To many campaigns, grassroots and get-out-the-vote operations have become synonymous. A campaign organizes counties or precincts for the final 72-hour push to get supporters to the polls, but oftentimes overlooking just how valuable these sub-units are to the campaign weeks and months before the election. This misuse of grassroots sub-groups is likely because a generation of campaign operatives got their start as volunteers for the massive get-out-the-vote programs coordinated by the national parties. To these staffers, the sub-units serve one critically important purpose: turning votes out on Election Day. This isn’t necessarily untrue, however, there is so much more the campaign can get out of grassroots sub-groups.Clustering the likely electorate geographically is the easiest and usually the most effective way to define a sub-group. Once this cluster is drawn, the campaign is best served by growing a steering committee for the area. Organizing volunteers and supporters geographically gives the campaign an opportunity to take advantage of the volunteers' natural strengths by allowing them to work their own communities instead of areas they don't know. This approach also keeps volunteers more engaged than just pooling everyone together and assigning tasks district-wide.Not only can that steering committee provide the campaign with manpower to knock doors and make calls, this group can host events and give you insight and intelligence by identifying movers and shakers in the area that would otherwise remain untouched by the campaign.Building the steering committees requires the same discipline as fundraising. The candidate has to make calls asking folks to agree to serve. The good news is that these people generally give money, too! Once you draft these people, you must keep them engaged. This can be done through conference calls and even weekly e-mails for each cluster. Making the committee members feel empowered and informed is the key to making this system work. I urge campaigns to listen to these committees because they generally have a good understanding of how to campaign effectively to that area. This customization gives campaigns the edge.Grassroots is more than just getting out the vote, but realizing the benefit requires time, discipline and the desire to think outside the box.
To many campaigns, grassroots and get-out-the-vote operations have become synonymous.