The Power of Grassroots Organizing

Photo Credit: Children’s Defense Fund - Texas

Montana Example:

In Montana, advocates organized thousands of grassroots constituents in support of closing the Medicaid coverage gap, resulting in a huge win in April 2015. Montana Women Vote (MWV) is a coalition of non-profit women’s organizations working statewide to educate and mobilize low-income women and their allies to participate in the democratic process. The main reason they were successful, according to Sarah Howell, MWV Executive Director, was because they did about three years of steady grassroots organizing. They did public education and advocacy training and built strong relationships with constituents. During the biggest push of the campaign, they turned out more than 500 people to five lobby days and a rally, generated 11,000 phone calls to legislators and placed 8-10 earned media pieces per week. This was critical to their securing health care coverage for 70,000 Montanans.

However, numbers are only part of the story. Grassroots organizing is also powerful because it allows consumers to speak directly about their experiences and the effect of policies and programs. A strong grassroots base allows organizations to collect stories from consumers, and these stories become powerful weapons in any policy campaign.

In addition, strong grassroots organizing provides coalitions with an opportunity to employ a simultaneous inside/outside strategy. Grassroots groups are often free to engage in confrontational direct action activities (the outside strategy), like sit-ins in front of the governor’s office or blocking the entrance of a building. When coordinated with more traditional tactics like lobbying (the inside strategy), this combination of tactics can have a powerful effect on decision-makers.