Grassroots lobbying is an important term that refers to appeal to the public to take a stand before the legislature on a particular issue. In essence, it is the same as what we call in Romania „indirect lobbying„. It is called indirectly, as the influence of legislation is achieved by stimulating community members to communicate with decision-makers. Therefore, the initiators of the approach no longer act on their own, by establishing personal contacts with decision-makers, as in the case of direct lobbying, but encourage public opinion to influence the adoption of political decisions.
To be considered grassroots lobbying, an organization (such as a nonprofit) cannot announce its opinion on specific legislation and encourage its members to contact their legislators/government agency about that legislation.
Typical grassroots lobbying expenditures include:
– newspaper advertisements or press releases to support the proposed legislation,
– hiring a person to organize public meetings in order to influence action on issues being considered by the legislature,
– creating or maintaining websites, purchasing e-mail lists, or hiring someone to conduct other online activities, and
– hiring signature gatherers to circulate petitions for an initiative to the legislature.
The benefits of Grassroots Lobbying
Grassroots lobbying has some additional benefits, such as:
- Increasing public support for an issue among constituents
- Offering solutions that the public would like to see enacted
- Enabling constituents to become politically active
- Representing the voices of the many
- Expressing viewpoints of a minority group
Direct Lobbying and Grassroots Lobbying – what is the difference between them
You conduct direct lobbying only when your organization states its position on specific legislation to statesmen or other government employees, such as staff, government agencies who participate in the formulation of legislation or urge your members to do so. For example, a charity staff person urging a city council member to vote for an ordinance would be an illustration of direct lobbying.
Direct Lobbying consists of any attempt to influence legislation through communication with any member or employee of a legislative body, or any government official or employee (other than a member or employee of a legislative body) who may participate in the formulation of the legislation, but only if the principal purpose of the communication is to influence legislation. Communication with a legislator or government official will be treated as a direct lobbying communication, if, but only if, the communication: refers to specific legislation, and reflects a view on such legislation.
While grassroots lobbying is usually done by small, volunteer groups with little budget, the direct lobby is made by large organizations that have money and need a specific change in legislation or policy.
The differences between Direct Lobbying and Grassroots lobbying
The main difference between direct and grassroots lobbying is that, for direct lobbying, one person goes out and tries to influence a politician by using their own credentials or by offering them some sort of incentive. On the other hand, in grassroots lobbying, many people are mobilized in order to reach one goal or change in policy.
Also, grassroots lobbying is less formal and regulated than direct lobbying. The two forms of lobbying work together and they both correspond to different groups in society.
To achieve the best results, indirect lobbying or grassroots lobbying involves:
- Verbal and written communications
- Electronic and social media communications
- Attending a meeting with policymakers
- Speaking on the phone with lawmakers
The lobbying activity helps to maintain and improve the public trust, trust in the democratic institution and the representation process of public politics. In the end, international lobbying never excludes diplomacy and vice versa, these are complementary layers that become intertwined, as the decision-making process becomes more complicated.
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