Lobbying has been a popular topic over the last several election cycles. Everywhere you turn, it seems like someone has something to say about it. The thing about lobbying is that a lot of people form opinions about it without fully understanding what it is all about. For example, there is a significant difference between direct and grassroots lobbying.
Both kinds of lobbying are essential to our political system. Whether you are talking about a political lobbyist in Utah or a rather large lobbying firm in DC, the work lobbyists do contribute a lot to how government runs. The aim of this article is to help you understand lobbying better by explaining the difference between direct and grassroots lobbying.
How Direct Lobbying Works
Direct lobbying is the kind of lobbying most of us think about when the topic comes up. Just hearing the phrase conjures up images of meeting with representatives in their offices, inviting legislative staff members out to dinner, and so forth.
To lobby directly is to speak face-to-face with the person you are trying to influence. There are numerous ways to do this, all of which are governed by both state and federal laws. At the federal level and in some states, for example, individuals can lobby senators and House members by meeting in their offices. However, there is a caveat: this sort of direct lobbying must be in relation to a specific legislative proposal or ballot initiative.
The main goal of direct lobbying is to influence how a legislator votes on a particular issue. So the lobbyist wants to clearly communicate the position he or she is advocating for in a way that is both convincing and compelling. The best political lobbyists have made this an art form.
How Grassroots Lobbying Works
Grassroots lobbying is advocating a position without directly communicating with the person or people you are attempting to lobby. It relies on a strategy of going directly to the people whose position you are advocating, in order to enlist their active support. As such, grassroots lobbying is also indirect lobbying.
The clearest example of grassroots lobbying is one of holding some sort of rally or other gathering for the purposes of passing out leaflets to citizens. Those leaflets contain essential information along with a call to action urging citizens to contact their legislative leaders.
Grassroots lobbying can be advantageous in some cases because of its cumulative effect. Where a legislator may speak to only one lobbyist in a direct lobbying scenario, he or she may hear from hundreds or thousands of constituents via grassroots lobbying efforts. Grassroots lobbying is built on the philosophy of success by numbers.
Statehouse Partners is a political lobbyist organization in Utah and an example of an organization that concentrates mainly on direct lobbying. By contrast, the National Wildlife Foundation is an example of an organization that, by and large, concentrates on grassroots lobbying. Both are attempting to achieve the same thing but with different strategies for doing so.