March 2017 U.S. Poverty Action
Engage People in Your Work to End Poverty
We are heading into a critical time in our country’s recent history, as Congress moves ahead on drastic changes to the safety net. Medicaid and SNAP are likely the first targets. If leaders in Congress have their way, these programs will be turned over to the states with few resources and oversight from Washington. The result will be increased hunger and poverty in America.
There is no doubt RESULTS volunteers are up for this challenge. Time and again you have stepped up to oppose dangerous cuts to these and other programs and because of your efforts (and our allies), you’ve fought off the worst ones. But this is a time when every voice counts.
Your experience and success as citizen grassroots advocates serves as a great example for new people wanting to make a difference. This month, look for opportunities to share this knowledge with others in your community and urge others to join our movement to end poverty.
Tips for Effective Outreach
- Engage in different activities. Don’t limit yourself to only one type of outreach. Below are ways to engage others that can be done simultaneously and ongoing.
- Have an outreach meeting. This is the traditional way RESULTS does outreach and we do it because it works. You simply plan the meeting (see sample agenda below), make a list of people to invite, and personally invite them to come. RESULTS staff are happy to help you plan these kinds of meetings.
- Offer to do an Issue or Advocacy Training for a local group. Instead of getting people to come to you, go to them. Find out if groups you are connected with locally (social justice groups, book clubs, faith communities, supper clubs, etc.) and offer to do a presentation for them. It could be as simple as a letter-writing meeting. RESULTS has numerous resources to help you, including PowerPoints on the issues and advocacy/media trainings. Contact Jos Linn for help ([email protected]).
- Invite someone to a local lobby meeting. Being in action is a great motivator. The next time you have a meeting with your member of Congress or local aide, invite a new person to join you. Let them see first-hand the power of grassroots advocacy.
- Make individual connections. Use Volunteer Match, personally follow up with new “Likes” to your local RESULTS Facebook page, or just have conversations about your RESULTS volunteer work to engage new people.
- Be personal. Regardless of what type of outreach you do, make it personal. Have a conversation with people about their passions and concerns. The more you show interest in them, the more likely they are to show interest in you and your RESULTS work.
- Follow up. What encounter you have with someone new, follow up. If it’s an event, a training, a lobby meeting, or just a conversation, reach out to tell them you value their participation and invite them to your next meeting. Don’t leave people hanging; give them a reason to come back.
Show New Advocates What Works
For nearly 40 years, RESULTS volunteers have been working with members of Congress to make poverty history. From its inception, RESULTS has worked to build bridges with allies and detractors alike to build a movement that ensures that no person, regardless of race, geography, or financial status, has to live in poverty. The vehicle for that work has been in-person interactions with members of Congress. These interactions create the relationships that are necessary to effectively influence public policy decisions.
In February, the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) released its most recent report, Citizen-Centric Advocacy: The Untapped Power of Constituent Engagement, a poll of key congressional staff about the impact of citizen engagement on congressional decision-making. The results confirm what RESULTS has known all along – relationships matter! From the report:
- In person meetings from constituents are still the best way to influence a member of Congress who is undecided on an issue, with 94 percent of respondents saying it has some or a lot of influence.
- Relationships matter. 99 percent of respondents said that meetings with members of Congress and their staff are important to understanding constituents’ views and opinions. From the report: “Constituents and groups that emphasize long-term, qualitative relationships are much more likely to be sought out and listened to by decision-makers when Congress considers public policy that will impact their issues.”
Read more about the CMF Report on the RESULTS Blog.
Actions by the Trump Administration and the new Congress have promoted many Americans to get involved in the political process. But many don’t know what to do and what is most effective. RESULTS volunteers can help. As RESULTS works to make the First 100 Days of 2017 a strong statement to lawmakers about protecting our most vulnerable, reach out to new people in your community and invite to get involved in our work.
Leading with Action: RESULTS Workshop Agenda
Below is a sample agenda and script that you can use to put people in your community into action. We know that when people take action they get inspired. The agenda below would require a meeting of roughly 60 minutes. Adapt the elements to fit your style and timeframe.
I. Setting the Stage – 15 Minutes
2 min: Welcome and acknowledge people for being there.
