Membership is Key to Grassroots Policy

Editorial by SDCA President Eric Jennings
We often hear the term “Grassroots Organization.”  It makes for good messaging, but what does it really mean?  It doesn’t surprise me that people are drawn to the term because we are fortunate to live in a country with a government that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” and in that culture we expect our voices and opinions to be heard.  A true grassroots organization should function in a manner where the members decide on the policy direction of the organization and where that policy remains consistent through changes in leadership occurs.

The best example of a grassroots organization I have been involved with is the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association (SDCA).  The SDCA is an advocate for the cattlemen and women of South Dakota.  The grassroots policy reflects solutions to issues that have affected our members.  The members have an opportunity to bring forth their ideas through local affiliates, regional and/or policy committee meetings or directly through the board of directors.  Every voting member has an opportunity to bring forward policy to the general membership for a vote at the annual meeting business and policy meeting.  We use this process not only to allow any member to bring forth policy, but also to allow policy to be fully vetted by the entire participating membership to ensure the organization is representing their views.

How the SDCA leadership utilizes policy is another important aspect of this grassroots organization.  The leadership of any grassroots organization should not advance their own philosophy in their leadership role, but instead honor their role as spokesperson for the organization, and as such, follow the policy created by membership.  It is easy to tell the organizations that have leaders that honor that role.  They’re the ones who have a consistent direction on issues no matter who is in the leadership role.  In times when an issue arises that an organization doesn’t have direct policy, and the board of directors or leaders are called upon to create interim policy to address. A properly functioning board will develop policy that is consistent with the philosophy of the membership, not the personal beliefs of the leadership.

I am proud to belong to a grassroots organization where policy is created by the members form in an open, transparent, and inclusive environment, and respected by leadership.  The policy of an organization changes to meet the needs of members and the times, but what is more difficult to change is the culture and values of an organization.  Those are important factor to consider when choosing which organization to belong to and support. 

Please join us at our annual convention & industry trade show in Pierre, December 12-13 for educational programing, industry speakers, and learn more about the SDCA and its policy and how it is created! No need to be a member, the event is open to all. To learn more visit