Working with the Community: Activist Milestone #5
October 22nd, 2009
Host a Successful Outreach Meeting to Engage New Activists
Why Outreach? Because People Are Looking for Us!
Have you ever thought about how many people all around the country who are looking for a group like RESULTS? There is so much resignation and disillusionment about the difference a person can make in the face of heart-breaking and overwhelming poverty and hunger statistics. But we know that year after year, meeting after meeting, action after action . . . we are creating champions for the end of poverty. By providing the opportunity for others to learn about RESULTS, you not only strengthen our work in anti-poverty advocacy, you provide an effective and successful outlet for those out there wanting to make a difference but are not sure how.
How Do I Create the Guest List?
What kind of event do you want to have? You don’t have to create something elaborate for your event to be a success. What about a dessert and coffee night? Maybe a gathering at a local library? Be creative and be sure to build in your own brand of “fun,” a key component of a great gathering.
There are some additional elements that are important to any great outreach meeting:
- An overview of RESULTS
- Background on a RESULTS issue and an action to take (laser talk training or letter-writing)
- A clear chance for guest to join RESULTS
For timely actions you can take at the meeting, try the U.S. and global action sheet archives. We will have a sample outreach meeting agenda on our website in the coming weeks.
How Do I Create the Guest List?
Now that you’ve begun dreaming about you exciting event, let’s get a head start on the inviting! As RESULTS volunteers know, the key to any successful event is successful inviting. Personally inviting people to attend your event is the best way to ensure a good turnout. Flyers, notices and mass e-mails are good supplemental actions but should never be a substitute for personal conversations and invitations.
Although very effective, personal inviting is also time-consuming. That is why you want a group of people doing it at the same time; a group RESULTS calls the “Inviting Team.” An Inviting Team is RESULTS activists and people in your community who care about RESULTS who are willing to invite others to your event (letter writers, part time activists, community leaders, donors). The larger the team the better but even teams of 4 to 6 people can be effective.
Once you gather your Inviting Team, start to brainstorm your possible guest list:
- Work with your inviting team to answer several questions:
- Who have I invited before that I should invite again? Note: there are many stories of RESULTS activists who finally got involved with RESULTS after hearing from people like us for months and years. Seeing your enthusiasm and continued involvement will eventually make a lot of people curious enough to want to come. People you’ve asked before are good candidates.
- Who is in my life daily, weekly, monthly, annually that has never been invited to a meeting?
- Who is involved in battling poverty directly in my local community and might want to be introduced to advocacy?
- Who is “pre-qualified” to be invited in other ways (i.e., they are engaged in public health, promotion of civic engagement, education, faith communities, or economic opportunity through their work or hobbies)? See tips on coalition-building for ideas.
- Complete the phrase, “Wouldn’t it be great if _______ from our community was involved in RESULTS?” Create an inviting strategy.
- What would happen if I walked up and down my street inviting my neighbors?
- Create a running list of people you could invite and keep adding to it.
- Set some goals: How many new activists do you want? New donors?
- Once you know your goals, plan out how many you need to invite. Remember everyone you invite will not agree to come and those who do come will not all agree to join RESULTS. For example, approximately 1 out of every 3 people invited will attend the meeting and approximately 1 out of every 5 people who attend will sign up. Therefore, set your inviting goals accordingly.
- Figure out how many people each person will invite.
- Set a timeline so you check in regularly on your inviting.
- Decide on other strategies such as inserting announcements in newspapers, putting up flyers, tabling, etc.
- Use the Laser Talk below to craft your inviting conversation. Please feel free to make it your own, practice it, tweak it, and then invite someone to your amazing event.
- Once a person has confirmed their attendance, be sure to personally follow up 24–48 hours before the event as a reminder.
Sample Laser Talk:
Hi, ____! I am calling because I wanted to invite you to a great event I’m helping to plan here in _____. I think I’ve mentioned to you before that I am part of a group called RESULTS. RESULTS is a grassroots group focused on advocacy, and we’re organization of several hundred activists all over the country who work on ending hunger and the worst aspects of poverty. I really love it because we get to learn about the root causes of hunger and poverty but, more importantly, we get to learn about real, effective solutions. So we then talk to our members of Congress and build relationships with them and with the media, letting them know we’re committed to getting rid of hunger and poverty. I personally got involved in RESULTS in ____________(date) because ____________________, and the reason I’ve chosen to stick with it is because it has allowed me to __________________________.
