Interest groups have an array of tools and techniques at their disposal for seeking political influence. The specific tools and techniques that an interest group might utilize depend on its resources, the policies it advocates, and the context in which a group is acting. Typical interest group tools and techniques include:
- petitions and letter writing campaigns
- public demonstrations
- media campaigns
- attending public meetings
- legal action
- illegal action
This list of techniques illustrates the variety of strategic actions that interest groups may enjoy when attempting to influence public policy. Some of these techniques are narrowly tailored to directly influence government officials such as legislators, elected members of the executive branch, or members of the government bureaucracy. Other tactics aim to mobilize public opinion in favor of an interest group's objectives - often with the ultimate objective of using public opinion to pressure decisions makers. Some of these tactics may not aim at government at all, instead attempting to influence the behavior of private entities like business enterprises or even individuals.
Most interest groups - even those organized around private interests - are formed as non-profits. Groups must be aware of their tax status and engage only in activities that their federal status permits. The table Nonprofits and Politics summarizes the major federal rules that govern the activities of political organizations.
If you are a member of a group attempting to become politically active, this chapter's Getting Involved feature Organizing for Change can also help you think practically about strategy and tactics.