Roots of Success Newsletter
What's New

Fortune and CNN Money Feature My "Top Underdogs of the Year" List 
Not all underedogs are created equal. What do the Tea Party, New York State Gay Marriage Advocates, Tim Tebow, Mohamed Bouazizi, Rhode Island State Treasurer Gina Raimondo, Kathryn Stockett, and Sergeant Scott Moore and Corporal Kelsey De Santis have in common? They make my inaugural "Underdogs of the Year" list, as featured on Fortune and CNN Money's mangement site:
Is the Underdog Edge an Influence Tool in Politics and the Workplace?
See my interview on ABC's Washington, D.C. Channel 8 affiliate, "Capitol Insider" here:


Top Tips

The Top 12 Political Involvement Management Practices for 2011

As you know, I’m always leaning forward in my seat taking notes. Here are some of the best ideas I’ve heard this year from stellar grassroots and PAC leaders.

  1. Advise your stakeholders of your professional goals. Are you evaluated on the percent of responses to grassroots mobilizations? On PAC receipts? Tell your key volunteer leaders; they want to help you and this invests them in your goals. 
  2. When your senior leaders tell you: “Let me know what I can do to help you,” send them a detailed memo that outlines how they can help your program, and do it within 24 hours.
  3. If personal grassroots communications to legislators matter, reward that behavior rather than just talking about it. You have to reward the behavior you want more of. 
  4. Want a high survey response? Include in your budget a small gift for completing the survey. In many cases this doubles survey responses. 
  5. Call one volunteer a day to express thanks. And not just “thanks for your involvement”, but be specific---what is the behavior or result they exhibited that you appreciate? How has that made a difference to the organization or you personally?
  6. Have one chapter or facility that consistently out-performs or out-fundraises others? Create a grassroots certification program for your chapters or facilities.
  7. Require members to complete an application to attend grassroots training workshops.
  8. Let volunteers design their recognition program.
  9. Have cocktails during your meeting session not just at the reception. (Creativity and levity  is the goal here, not drunkeness)
  10. Have your senior leadership suggest members or employees to serve as Key Contacts and  / or PAC Board members.
  11. Ask your PAC Board to determine fundraising goals and tactical approach.
  12. When lawmakers tour your facilities, be strategic! Make sure they are witnessing a process or situation that directly addresses a legislative issue you are facing.  We weigh vivid information more heavily than position papers or talking points.


Banish These Words

I always instruct my presentation skills clients to do their best to avoid common clichés and phrases. People are inundated with information, and we owe it to our audience to be memorable. 

One of my favorite web sites is the annual list of banished words published by Lake Superior State University.  Anyone can recommend a word for banishment (is that a word?!), and the best part is the reader commentary, of which I’ve selected my favorites. 

My favorites from 2011, and the ones I have experienced guilty pleasures using:

Optics – first used by political pundits and now pervasive when describing the perception of an event.

Occupy – Let’s pray that this doesn’t become a noun or adjective. Interestingly, “bemuse” is a synonym for occupy, as in “to occupy the attention of” so maybe groups can wave the “bemuse” flag as an option.  

“Spring” – This is my 2012 prediction – every grassroots movement will try to claim they have a “spring” as in “Arab Spring” movement that surpasses all other grassroots movements. I can see it now: “Bankers Spring,” “Small Business Spring” “Labor Spring,” etc.   

“Lawyer up” – All of the “ups” are downers to me. (Full disclosure, I frequently use the term “cowboy up” since I think that has effective imagery and I love the west.)    

“Man up” - ditto. Especially odd when telling a woman to “man up.”  

Read more here:

News from Innovate to Motivate

Join us at


"The Best of Innovate to Motivate®"

“Innovate to Motivate provides an opportunity to interact with and hear from qualified, high caliber experts in an unintimidating environment.  Staff and attendees alike are very professional and willing to share their successes and shortfalls all in the spirit of helping other colleagues learn.   I have never heard anyone say they wish they wouldn't have attended this conference, but I have heard many people say that they could kick themselves for missing it.”  

