Getting grasstops endorsements: Advice from an endorsement superstar
By Katie Zakrzewski
A nature lover with a degree in biology, Norma Morrison spent 30 years sharing her love of the outdoors and knowledge with others as an education professor at Milligan University in Tennessee. Since retiring, she has worked to make her native Carter County beautiful and energy efficient as a CCL volunteer.
Over the course of her career, Norma made tons of connections which she has utilized to get grasstops endorsements from folks in her community. What’s her secret? Fortunately, Norma has some advice for CCLers hoping to get big endorsements from leaders and influencers.
Be flexible with paper and digital resources
Norma explained that you should be prepared to offer resources on paper or digitally, depending on what your potential endorser wants.
“Whenever I seek an endorsement, I’ve learned that some people want to fill it out themselves using the link, and some people want you to enter the information for them,” Norma said. “Sometimes, we’ll collect information on paper and fill it out ourselves.”
Tap into your network
“I rely on relationships,” Norma said. “And I’ve lived in this area for over 45 years, so I’ve developed a lot of relationships. I have former students who are business owners. I have friends who are business owners. I have friends who go out to eat a lot and who have built a relationship with those restaurant owners,” Norma said. “My doctors and medical folks are important too.”
For Norma, it never hurts to ask for an endorsement. “I try to ask everyone I meet who is a business owner or leader in some way,” she said, especially if their business is a local one.
She also leans on her social connections to identify new endorsement opportunities. “My friend’s boss was a real estate agent, and I knew from what she told me that he would lean in the direction of a yes [for an endorsement]. I knew many of his colleagues and friends, so those connections are so important,” Norma said. “When I went to his office and approached his secretary’s desk, I told her I wanted to make an appointment with him. My friend had told him about me, and he came out of his office and said, ‘Yes, I want to endorse.’”
Norma’s efforts have actually gotten her friends inspired, too.
“Any time my friend went to a restaurant, she would whip out her endorsement forms, and she got a few for me,” Norma said. “Friends can really help you bridge the gap. I recently went on the Martin Luther King, Jr., march in our area and ran into a lot of friends. They were able to introduce me to the individuals that I had been emailing, so we were able to connect in person at the march.”
Even if you’re new to an area and still building your network, Norma says, “Start making connections by joining community groups and getting to know people and developing trust.”
Start with ‘low-hanging fruit’
“I start with low-hanging fruit — I try to think of the people who have a similar mindset as CCL,” Norma said. “I have a student who owns a landscaping business that capitalizes on native plants. That was a really easy endorsement ask.”
Norma shared that some of the “low-hanging fruit” endorsements she’s had the most luck with include landscapers, biologists, nature enthusiasts, artists, and local restaurant owners. Plus, getting several endorsements from these seemingly easier targets can help build up your confidence for more difficult asks.
Visit in person and over Zoom whenever you can
“When I present in person or over Zoom, I show my intended audience a personalized PowerPoint presentation about why a carbon price and CCL’s work would specifically benefit them,” Norma said. “Visiting with people works more effectively than just sending emails or text messages. Our state leader encouraged me to use Zoom; it was so easy after that. I Zoomed so I wouldn’t have to drive all over the place.”
Be realistic, but persistent
Norma stressed that perseverance is a must. “Some folks I’ve had to meet with several times. I’ll visit and touch base as many times as it takes to get an endorsement,” Norma said. “The first time might not always work, but you have to keep trying.”
Norma explained that in the game of endorsement baseball, you may be one of the greatest batters in your league — but you can still strike out. “I only get about a third of the endorsements on the first try. You have to be friendly but persistent,” Norma said.
Norma has found some difficulty in unexpected places but knows that she’ll have to try a different angle on her next visit. Where one door closes, another one opens.
“I thought universities would be easy. I contacted one student government, and it was a dead end — but that doesn’t mean there will be a dead end the next time that I contact them. ”
Create opportunities when it’s hard to find one
Norma explained that when there’s difficulty creating an inroad, you can make one.
“I started a creation care committee at my church. I haven’t asked my church yet to endorse, but I’m working up to it. We fixed up our flower bed with native plants after getting rid of invasive ones, and entered this project into a contest. We’re waiting to see if we won,” Norma said. “Regardless, our committee has a program scheduled for each month. Last month was on sustainable lifestyles and decreasing plastics, and this month it will be about electrification and electric vehicles.”
When a member of Congress spoke in her town, Norma didn’t attend with endorsements in mind. But after she asked a question on the microphone, audience members went out of their way to approach her and endorse.
“When our member of Congress came to Carter County, I brought Katharine Hayhoe’s book with me, and they asked for questions from the audience. I thanked my member of Congress for her help with the Veterans’ Association, and I told her that I really wanted her to read Dr. Hayhoe’s book, because climate change is affecting all of us, even in our area,” Norma said. “I never dreamed I’d get an endorsement from this, but afterward, two people came up to me and asked what they could do to help. They ended up endorsing — they owned two pharmacies in our area, and that was terribly exciting. It turns out our member of Congress was a pharmacist, so you’ll never know what’s going to happen with these connections.”
Norma shared that she volunteers with many other organizations and that with each meeting, her relationships with other volunteers grow stronger — which increases the likelihood of endorsements, should she ask for one.
“If you attend enough meetings, people get curious about you; that’s community networking.”
Using Norma’s advice can help you make endorsements in your community, too. Are you ready to make the big ask? You can access our endorsement form on our website.