The success of most political grassroot campaigns are often decided by only a handful of votes. Even a single vote can make the difference between victory and defeat. The winner is often the organization who can get more people to the polls. That requires building support and getting those supporters motivated enough to go out and actually cast a vote on Election Day!
Grassroots organizations are natural and spontaneous, rather than orchestrated by traditional power structures. Grassroots movements are often at the local level, as community community volunteers give their time to support.
Besides holding fundraisers or events to raise money, your website can act as a conduit to accept contributions. Even small contributions can add up and help make the difference in buying signs, campaign brochures and literature. Grassroots or issue-specific campaign websites, combined with social media, can help organize participation and volunteer efforts as you run for city office.
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A grassroots movement is a political campaign where people organically organize as the basis for supporting an issue or candidate. Grassroots movements rely on collective action and utilize an array of strategies. Such movements share a focus on increasing popular participation in political issues.
Here are three prominent examples of grassroots movements that have had a significant impact on the nation’s political culture, some of which have become sustainable platforms for the issues they promote.
1. Abahlali baseMjondolo
Abahlali baseMjondolo, also known as the Red Shirts or the AbM, was a shack-dwellers’ movement formed in South Africa well known for campaigning against unjust evictions and the forced relocation of shack-dwellers to public housing. The AbM developed organically out of the blockade of a major road organized from a settlement known as Kennedy Road Shack Community outside of the city of Durban in 2005. The movement now operates primarily within Durban, Pinetown, Pietermaritzburg, the Western Cape and other like areas. AbM is a well-known shack dweller’s organization in South Africa, and the most influential. It is an organizational hub for other campaigns intended to improve living conditions for the poor with a focus on democratizing society from below.
2. The Axis of Justice
The AoJ is a not-for-profit group co-founded by Tom Morello and Serj Tankian. It is intended to connect musicians, music fans, and progressive grassroots ideals to promote social justice.
AoJ tents have appeared at music festivals where either System of a Down or Audioslave were performing. Most famously, the group appeared at Lollapalooza in 2003. The Axis of Justice also produces a monthly radio program that can be heard on XM Satellite Radio and KPFK (90.7 FM), a Pacifica Radio station in Los Angeles, California. The AoJ radio broadcasts are archived as MP3s on the AoJ website, and are available to download for free.
3. Bernie Sanders’s 2016 Presidential Campaign
The presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders, a United States Senator and one time Representative from Vermont, began his bid for the White House with a formal announcement from Burlington, Vermont. This followed an informal April 30th, 2015 announcement. While Sanders began his campaign as an Independent, he regularly caucused with Democrats in the Senate because many of his political views align with theirs, and he subsequently chose to remain in the Democratic Party.
The Sanders campaign was able to mobilize what The Atlantic calls a “grassroots army of volunteers and small-dollar donors” to get momentum in the Democratic primary. Although the campaign has ended, there is a great deal of energy built up that many hope will lead to a real political movement that will make a difference no matter who wins the election. It could push Donald Trump to make some progressive decisions, or encourage Hillary Clinton to make some moves that are further to the left than her base. The same Atlantic article notes, “No matter what happens, an engaged grassroots could help elect like-minded candidates in state and local races.”
In the July 2016 DNC roll call vote, Sanders took 39% of the vote, consisting of 1,848 committed delegates won in the primary, as well as in caucus contests, with 46% of the total and 4% of the super-delegates. After roll call, Sanders forwarded a motion to nominate Clinton, which was passed.
Ultimately, the campaign had impressive results and reflected a unique ability to mobilize and engage many citizens in a political effort. The campaign was able to raise a large volume of money from many small donations, and was able to develop large, energetic rallies (with or without Bernie Sanders in attendance) that promoted a progressive, “Feel the Bern” cause among people who had mostly never participated in any campaign before (according to Bloomberg). The campaign’s reliance on volunteers rather than large contingents of professional staffers contributed to the group effort and “outsider” sense that pervaded this campaign.