- Carrie Schneider, PAC/Grassroots Manager CMS Energy

Want to have an upwardly mobile PAC in a down economy? (from a PAC leader who grew hers more than 200% since 2008) 

Want to learn from Rock the Vote how to rock YOUR vote? (from the Executive Director of Rock the Vote) 

Want to know when you must “go negative” in your next grassroots campaign, and how to do it without harming your brand or losing your job? (from someone who teaches NATO and the Joint Special Ops how to win over hostile audiences) 

Want to brainstorm with other veteran political involvement professionals in a facilitated session that allows you to share best practices?   

Then get to Washington. D.C. on February 17, 2012 for the first ever “Best of Innovate to Motivate®” conference. We'll showcase some of our highest rated workstorms ever! We’ve delivered over 250 workstorm topics in the last decade, so we have some super stars waiting to share their secrets for maximizing your political involvement program's potential, as well as your individual potential.   

Download the full conference agenda

Attendance is limited---register now!

Registration is now open - register today!

I2M continues to innovate by giving back. (again!) Our lead sponsor, The Soft Edge,, is once again facilitating a USO fundraising drive at the "Best of Innovate to Motivate" conference.  Stay tuned for details.

Why Innovate to Motivate®?

We walk our talk and invest in outside expert faculty. We know that we cannot claim to have a high level conference curriculum unless we are willing to invest in experts who are in demand and that requires an investment. Our faculty budget is more than the conference food and beverage budget, and we aren’t going to change that.  

 I2M was the first conference of its kind to integrate career acceleration and the science of influence topics into the political involvement conference curriculum. We are flattered that others are copying us. 

 Senior political involvement professionals attend I2M. Over 60% of our conference attendees are Director level and above. The majority of the remaining attendees each have a decade or more of experience! We welcome diverse levels of political involvement professionals, but we have intentionally made the curriculum challenging and that is reflected in who chooses to attend I2M.    

 We only recruit faculty who have a track record of success in the particular workstorm topic. Tenure, organizational membership, and the “buddy system” don’t apply when we select our faculty.       
 Superior networking opportunities. In addition to the I2M Salon, we require all faculty to allocate time for group discussion and/or exercises. 

The Best of Innovate to Motivate® Conference Co-Chairs

Jenny Boese

VP-External Relations & Member Advocacy

Wisconsin Hospital Association

Co-Chair, The Best of Innovate to Motivate® 2012

Kari Lantos

Manager of Grassroots Outreach

NAFSA:  Assoc. of International Educators

Co-Chair, The Best of Innovate to Motivate® 2012

Innovate to Motivate® is Produced and Co-Founded by

The Showalter Group, Inc.

I2M is sponsored by:

The Soft Edge, Inc.

The Original US Congress Handbook

In-kind assistance to the Innovate to Motivate® Town Halls is provided by:

Arent  Fox LLP

1050 Connecticut Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20036-5339


Thanks for reading!


What's New
    -Fortune and CNN Money  
    -Underdog Edge News
Top Tips
    - The Top 12 Political Involvement       Management Practices for 2011
    - Banish These Words
News from Innovate to Motivate
    - Maximize Your Potential at I2M  
Recent Blog & Twitter Posts

Recent Underdog Edge Tweets:

@AmyShowalter If you’re not an underdog, if you’re a “tall poppy,” make sure your achievements are seen as deserved! #underdogedge

@AmyShowalter See my most notable underdogs of 2011 via @CNNMoney #underdogedge

@AmyShowalter Three Types of People to Fire Immediately - Businessweek via @BW

@AmyShowalter Underdog card rule #5: Don’t use the same tactics as big dogs. #underdogedge

@AmyShowalter It’s probably not good to wave the underdog banner; it has more credibility if it comes from someone else’s lips. #underdogedge

@AmyShowalter Underdog card rule #4: Don’t call yourself the underdog. #underdogedge

@AmyShowalter Underdog card rule #2: Don’t squander the resources you do have! #underdogedge

@AmyShowalter "People will tell you anything, but what they do is always the truth." -PJ O'Rourke

@AmyShowalter Utilize video conferencing with congressional staff vs. Flying everyone to DC as a cost-effective option.

@AmyShowalter Successful underdog biographies have an external advantage a better resourced competitor doesn’t have; it must be believable. #underdogedge


Recent Blog Posts

The Upside of Under: What Big Organizations Can Learn from Their Smaller Brethen

Campaign 2012: Who Will Win the Post-Cain Republican Race?