Everyone involved in politics is involved in setting up grassroots organizations, one way or another.  Whether you are building a grassroots effort for your campaign for public office, running a political party organization, or involved in issue advocacy, you can and should be setting up effective grassroots organizations to advocate for your cause.

Very few grassroots organizations are “moderately successful.”  In general, these groups, be they single-issue advocacy groups or arms of a campaign for public office, are either very successful or very unsuccessful.  Successful grassroots organizations are easy to spot: they’ve got lots of members / volunteers, get on the news (a lot!), and you know them by their brand.  How do these organizations become super-successful?

1.  Plan for Success

Successful grassroots organizations have a well thought out, and well-written plan.  Many people think groups like this simply sprout up organically, without much forethought, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Most uber-groups started with a written plan.

2.  Have a Hierarchy

Grassroots groups without a hierarchy usually devolve into anarchy.  Again, this may seem counterintuitive for a grassroots organization, but the group will need a leadership structure with defined responsibilities if it is going to succeed at a very high level.

3.  Build a Brand

The most successful grassroots organizations out there are recognizable by their brand (including their logo, their message, and their spokespeople).  This is true for campaign-run grassroots operations as well (just think about the Obama campaign’s grassroots army in 2008 or the Bush/RNC 72-hour Election Day corps in 2004).  Your group needs a consistent look and feel for its marketing materials, one or more well-versed press spokespeople, a logo, and a defined and consistent message (just like a standard political campaign).

For more information on building a political brand, read Political Slogans and How to Craft Your Campaign’s Message.

4.  Use Every Tool

Well-run grassroots organization use every tool at their disposal to get their message out: press releases, press conferences, a political website, volunteer activity, direct mail, door to door, rallies, etc.  Write a plan that uses lots of different grassroots techniques to make your voice heard.

5.  Ask for Members

One of the biggest reasons why small grassroots organizations stay that way is because they become insular “cliques,” where members are jealous of their role in the club and don’t really want outsiders coming in to ruin their good time.  Your group will never get big enough to have clout using this mentality.  One of the primary functions of your organization should be to grow… and that means going out and actually asking for new members… all the time, everywhere you go.

Grassroots organizations are a great tool in the arsenal of successful issue advocates, political campaigns, party organizations, and more… use these five secrets to help you build a strong and sustainable grassroots organization.