What all these movements have in common is the organic popular support of large groups of people. They motivate their bases by an appeal to their better natures and desire to improve the world we live in.
To learn more about grassroots campaigns and how you can affect change with a political management degree, visit The George Washington University online.
and the National Coalition for the Homeless to build a grassroots movement demanding a national commitment to house all the homeless youth in the country.
Join our campaign:
We are calling for:
- A federal commitment to provide ALL young people, ages 24 and under, with immediate access to safe shelter, affirming the principle that no young person in the United States should be left homeless in the streets.
- An immediate commitment to add 22,000 shelter beds along with appropriate services – a five-fold increase over the current level of resources.
- A more accurate and comprehensive effort to count the number of homeless youth in the nation in order to determine the number of beds that are needed over the next decade.
- There are only 4,000 youth shelter beds in the United States, yet as many as 500,000 unaccompanied youths experience homelessness each year.
Many homeless young people have fled abusive situations, left the foster care system with no resources, or been rejected by their families because of sexual orientation or gender identity.
- LGBT youth are disproportionately over-represented in the homeless youth population, with as many as 40% of the nation’s homeless youth being LGBT, while only 5% of the overall youth population is LGBT.
The following organizations have joined our coalition. If your organization would like to join the National Campaign for Youth Shelter, please contact us at info @nationalhomeless.org .
Collaboration is key! In order to see improvements in the lives of young people experiencing homelessness, we must all work together and speak out. By supporting this campaign, you recognize that the number of designated shelter beds for youth is woefully inadequate. Please use your considerable voice to help others to understand the gravity of this issue!
Consider downloading these badges and adding them to your website or social media profile!
Help us get the word out!
We support the National Campaign for Youth Shelter because EVERYONE deserves a bed.
LGBT youth are disproportionately over-represented in the homeless youth pop. We need safe shelter now! #Act4Youth http://ow.ly/wWlJJ
Kids who grow up on the streets are in real danger and so is the society that allows them to do so.
Download the full media packet HERE
- National Campaign for Youth Shelter Poster
- Web Badges
- Press Release
NYC Rally for Youth Shelter
On June 2, 2014 The National Campaign for Youth Shelter hosted a rally to inspire discussion about youth homelessness within the LGBT community during Pride month. Nearly a thousand people came out to voice their support, listen to incredible speakers and DEMAND A BED FOR EVERY YOUTH.
Former NCH Executive Director, Jerry Jones, addressed the crowd to announce the DC rally in December.
Grassroots Campaigns is currently hiring paid Canvassers and Field Managers for social justice-oriented campaigns around the country. We’re looking for people with a passion for the issues who are motivated to get involved and help make a change.
Canvassing is a great way make a personal impact on the issues that you care about while also building skills and making connections. Many leaders in politics and in the nonprofit arena got their start this way, and we always have opportunities for advancement.
Fill out this basic application and we will contact you within 24 hours, or fewer.
The ban on political campaign activity by charities and churches was created by Congress more than a half century ago. The Internal Revenue Service administers the tax laws written by Congress and has enforcement authority over tax-exempt organizations. Here is some background information on the political campaign activity ban and the latest IRS enforcement statistics regarding its administration of this congressional ban.
In 1954, Congress approved an amendment by Sen. Lyndon Johnson to prohibit 501(c)(3) organizations, which includes charities and churches, from engaging in any political campaign activity. To the extent Congress has revisited the ban over the years, it has in fact strengthened the ban. The most recent change came in 1987 when Congress amended the language to clarify that the prohibition also applies to statements opposing candidates.
