contributions. Our team now has the confidence and knowledge to maintain these programs.”–Jessie Colgate, Senior Vice President, New York Life Insurance

Corporate Grassroots and PAC Recruitment

Fresenius Medical Care North America (FMCNA) is the nation’s larges provider of dialysis services and products for those suffering from kidney failure. An acquisition of another large dialysis provider presented new advocacy and PAC outreach opportunities for FMCNA’s government relations team. We collaborated with Fresenius’ direct lobbying and advocacy staff on several projects, including PAC/grassroots message testing and advocacy workshops. As a result, Fresenius now has 252 new Key Contacts, and has experienced an increase in PAC receipts.

Corporate Grassroots and PAC Change Management

The ConocoPhillips government affairs team was tasked with integrating multiple PAC and grassroots cultures, both from a major merger and several large corporate acquisitions. Cultural differences were significant on how the PAC’s were managed. We collaborated on a variety of grassroots and PAC development initiatives, including, but not limited to: PAC and grassroots message testing, employee PAC and grassroots leader training, a persuasive turn-key PAC presentation, a new PAC recruitment campaign, a members-only web site featuring special streaming video messages, and a comprehensive employee grassroots leader manual. The PAC participation rate has increased 78% and receipts have increased 64%. Employee awareness of legislative issues impacting the company is clearly on the rise, and employees come forward on a regular basis asking to be on the grassroots leadership team. Membership on the grassroots leadership team has grown to over 200 employees in 14 states.

Grassroots Results

Increased Grassroots Visibility with Presidential Candidates Integration of Grassroots into Non-Profit Culture The American Cancer Society hired us to work with their national advocacy staff throughout the country to develop tools and motivational strategies for their grassroots advocates throughout the country. They hired us to work with the volunteers in the early presidential primary states on a “Campaign Against Cancer” initiative. The goal was to urge presidential candidates to make finding a cure for cancer a top legislative priority. We trained volunteers across the country on how to approach presidential candidates and the media at town hall meetings, rallies, and fundraisers. We showed them how to “work a room,” ask provocative questions, and tell their personal stories to candidates so that finding a cure for cancer would be talked about more frequently in public campaign forums. As a result, American Cancer Society volunteers made over 140 personal volunteer contacts with presidential candidates, and over 35 news articles were published that featured ACS issues discussed at town hall meetings. Based on the new level of volunteer activism, grassroots advocacy has become a vital part of the American Cancer Society’s culture. The Campaign against Cancer has been integrated into the American Cancer Society’s culture with increased staff, budget, CAC national events and collateral materials.

“This represented the first time our organization ever achieved this type of attention from candidates during the campaign season. Best of all, we did it through real people, thus enhancing our credibility with candidates and lawmakers.”–Catherine Grant, Director, Grassroots Advocacy (formerly), American Cancer Society

Professional Association Grassroots Volunteer Leadership

The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) needed to elevate the roles of their Key Contacts. We designed a two day workshop focusing on advocate recruitment, chapter leadership, advocacy motivation responsibilities, and presentation skills training. The Key Contacts are equipped to increase local grassroots involvement and PAC contributions. For the American Academy of Audiology,we conducted a workshop to empower state chapter leaders to better mobilize and communicate with their colleagues on issues important to the association. The leaders now have clear direction on how to grow their networks without spending additional chapter funds.

Corporate Grassroots Influence Campaign

Southwest Airlines asked us to provide counsel on how to create persuasive messages and train their employee grassroots volunteers to carry their message throughout their communities. We provided ongoing strategic influence counsel to the Legislative Awareness team, conducted focus groups and developed salient focus group messages for use in the campaign. We also wrote and designed a persuasive turn-key presentation for employee use at community group meetings. Southwest won the issue, and this represented a cultural change in how they tackle major legislative influence challenges to a research-based approach.

“Amy's counsel as we developed our program has had lasting results. In fact, a recent employee grassroots campaign on major federal legislation resulted in over 13,000 personal letters to Members of Congress, helping to save our company millions of dollars a year. Our achievement was recognized and lauded by our company leaders. I attribute this to the solid organizational foundation and implementation strategies that we learned from Amy.”–Susan Goodman, Director, Legislator Awareness, Southwest Airlines

Grassroots Staff Turn-Key Operations Manual

For Dow Chemical, we created a grassroots program management manual with numerous templates that help the staff to maintain program momentum all year. We also counseled the staff on how to build employee grassroots networks at key operating facilities, including design of a recognition program for employee advocates. This accelerated the development of their internal employee grassroots program. We also conducted an influence audit of existing grassroots and PAC materials which revealed opportunities to increase the utilization of scientific influence principles in their employee communications. The staff now has a template that incorporates scientific persuasion principles when creating calls to action and issue updates.

Revitalizing an Existing State Wide Grassroots Network

For the National Safety Council (NSC) we re-organized a dormant statewide organization through the initiation of a regular newsletter publication, volunteer recognition, meetings with key volunteer leaders and the creation of a turn-key grassroots recruitment presentation for the Coalition’s volunteer leaders. We increased the Coalition’s membership by over 30% in six months. The legislation went further in the legislative process than it had in the previous four years. As a result, we were asked to present our methodologies to other NSC state grassroots consultants. The NSC staff stated that “your work in Ohio will serve as a model for our grassroots initiatives in other key states.”