This resource is based on training provided by the Atlas Network (shared by The Thomas Jefferson Center for Constitutional Restoration). It describes the four areas of activity for all individuals and organizations interested in creating a movement.
Organization Activity Areas/ Roles:
Everything groups do to advance a cause can be categorized in one of the four ways:
- Increasing the impact capacity of one or more other organizations
- Target audience: high-impact individuals and organizations
- Training, fundraising, marketing, etc
- Networking and creating coalitions
- Facilitating events for like-minded organizations
- Making ideas popular to targeted individuals and organizations
- Target audience: policymakers and other popularizers
- White papers with very technical language
- Making ideas popular
- Target audience: the masses
- Charismatic public speaking and videos
- Providing specific calls to action
- Target audience: the masses
- Putting volunteers to work in the movement
- Mobilize masses, often using emotional appeals
Generally, people and organizations have the most impact when they specialize in one of these four areas of engagement. Extremely talented and well-funded organizations are sometimes capable of excelling in two of these areas. Groups that attempt to consistently operate in 3 or 4 areas of engagement confuse their supporters and are usually too diluted to be effective in any area. The more overlap two categories have in their target audiences, the easier it will be to excel in both of those areas.
Organization Activity Examples:
- Fundraising events
- Promoting other organizations
- Leadership development programs
- Making educational materials more accessible (Legacy Library)
- Participating in parades
- Consulting politicians and candidates
- Advising ministers and other ecclesiastical leaders
- Private meetings with popularizers
- Social media posts
- Website articles
- Classes and seminars
- Radio interviews
- Activism workshops
- Grassroots organizing
- Petition drives
- Get out the vote drives
- Organizations secure high-dollar funding opportunities
- Teams have better training and skills
- Leaders have a better network of relationships
- Relationships between complimentary organizations are strengthened
- Efforts and communication systems are more organized
- Internal systems are robust making scaling and growth comfortable
- Politicians understand the importance of your ideas
- Politicians are armed with arguments and can influence other politicians
- Politicians use their platforms to popularize your message
- People are convinced of your ideas
- People are better at representing and communicating your ideas
- Influential citizens influence policymakers and other organizations with your message
- Many small donations and purchases flow in from the public
- Politicians feel pressure from the public
- People are spreading your ideas within their spheres of influence
- News outlets popularize your message because of public demonstrations
- Activism workshops
Mobilization is the part of historical movements that people talk about. It’s where the ideas that have become popular are put to work. Political marches and protests are examples of activities that define movements, and these are examples of mobilization in action.
In most cases, politically-focused educational nonprofits engage in very limited amounts of mobilizing since tax laws forbid nonprofits from making extensive political impact. Additionally, mobilizing and the related mass organization efforts can be very expensive, stressful, and time-consuming. Instead, they often focus on popularizing and influencing since mass communication and small meetings are simple and relatively inexpensive.
Popularizing vs Influencing
Although there are some organizations capable of both influencing and popularizing, these activity areas are generally approached by different organizations. Popularizing and mobilizing generally require short, emotional, charismatic, and entertaining messages while influencing requires thorough, comprehensive, and often technical language.
If ideas are popularized to the masses but politicians feel especially influenced by lobbyists with a different message, those politicians are likely to vote against the will of the people. If, during an election season, politicians are feeling a lot of pressure to vote based on the popular will of the people, the lobbying efforts of think tanks and special interest groups may become ineffective. In order to achieve consistent, relatively-predictable behavior from our policymakers, popularizers and influencers need to be successfully communicating the same message to the people, other influencers and popularizers, and policymakers. Policymakers will vote consistently when they are being sufficiently pressured by influencers and voters with the exact same message.
Popularizers are usually in the spotlight. As public thought leaders, they are often the center of attention anytime something important happens. Since they are in the public eye, they often feel a lot of pressure to constantly put out new content. The constant pressure to keep the public’s attention leads them to cover a lot of different topics. This often leads to a de-emphasis of the most important ideas for the sake of variety. Influencers, on the other hand, focus on quality over quantity and remain pretty consistent on their message through the months and years.
To effectively advocate for a cause with specific solutions, popularizers need to keep things interesting by addressing current events while constantly referring back to the solutions advocated by influencers and think tanks. This gives the public the variety that maintains their attention while reminding them of the ultimate solutions.
It can take a lot of money and time to become an influential popularizer with a massive following, but it usually doesn’t take a long time to develop initial interesting popularizing messages. It may take a long time to become an expert in a topic, but it’s not difficult for experts to become influential to politicians.
Building is usually an extremely unselfish part of advancing a movement. In general, building activities prioritize the long-term success of the movement and have less commitment to the success of any one organization over the rest of the network. In several cases, a builder organization will be focused on increasing the capacity of partner and affiliate organizations in their formal network. In a few cases, one organization or program exists to promote the success of one other partner organization (or an internal program created to promote the success of the parent organization).
Current Public Examples:
- Leadership Institute
- State Policy Network
- Atlas Network
- Grant-making foundations
- School booster clubs
- Henry Kissinger
- Bilderberg Meetings
- Political think tanks
- The Heritage Foundation
- Independent scholars and experts
- Council on Foreign Relations
- Pugwash Conferences
- News outlets and radio shows
- Ben Shapiro, Candace Owens, Will Witt, Steven Crowder, & Charlie Kirk
- Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, & Mark Levin
- David Barton, Jordan Peterson, & Dennis Prager
- Prager University, CATO, Foundation for Economic Education
- Black Lives Matter
- Organizing for Action
- Young Americans for Liberty
- Political action committees
Organizations will sometimes get frustrated when they work extremely hard but make a relatively insignificant impact. This can occur when the desired impact is the natural result of a completely different area of activity. Organizations should choose impact goals that match their comparative strengths and then choose activities that laser-focus on that impact area.
Businesses will use the terms “quickest to cash” and “minimum viable product” to stay focused on the activities that produce the maximum impact per ounce of effort. In terms of activism, organizations should ask themselves, “What are the one or two activities that we can become very good at that will quickly make the desired impact?” Organizations need to avoid the trap of chasing every shiny object (every good idea and opportunity) and focus on the minimum viable product.
If you have any questions or would like to get help growing your organization, submit a contact form and we’d be glad to chat with you!