Currently, the law prohibits political campaign activity by charities and churches by defining a 501(c)(3) organization as one “which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”
The IRS has published Revenue Ruling 2007-41 PDF , which outlines how churches, and all 501(c)(3) organizations, can stay within the law regarding the ban on political activity. Also, the ban by Congress is on political campaign activity regarding a candidate; churches and other 501(c)(3) organizations can engage in a limited amount of lobbying (including ballot measures) and advocate for or against issues that are in the political arena. The IRS also has provided guidance regarding the difference between advocating for a candidate and advocating for legislation. See political and lobbying activities.
Each election cycle, the IRS reminds 501(c)(3) exempt organizations to be aware of the ban on political campaign activity. The IRS published its most recent reminder in a public news release which you can read here.
The division within the IRS responsible for overseeing churches and charities is the Tax Exempt and Government Entitities Division. TEGE has created a Web page entitled Charities, Churches, and Educational Organizations – Political Campaign Intervention. It is dedicated to the IRS most recent activities related to 501(c)(3) and political activity.
A definitive court case on the issue of free speech and political expression is Branch Ministries Inc. versus Rossotti PDF . In that case, the court upheld the constitutionality of the ban on political activity. The court rejected the plaintiff church’s allegations that it was being selectively prosecuted because of its conservative views and that its First Amendment right to free speech was being infringed.
The court wrote: “The government has a compelling interest in maintaining the integrity of the tax system and in not subsidizing partisan political activity, and Section 501(c)(3) is the least restrictive means of accomplishing that purpose.”
Grassroots operates a 24-hour crisis intervention and supportive counseling hotline. Individuals may call for a variety of reasons including suicide, family and relationship problems, shelter needs, violent or threatening domestic situations, loneliness or depression, and chemical dependency issues, among others. Callers may remain anonymous. The program is accredited by the American Association of Suicidology (AAS). Callers can reach the Grassroots hotline at 410-531-6677. Grassroots hotline/walk-in programs also serve as the Single Point of Entry for the County’s Coordinated System of Homeless Services.
Callers from central MD can reach through Maryland’s Helpline by calling 211 and pressing 1, texting your zip code to 898-211, or visiting 211md.org. Additional information about the Maryland Helpline can be found on their website.
Callers from any state can reach a crisis counselor by calling Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Crisis Chat Links:
Click through the links and follow instructions on landing pages.
- Maryland – M-F from 4-9 pm: www.help4mdyouth.org/chat/
- Nationwide – 24/7: www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/gethelp/lifelinechat.aspx
Walk-in Counseling Program
Anyone in need of immediate assistance may walk in to the agency at any time to see a counselor. An appointment is not needed to receive services. There is no fee for the service. Short term follow-up is offered until the client is connected with appropriate ongoing counseling or treatment resources. Walk-in counseling is geared towards the person or family in need of immediate support or crisis intervention services for a mental health, personal, situational or family crisis.
Substance Use Disorder Screening
Grassroots provides in-person screening to adults, youth and families dealing with substance misuse issues. Walk-in crisis assistance is available onsite daily at Grassroots’ facility at 6700 Freetown Road in Columbia 24/7.
A counselor will screen clients using a method called “Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment” (SBIRT), an evidence-based method to identify individuals at risk, link them to treatment services in the community and assist them in removing barriers to getting treatment.
Survivors of Suicide Loss Support Group
The Survivors of Suicide group is a free and confidential support group that provides a safe place for you to share your thoughts, feelings and experiences related to the loss of a loved one to suicide. The group is here to help you as a survivor to cope with this tragedy and help in the process of putting your life together in the healthiest way possible. We recognize how difficult it may be to attend this group and talk about your loss or listen to the losses of others. Please know that we will always respect your need to share or to just sit quietly and listen to others. The group meets two times per month. Registration is required. Please contact the group’s coordinator, Ashley Badgley via email at [email protected] for more information or to register.
Mobile Crisis Team
Help in a crisis is just a phone call away.
