Advocacy + Grassroots Mobilization = Success

“When you are working toward your end goal, there are lots of mini-goals between your starting and ending point.”

If you see a local Boy Scout troop with new tents, a new fire truck at the volunteer fire company or baseball teams sponsored by the American Legion or Moose Lodge, most likely they were purchased as a result of a non-profit organization’s fundraising through small games of chance.

In 2012 the small games of chance laws were updated to change what games could be played, how the money was distributed, and how the operations would be reported to the state. Three more bills modifying the new laws followed.

The new rules were the first since 1988. Any change would impact thousands of organizations throughout the state, including members of the Pennsylvania Federation of Fraternal and Social Organizations (PFFSO). Comprised of veterans’ clubs, Moose and Elks lodges and other social organizations, PFFSO does not typically play in the state’s political arena, but it has a large membership with deep local roots.

Reopening any law after 30 years presents challenges. The overall goal was simple enough. Organizations were looking to allow for larger proceeds from the games. However, the new rules, reporting requirements and clarification on what kind of games were even allowed required strong communication between the PFFSO, club members, other stakeholders, legislators, and regulators throughout the process.

“After decades of prize limits set at one level, the client’s request to raise them was reasonable enough,” said Ted Mowatt who took the lead on the lobbying efforts. “But it takes more than being reasonable to get a bill passed.”

Mowatt combined Wanner Associates clout in Harrisburg with the local clout the clubs had back in their communities to coordinate an issue-based campaign to let legislators know how important the legislation was to Pennsylvania’s communities. As the bill began to get legs, the team kept on eye on varying proposals regarding the percentage of proceeds the organizations were allowed to keep and proposed rules to run the games. The decisions being made in Harrisburg had to make sense for the small and charitable organizations running the games back home.

“When you are working toward your end goal, there are lots of mini-goals between your starting and ending point,” Mowatt said. “We had to prevent bad things from happening just as much as we had get the bill to raise the limits to pass. Having eyes and ears in Harrisburg working in conjunction with the eyes and ears of our club members throughout the state ensured that the bill would produce a law that could work in practice and practicality.”

In all, four bills addressing small games of chance were passed over a period of 2 ½ years. PFFSO was busy on every front. In the end, the intense coordination of the grassroots, membership and collaborative effort with other stakeholders proved to be a success. The new laws significantly raised the ability for charitable organizations, clubs and fire companies to raise money for themselves and for their communities. For more information about coordinating grassroots issue-based campaigns and lobbying efforts contact Ted Mowatt at