“Thanks to all of you for coming. There are a lot of ways you could be spending the day, and I want to thank all of you for coming out and learning more about how YOU can play a role in the movement to end poverty. Can the RESULTS volunteers briefly say their name and how many years you’ve been involved? Also, can you all be sure to sign our sign in sheet?”
3 min: State the purpose of the meeting.
“Our purpose today is to inspire you all about the difference you can make, working with others, to create the political will to end hunger and poverty. Over the next hour, you’ll . . .
- Learn about RESULTS and our work to end poverty
- Take an action on an issue directly impacting poverty in the U.S.
- Finally, we’ll invite anyone who is interested to get involved with RESULTS.”
10 min: Center the room and do introductions.
“Let’s see who’s in the room tonight and why we are here. Please give us your name and tell us briefly why taking action to end poverty is important to you.” Other possible question, “What are you committed to in life?” or “Who do you want to be in the world?”
Afterward, “Thank you all for sharing what is important to you. We have a lot in common.”
II. The Basics of RESULTS – 10 Minutes
“So what is RESULTS? RESULTS is movement of passionate, committed, everyday people. Together we use our voices to influence political decisions that will bring an end to poverty. As volunteers, we receive training, support, and inspiration to become skilled advocates. In time, we learn to effectively advise policy makers, guiding them toward decisions that will improve access to health, education, and economic opportunity. Together we realize the incredible power we possess to use our voices to change the world. “
Show the video if you have time: Everyday Heroes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEHkmOlXByk&t=27s
- An example of our success is December of 2015. For several years, we had been working to make key improvements to the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit permanent. The EITC and CTC lift more people out of poverty than any other program except Social Security. But if these improvements had expired, 16 million people (many of them children) would have been pushed into or deeper into poverty. Because of the relentless work of RESULTS volunteers through their meetings with lawmakers, letters, calls, e-mails, and generated media, Congress included a permanent extension of those provisions in a tax bill at the end of the year, thus helping those families avoid deeper financial hardship. Questions?
- Locally here, we met with Rep./Sen. _____________ a number of times and secured his/her support for making these provisions permanent.
A few more details if you have time:
- RESULTS partners meet twice per month to plan and take action, including face-to-face meetings with lawmakers, generating media, and organizing others to take action.
- One of these meetings is a National Webinar with volunteers from around the country to hear from guest speakers about an issue, review the month’s action, and hear from each other about the actions our volunteers are taking in their communities.
III. Issues & Action Component – 25 Minutes
- Introduce SNAP and taking action to prevent cuts and structural changes:
- Briefly overview what SNAP is: https://results.org/issues/supplemental_nutrition_assistance_program/
- Explain that leaders in Congress want to “block grant” SNAP which would cause devastating consequences to those who rely on it for food assistance
- States would have fewer resources to feed hungry individuals and families, thus forcing cuts to benefits or enrollment
- SNAP would be unable to respond to changes in the economy and unemployment rates; SNAP was critical in keeping millions out of poverty during the Great Recession
- Read the SNAP Outreach Action Sheet together. If people don’t know their members of Congress, show them how to find their legislators and relevant contact information online.
- Everyone writes letters. Encourage them to personalize. Remember to tell people to add date, name, address, email, phone.
- Have one or two people volunteer to read their letter out loud for encouragement.
- Let people know how/when you’ll deliver their letters and that you’ll report back.
- Debrief on the action-taking.
IV. Invitation to Attend the Next Meeting & Closing – 10 Minutes
“Lastly, this movement needs people like you to make it work. Our local group meets monthly and we welcome any of you who are interested to add your skills, talents, and passions to our work.
- Who would like to get involved with our local chapter of RESULTS?
- Who knows other people or groups who might be interested?
- If you cannot join the group right now, perhaps you’d like to support our work financially. Is there anyone who would like to donate to support the work of RESULTS?”
Hand out RESULTS Participation Forms to those who want to join the group. Thank people for coming to the event. Gather the people who signed up to let them know when and where your next meeting will be. Plan to personally follow up (over coffee, on a phone call, etc.) with each new person to see if they have any questions and to remind them of the next meeting.