Grow the grassroots: Demonstrate your values
Effective activism takes planning, strategy and support. By taking on new challenges and sharpening existing skills, our activism is more efficient and powerful. Our organizing staff has put together some resources to grow your grassroots organizing skills. Get your letter-to-the-editor published, check out our action checklist, pass a resolution in your community and more. Take a look, and get active!
Storefront and street demonstrations are integral parts of effective campaigns. These kinds of visibility events put pressure on decision makers, educate the public and energize volunteer activists. But planning these events can be overwhelming. To help, we've put together a general guide that can be applied to any of our campaigns. Remember, these are just the basics. Get in touch with us (email@example.com), and a staff organizer will help make sure your action has the biggest possible impact.
Two or three weeks before your event
- Let us know that you are planning an event by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- Choose a site for the event. The key to these events is finding an area where lots of people gather or pass through during the day. Examples include farmers markets, downtowns, college campuses, public parks, areas around public transit stops, etc. Another factor to consider is the message you send with your location choice: your messaging will be different if you are addressing a county fair than if you are in front of a gas station or the office of your government representative;
- Set a time and specific meeting place for the event. Make sure you choose a time when there will be lots of people passing by. If you want to attract media to your event, a weekday morning is the easiest time to do it. However, if your main goal is to get out a lot of volunteers and sign up new supporters, a weekend afternoon may be great;
- Speak at meetings, table at events, and generate lists of interested volunteers. You want your event to be stellar, right? So you've got to recruit! The bigger the event, the better. But to have a great event, you're going to need a crowd and helpers. Hence, outreach and networking are key;
- Call environmental groups and other interested parties in the area and invite them. Show that this is an issue everyone cares about. Be inclusive and reach out to allies, traditional and non-traditional;
- Find environmentalists online in your area via meetup.com, facebook.com, myspace.com etc.;
- Send out an invitation to e-mail lists and post on online calendars;
- Have an action-planning party. This is an important step, as
you will be able to catch any snags, tie up loose ends, and
brainstorm some fantastic new ideas with your growing
group of activists;
- Discuss and decide what message and image you want to create and what elements you will need. Again, keep it simple—you want people to take one glance and know what your cause is;
- Think about having speakers too. Speakers could reflect the diversity of your supporters: business owners, elected officials, professors, parents, frontline community members, etc.
One week before your event
- Make all your props and write skits. Be crazy, be creative but keep it simple—often the most straightforward visuals and messages are the most powerful. Not to mention, overly complicated ideas take more time and are more likely to go wrong;
- Call those who said they were interested and ask them to attend your event. Follow-up work will be the single most important factor to ensuring that people actually show up to your event;
- Create visibility around your event by postering, flyering, and chalking;
- Finalize specific roles such as media spokesperson, chant leader, police liaison, worker liaison, emcee, props manager, scout, etc. This is to not only ensure that you're not scrambling at the action when you realize a job hasn't been done, but also to ensure that the best people for the jobs are handling them;
- Coordinate and gather cameras. Ask around for people who want to shoot the event to help track down equipment like cameras and camcorders;
- Coordinate transportation to and from your event if needed. Make sure that people attending aren't stranded. Know how you'll get your props to the site before the event starts;
- Do a site check. Scout out the area and determine where people should march, park, stand, where signs and/or banners should be held, where the best photos/videos could be taken from, where media can meet the spokesperson, etc.
One or two days before your event
- Call and confirm all the people who said they’d be there. Remind, remind, remind! Convey to people how important their presence will be. This is your final attendance numbers check;
- Finalize your own program and schedule;
- Check in on signs, props, and transportation;
- Check in on visual equipment and the people who are helping to record the event;
Practice skits and talking points;
- Print out chants so everyone can be involved;
- Check that you have enough handout materials.
The day of your event
- ARRIVE EARLY! Get there at least thirty minutes beforehand to greet people and to allocate time just in case any last minute problems arise;
- Bring your materials: postcards to sign, factsheets to hand out, clipboards and pens for postcards, cameras and video cameras, signs and props;
- Have the basics to stay safe and comfortable. Water, snacks, sunscreen, trashbags, etc.
After your action
- Send details and pictures to us right away. Send stuff to email@example.com so we can get it up on the website to maximize your action’s impact. We’ll want pictures and a full description of what happened, written from your perspective;
- Contact interested and involved parties. Call and email publications telling them all about your event. Write to supporting organizations thanking them for their help and that you hope to work with them in the future;
- DEBRIEF and assess the action. You might be tired—it's easy to let this slide—but this is a very important tool so you can learn from your event and grow as a group and as a movement. Determine whether you met your goals. What worked, and what didn’t? What could you have done better? What would you change for next time?
- Celebrate! Remember to congratulate yourselves—you deserve it!
How to write a successful letter-to-the-editor
Letters-to-the-editor are a powerful tool to get your message about an issue out. Not only do these letters reach a large audience, but elected officials typically monitor newspapers to take the pulse of the community. Not every letter sent to a newspaper is published, but here are some tips to getting your letter to the editor printed
- Keep it short and sweet. Many newspapers have strict limits on the length of letters, and have limited space to publish them. Keeping your letter brief will help ensure that your important points are not cut out by the newspaper;
- Make it legible. Your letter doesn't have to be fancy, but you should use a typewriter or a computer if your handwriting is difficult to read;
- Send letters to weekly community newspapers, too. The smaller the newspaper's circulation, the easier it is to get your letter printed;
- Be sure to include your contact information. Many newspapers will only print a letter-to-the-editor after calling the author to verify his or her identity and address. Newspapers will not give out that information, and will usually only print your name and city should your letter be published;
- Make references to the newspaper. While some papers print general commentary, many will only print letters that refer to a specific article. Here are some examples of easy ways to refer to articles in your opening sentence
- I was disappointed to see that The Post's May 18 editorial, "Support for a Do Not Mail Registry" omitted some of the key facts in the debate.
- I strongly disagree with (author's name) narrow view on the issue of a clean energy future ("Name of Op-Ed," date).
- I am deeply saddened to read that Premier Gordon Campbell has been reluctant to support a carbon tax in British Columbia ("Title of Article," date).
- Where possible, include a way for readers to act on the issue. For example, tell them to contact their local officials;
- Focus on the issues. Name-calling and personal attacks turn off readers and would-be supporters;
- Be positive. Use positive suggestions rather than negative commands. For example
- Decent: "We need to stop destroying the last remaining Endangered Forests for junk mail."
- Better: "Let's support a Do Not Mail Registry and take back control of our mailboxes while protecting the environment."
- Be inclusive. For example:
- Decent: "You should support policy that makes low-carbon fuel standards law."
- Better: "We can help make the shift to a clean energy economy by supporting low-carbon fuel standards.”
If you get published, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org >>