Our grass roots

American Experiment cultivates the grass roots.

Most think tanks don’t consider themselves to be grass roots organizations. They produce papers for an intended audience of “thought leaders,” i.e., politicians, political staffers, journalists, professors and a handful of others. And most policy organizations fundraise pretty much exclusively among the well-heeled.

American Experiment is different. We are very much a grass roots organization. In fact, in 2020 our single largest source of revenue was grass roots contributions. In 2016, the Center received donations from around 2,300 individual Minnesota residents. By 2019 that number had grown to over 5,000, and to nearly 7,000 in 2020. By the end of 2021, we expect to receive contributions from more than 8,000 individual Minnesotans.

Grass roots support isn’t only important because it provides us with much-needed revenue. It is also an important measure of how broadly we are influencing Minnesotans. The fact that thousands of ordinary Minnesotans follow our work, and believe in what we are doing to the extent that they are willing to mail us checks or go online to donate, is a key measure of the reach and impact of our organization. And the fact that our grass roots support is growing rapidly signifies that our impact is growing, too.

American Experiment’s grass roots orientation is also visible in the outreach that we do. Far from confining ourselves to an allegedly-sophisticated audience of thought leaders, we try to communicate information and conservative ideas to the greatest possible number of Minnesotans—and increasingly, to people in other states as well. We want to change Minnesota’s civic culture, and to do that, we need to be communicating with mil- lions of Minnesotans.

When we set out this goal back in 2016, many thought it couldn’t be done—but we have shown what a policy organization dedicated to communicating with the grass roots can achieve. We use all media in our communications—radio, digital ads, television, social media, billboards, our web site AmericanExperiment.org, newspaper op-eds, videos, emails, Thinking Minnesota, and so on. We track our communications carefully and very conservatively. Thus, where we don’t have exact numbers we take estimates from vendors (Face- book, billboard companies, radio stations, news- papers, etc.) and slash them by up to 90 percent. We want our outreach estimates to be conservative, not exaggerated.

Using our conservative metrics, in the first half of 2021 we got our messages in front of Minnesotans (and to a lesser degree, residents of other states) more than 92,000,000 times. And just for fun, we added up what our outreach would be if we accepted vendors’ reach numbers at face value, as nearly all organizations do. The answer? Almost 625,000,000 contacts in the first six months of the year alone.

Of course, it isn’t only in our mass communications efforts that the Center prioritizes the grass roots. Equally important, we travel all over the state of Minnesota to bring our common sense conservative messages to Minnesotans. Through September 15 of this year, we have conducted 29 live programs all across the State of Minnesota, attended by thousands of people. From Thief River Falls to Winona, and from Marshall to Hibbing, we show up where Minnesotans live and work.

Then, too, we speak at many events around the state that are hosted by others, and we attend classic Minnesota events like Farmfest, where we handed out short policy papers of interest to farmers and others in the ag industries, but also yellow corn on the cob holders with our logo on them! If that isn’t grass roots, what is?