Joining an Interest Group

Interest groups aren't just for professional lobbyists and industry associations. Every year, millions of ordinary citizens join grassroots interest groups to advance a particular cause. Some are in response to national issues, others to state issues, and still others to local issues. Many local grassroots organizations form in response to NIMBY (not in my back yard) issues. For citizens who feel strongly about development projects in their town or municipality, grassroots organizing is sometimes the most effective way to make a difference.

Grassroots organizing at the local level usually begins with an initial meeting among core supporters, where an objective and strategy is agreed upon. From there, members typically expand the organization by phoning (and now e-mailing) like-minded individuals and educating them on the issue. With technologies such as cell phones, e-mail, instant messaging, and the Internet, the process of organizing an interest group is much simpler and faster than it was in years past.

Once organized, grassroots organizations can be highly effective in mobilizing citizens to contact federal, state, and local officials in order to raise concerns about the issue at hand. Well-organized and motivated grassroots groups will often stage events and rallies, hold fundraisers, run advertising, write op-ed opinion pieces, contact local officials, create newsletters, and reach out to citizens door-to-door to make their viewpoint known.

The biggest challenge facing most grassroots organizations is raising enough money to sustain the cause for a long period of time. Many local organizations use raffles, picnics, barbeques, “bakeoffs,” and direct mail to raise funds. Some organizations benefit from the generosity of a wealthy benefactor committed to the cause.

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