Reflections and Lessons Learned from the “To Catch a Dollar” Campaign

April 27, 2011
by Meredith Dodson, RESULTS Director of Domestic (U.S. Poverty) Campaigns

When RESULTS first started the planning process for our role in the “To Catch a Dollar campaign, I felt a little nervous. As I joked to the amazing folks in our volunteer network, it had been years since I had even set foot in a movie theater; working a fairly demanding job and being the parent of a now 2.5 year old means there is little free time in my schedule. Besides I was never much of a moviegoer anyway and this kind of event was something I’d never mobilized around in my 15 year organizing career. I knew that it would also be a new experience for most of the people in our grassroots network, though in typical fashion most of them dove right in with enthusiasm and persistence. I’ve really appreciated all that we as an organization have learned during this campaign, and I think RESULTS has gained so much from this experience.

In total, RESULTS volunteers hosted 37 of the To Catch a Dollar screenings on March 31 (and, in the case of Santa Fe, April 1). Our activists got a chance to talk with hundreds of moviegoers about RESULTS and now are working with dozens of them who are interested in getting involved with our work to create the political will to end poverty here in the US and around the world. Having a nationwide event like this gave our efforts extra energy, and given that many of our volunteer leaders participate in our ongoing weekly training and support calls, they were able to support each other both before and after the event with a shared goal and experience. Overall, there was this nationwide buzz, certainly in our network, around this event and it was exciting to see issues of U.S. poverty and efforts to create economic opportunity up on the big screen.

One of the highlights of the post-screening campaign has been the chance to work with the inspiring Connie Evans of the Association for Enterprise Opportunity. Our April 25 webinar taught me and many others about the impact that small businesses have on poverty in America, and the importance of protecting and increasing federal investments that support microenterprise. Connie and her team did a heroic job of co-hosting this policy week given the timing – their national conference begins next Monday! I look forward to a continued and fruitful partnership with AEO in the months and years ahead.

We’ve also appreciated the opportunity to share the work of RESULTS in this week’s events. I’m incredibly excited about innovative policy ideas like the Saver’s Bonus that help low-income Americans build wealth, whether it’s to start or grow a business, go back to school, or just make sure their child’s trip to the Emergency Room doesn’t bankrupt them. I hope others on the April 25 webinar are thinking these that these policy proposals that really are investments in America’s Main Streets. I was also impressed with the quality of the questions and dialogue from listeners on our Advocacy 101 webinar (April 26) and hope the new research we shared on effectively influencing members of Congress is helpful. Capping off the webinar series with a bigger picture look at how misguided deficit reduction efforts could really harm American families in poverty was a real challenge. Giving  participants a broad sense of the current federal budget, the programs that are key in our tattered safety net like SNAP, Medicaid, Head Start, etc., and what cuts to these programs could mean was a lot to tackle in just an hour. Luckily, having the extremely wise and always inspiring Debbie Weinstein from the Coalition on Human Needs join the conversation made that challenge a much easier one.

Part of what’s been exciting about this campaign for us is the use of new technology. Presenting this content via webinar rather than using our usual national conference calls and in-person trainings was a welcomed learning experience. Organizationally, we’ve been discussing doing this for a while, and we’ve learned some things through this campaign. After attending a Half In Ten social media training last December, I’ve launched my own Twitter account (@DodsonAdvocate) and this campaign has helped me learn the power and limitations of social media. I found the dialogue during our Twitter party to be an example of how new media can bring people together to advance the dialogue about social change and creating the country, and world, we all want to live in.

Overall, this has been a learning and growing experience for me, others on RESULTS staff, and many in our nationwide network of volunteers. I look forward to building on the connections we’ve made during this campaign and working collectively to bring an end to poverty in America. To close out, let me make sure I mention some of the specific actions YOU can take to further the policy ideas we’ve discussed during this week’s events:

  • RESULTS Online Form: Request Face-to-Face Meetings with Senators and Representatives to Discuss U.S. Poverty
  • AEO Action Alert: Save Microloans Now – Hang Out with your Members of Congress while they are Home
  • AEO Policy Action Alert – Oppose Cuts to the CDFI Fund
  • RESULTS Tool for Identifying  Your Members of Congress and Their Staff
  • RESULTS tips on working with elected officials
  • RESULTS Action Alert: Urge Congress to Protect Nutrition Programs for Kids and Families
  • RESULTS Action Alert: Urge Congress to fund Head Start and child care to protect services and local jobs
  • I’m eager to hear what you all learned from this experience, and your specific feedback about the To Catch A Dollar campaign. Please comment below or drop me a ling, And, thank you to all those in our RESULTS network for their hard work and tenacity in this campaign!

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