So on ____________ (date), we are hosting an outreach meeting, and we’re really excited because of ____________. The event will be kind of like a RESULTS open house; we’re rolling out the welcome mat and inviting folks just to check us out. There’s no pressure or obligation; we’re just got an interesting agenda planned for the hour, and I’d love to have you there. Would you like to get the details?
Tips for Maximizing Your Outreach Meeting
Logistics & Timing
- Make sure there is a point person for the arranging of your logistics (location, locking/unlocking of facility, technology needs, building signage) and publicity (any additional advertising you are choosing to do above and beyond your targeted inviting)
- Assign hospitality to someone — food and drink helps make everyone feel welcome!
- Have a sign-in sheet so attendees can list their name and contact information.
- Know when folks have to leave: poll group at start of outreach event to ask if anyone has to leave before meeting end time.
- Give yourself enough time to do invitation to participate; give yourself at least 10 minutes
- Have copies of the Basics training to hand out to people who sign up to be new activists. We can send you CDs or you can ask folks to find it on the web. Contact [email protected] for copies.
- Reclaiming our Democracy by RESULTS founder Sam Daley-Harris offers lots of inspiration. Get your copy by calling the RESULTS office in DC at (202) 783-7100.
- Be clear and enthusiastic. What is RESULTS up to? Transformation and creating champions! We’re offering people the chance to help end hunger and the worst aspects of poverty. We’re up to big things, including generating the political will to end poverty. We’re everyday people exercising their citizenship so that Congress can do nothing but act to help make change! Invigorate the room with that thought.
- Be up front at the start of your meeting that the purpose is to get a certain number of new activists and a certain number of donors. Be clear that no commitment is being required, but everyone who would like to be an activist is very welcome.
- Use the effectiveness of repetition. Be sure to tell folks what activists do several times before the “ask” to participate. When talking about how we work during the meeting, emphasize the key role activists and donors play.
- Weave a personal story to underscore how powerful RESULTS is and what their participation could mean for the end of poverty.
- Use strong, relevant quotes from people whose name or position is familiar to the audience. Read it/then with momentum by the host or by guests; these can be powerful additions to your agenda.
- When talking about donations, be clear about how money is stewarded — it takes approximately $1200 per year to support a local RESULTS group — yet don’t uncomfortably overemphasize donations.
- Challenge the group: you may want to do what Sam Daley-Harris often does, which is to make it a group activity by asking some questions: “How many are excited to sign up tonight to be activists?” “How many are nervous but checking that activist box anyway?” “How many are signing up tonight to be monthly sponsors?” Answer questions honestly for those who may be skeptical.
- Make the most of it: Celebrate the new people who sign up or donate and have clear next steps for those who are getting involved. (Have your next meeting scheduled or give enough time to do schedule it before people leave your event.)
Once you’ve gotten word that folks want to join up with RESULTS as activists or donors (or both!), make sure they have a participation and donor form to fill out. Allow at least 5 minutes at your meeting to make sure folks have a chance to read, understand, and fill out the forms.
Follow-up is Vital!
Following up helps ensure that the relationships you began building through the outreach event have a way to continue growing.
- Prepare your group to have new activists. What “job descriptions” do you have open? Are you meeting regularly (at least twice each month)? How will you make new people feel welcome?
- Use your sign-in sheet to send every attendee and co-host a thank you note/e-mail.
- Make sure your new activists and donors have given you their forms so that you can get them to the DC office.
- Remind new activists of your next scheduled RESULTS group meeting.
- See that new folks have been placed on your group’s roster and e-mail distribution list so they can stay in the loop, and let them know they are invited to the next New Activist Orientation series (happening quarterly). People can contact Lisa Marchal at [email protected] to register or learn more.
And now congratulate yourself on a job very well done!