Working with Groups
Grassroots programs or networks can operate at any size. Some are
merely a handful of people organizing to deal with a local education matter.
Others can be an industry trade association with more than 100,000 members
joining to block proposed legislation threatening their business. Each is a
grassroots organization. Both can work independent of other groups or in
coordination with groups which share the same or similar interests.
When your grassroots program chooses to work with one or more outside
groups, the organization they form is labeled a "coalition".
Coalitions have the potential to be far more powerful and more skilled than any
single organization grassroots network acting alone. As the geographical size
and complexity of an issue expands, the need to consider forming a coalition
When considering forming a coalition, it is important to remember that
coalitions require compromise. No two groups can be as unified in their thinking
as one group is alone. Each group which joins a coalition agrees to sacrifice
some of its preferences and accept some of their partner's preferences. This
compromise increases the chance that together, the strength of numbers and
geographical reach, will produce a greater probability of winning on any issue.
Forming a Coalition:
The most obvious method for forming a coalition is to identify other groups
who share interests similar to yours. They may share all of your interest or
only part of it. They may work in the same industry or a separate one which uses
the same products or raw materials. Their position on an issue may fear
environmental pollution or oppose the regulations to prevent pollution. However,
as long as there is some common objective shared by the groups, potential exists
to form a coalition.
The most powerful coalitions are often coalitions of "unlikes."
These coalitions combine groups which are traditionally on opposite sides of
most issues. Ignoring their differences, they agree to come together because
they share at least one interest in common. When they agree to work together,
that agreement sends a powerful signal to legislators, apppointed officials and
staff. The signal is that on the current issue, these groups realize they need
each other. They understand that combining their memberships will mean they have
constituents, voters, consumers and citizens in a larger number of Congressional
and/or state legislative districts. This fact alone provides the coalition with
more coverage, more right to representation and more power.
A common concern for groups asked to join a grassroots coalition is how to
maintain the confidentiality of their group's membership lists, legislative
contacts and profile information. Privacy can be maintained for each group by
permitting them to handle all internal mailing and contact for their
organization. Or, if the size of the coalition is large enough to require an
outside vendor, each group can require the vendor to sign a confidentiality
agreement before the release of their data.
The four most difficult words for many people to speak are, "Will
you help me?" People fear this question because they worry about having to
help someone else in return. Grassroots organizations are formed because two or
more people realize that they are not likely to succeed alone but may win if
they work together. This reality is even more true for grassroots coalitions.
Describing your grassroots goals and methods is a way of
saying, "Will you help me?"
GRASSROOTS PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT | LEGISLATORS AND POLICY-MAKERS | REFERENCE MATERIALS | IDEA EXCHANGE | ABOUT KGA
Kevin Gottlieb & Associates, Inc.
P.O. Box 3240
Annapolis, MD 21403-0240
(301) 858-5101 tel