Established in 2001, the Mobile Crisis Team is a two-member team of master’s level mental health professionals who respond with the police to psychiatric emergencies, family crises, and other traumatic events in the community. Team members have authority to sign Petitions for Emergency Evaluation which allows the police to immediately transport an individual to the hospital on an involuntary basis for a psychiatric evaluation. The team responds with the police to private residences, workplaces, accident scenes, public locations, etc. The police also request MCT for traumatic death situations including homicides, suicides, or fatal work place or traffic accidents.
Restore Clean Elections
Read the plan and get involved in bringing transparency and accountability to Michigan elections.
The Voter Data To Organize Your Community
No other organization gives you the sophisticated voter data on your own neighbors – everything from vote history to hot-button issues – to unite your community behind a common cause.
Build A Local Organization
Sign up a RescueMichigan.com for the training to create your own organization right in your own community and connect with local organizations nearby.
The Rescue Michigan Coalition has developed a complete set of tools for every patriotic Michigander fed up with our rights being trampled by our government. Our tools and training empower every Michigan patriot to reach out to thousands of voters – right in your own neighborhood.
The fight for liberty in Michigan isn’t in Lansing. It’s in our neighborhhoods. From Copper Harbor to Kalamazoo, voters decide who our leaders are. They decide whether to sign a petition.
Whether you want to collect petition signatures to overturn Gretchen Whitmer’s dictatorship, get involved in a legislative campaign, run for township board, or help somebody else running for office, there is nothing more powerful and effective than become a grassroots leader in your own precinct.
Which is why the political class never tell you this!
But Rescue Michigan isn’t just saying this: We are thrilled to announce that we are able to provide every volunteer the tools to make a difference in our communities, with state-of-the-art voter information, and the training to put it to use.
McToxics was a national grassroots campaign aimed at getting McDonald’s to stop using styrofoam packaging. The campaign began on August 1, 1987 when Vermonters Organized for Cleanup launched a series of actions to ban the use of foam food packaging in Vermont and was later co-ordinated by the Citizens Clearinghouse on Hazardous Waste (CCHW) . The Vermont acions were followed by a nationwide picket of McDonald’s restaurants. Campaigners were concerned because:-
- Disposal of foam products resuIts in the overfiIIing of landfiIIs with bulky, non-degrading plastics.
- When landfill is not used the plastics cause a massive litter problem. CCHW research determined that McDonalds contributed 1.3 billion cubic feet of foam food packaging waste to the nation’s waste stream annually.
- CFCs used to make foam packaging deplete the ozone layer.
- Dispersal of the chemical precursors and waste byproducts used in the manufacture of styrofoam pollutes the environment.
- Styrene leaches from the packaging into the food and may be harmful.
The campaign continued to grow. Grassroots Environmental activists, students, churches, animal rights activists and advocates of healthy foods targeted the use of styrofoam as the most conspicuous symbol of the company’s wastefulness. Groups picketed restaurants, fought for local ordinances banning styrofoam, launched boycotts and engaged in “send-it-back” campaigns returning McDonald’s packaging to its corporate bosses.
McDonald’s initial response was to turn to its public relations department. The company’s public relations flacks made ridiculous claims, such as “Foam packaging is good for landfill, it aerates the soil.” It was suggested that each store could have its own small incinerator but the prototype was exposed in Chicago by Greenpeace and was closed due to objections from the local community. McDonald’s also claimed to be committed to recycling despie evidence that this was impractical. One plastics recycler, unable to handle McDonald’s foam, returned several tons to the company along with a bill to cover the cost of controlling rodents attracted by half eaten burgers. The company HQ mailroom in Oak Brook also got a vermin problem as “Send-it-Back” foam piled up.
Finally on November 1 1990 McDonald’s capitulated . Vice President, Shelby Yastrow said McDonald’s would phase-out most styrofoam use and reduce their solid waste output by 90%. President Ed Rensi downplayed environmental concerns, claiming “Our customers just don’t feel good about [styrofoam].” Many other fast food chains followed suit.
Article based on evidence given by Brian Lipsett at the McLibel trial