Grassroots Program Development

Building Grassroots Support for a New Legislative Agenda

Over the course of several years, FARE had grown a large group of advocacy champions. Passionate advocates had successfully advocated for new state-level policies for safety and education.

To make an even bigger impact on the lives of 32 million food allergy sufferers, FARE decided to shift its focus to the federal level to push for the creation of more treatments and, eventually, a cure. Achieving this goal would require more research funding.

This was a significant change of direction for advocates used to working at the local level. FARE challenged Relate Advocacy to help navigate this shift and ensure its grassroots network could successfully advocate for its federal issue agenda.

For FARE to be successful, they needed to TELL its story to advocates, RECRUIT new champions, and MOBILIZE them to communicate with members of Congress.

Telling the Story

Relate needed to create messages that would help retain advocates who had worked hard to support its state-based approach, while encouraging those interested in federal issues to do more. Our messaging strategy combined three principles:

  • Recognition. We recognized the accomplishments of FARE’s state-based efforts and the advocates who led them.
  • Connection. We helped advocates understand how success at the federal level would help at the state level. We also made it clear that FARE would continue to provide organizing resources to help those who would prefer to remain focused on state issues.
  • Simplification. We narrowed FARE’s agenda to three federal issues. We then immediately focused on the issue on which we could generate the quickest win. A quick policy win would build momentum behind FARE’s shift and help drive fundraising.

Recruiting New Champions

The most effective disease advocacy groups have committed advocates in every important Congressional district. Relate created a national recruitment plan that maximized FARE’s budget and yielded immediate success in the congressional districts where it was needed most.

  • Integrated national advocacy into existing FARE events and communications.
  • Recruited new supporters through a paid petition campaign.
  • Developed a Facebook campaign targeting key congressional districts that yielded new advocates for an average cost of just $3-$5.

Mobilizing for a New Mission

Despite its size, the food allergy community has a limited history of coordinated federal advocacy. Relate developed a plan to organize individuals in critical districts and arm them with the tools they needed to begin building relationships with members of Congress.

  • Created monthly content calendars for email and social media.
  • Tracked our progress. As content was distributed, we measured our results to find more engaged advocates and identify audience segments.
  • Recommended opportunities for FARE staff to conduct personal follow-up with more engaged advocates.
  • Developed a mobilization strategy to build legislator support for FARE’s first federal issue campaign.
  • Created an advocate survey. Our analysis helped identify potential advocate leaders and guide the development of future content.
  • Established an advocate leadership model that included local teams stewarded by regional and national volunteers.

The Results

Our work helped FARE:

  • Double the size of its advocate database in just seven months (net of churn) within targeted budget parameters.
  • Double the open rate of its advocacy emails.
  • Generate 80+ congressional co-sponsors for its first federal legislative priority bill.
  • Recruit over 500 volunteers to participate in a nationwide campaign to schedule in-district meetings with members of Congress.
  • Begin to identify advocate leaders who could organize food allergy advocates in their communities.

We successfully answered FARE’s challenge. As the organization changed its legislative focus, we expanded its grassroots support in targeted areas, improved engagement, and helped ensure the advocacy program could continue to grow cost-effectively.