The idea of average citizens lobbying the government is nearly as old as our current government system. For hundreds of years people have used grass roots ways to make an impression on their elected officials about topics important to them. Today there are dozens of experts, like Jack Bonner, who have made grassroots lobbying an art form.
Grassroots lobbying methods have always borne fruit because they demonstrate that the people are listening and watching, and if the official does not respond he or she may risk being voted or kicked out of office. So its impact cannot be overstated. Today there are lots of ways to do grassroots lobbying.
The best approach is to focus on a few things that you can manage well than attempt to do a lot and do a poor job on all of them. Here are the most effective ways to grassroots lobby. You should pick the ones you can manage.
Personal meetings: These will be more difficult to get, especially if your representative spends the bulk of his time in another part of the state, or even Washington. But if you can get a meeting, this face time is perhaps the most powerful way to convey your issues. Again have all of your points able to be clearly annunciated.
Petitions: Both the online and the printed versions are effective in showing that people are concerned about your issue. If you create an online petition make sure you can print it with the signatures. There are many organizations including Move.org, offering ways to create online petitions. Many of these have received hundreds of thousands of signatures.
Town-hall meetings: There is nothing more powerful than getting passionate people together in a live forum where they can discuss their grievances and ways to get them dealt with. You should hold them in areas affected by the issues and invite relevant officials to attend and participate.
Phone calls: Every official who has input on your issues has an office and phones. If it is an elected official, he has to take calls from his constituents. Your goals should be to have many people call and to do it over a sustained period. Before you make the calls however, make sure you have laid out a plan of what you will say and the questions you want to ask.
Personal letters: Short of a meeting, sending a personal letter addressed to your targeted official is a sure way to get attention. Make sure that your group sends all of their letters at a coordinated time so they make the most impact.
Lobbying at the Legislature: You need to do this in groups as large as you can muster. The idea is to show up when you know the official and you want to sustain your lobbying effort for a large part of the day.
You may have tons of enthusiasm about your issue and are ready to do whatever it takes to get it the deserved attention. And there may be many others who share your passion, but either are not willing or able to keep up with all of the activities you would like to plan. Then there will be those who support your issue but not as passionately. For these groups you need to pick and choose how to best use them. Do you get them to come for one lobbying day? Should you ask them to write one personal letter a week for a month? Do you get them to attend a town hall meeting where they make lots of noise? These are important decisions to make because you will have to consider people’s time and availability as you move your grassroots lobbying efforts forward.