Tag Archives: advocacy

For an effort to be sustainable, volunteers & activists need a break

Many national and state legislators in the USA are reporting record attendance at their public meetings, and their phone lines are constantly busy and voice mail accounts are constantly full, as constituents call in record numbers. The largest series of protest marches that have ever occurred in the USA in one day happened on January 21, 2017, the Women’s March, and there has been a range of protests, big and small, ever since. People are holding legislative and editorial letter-writing parties at their house, for attendees to pressure legislators and the media regarding various issues. VolunteerMatch is reporting a record number of people visiting its web site and signing up to volunteer – according to an article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy (it’s behind a paywall – can be seen by subscribers only), VolunteerMatch set a single-day record with more than 72,355 unique visitors on January 24, four days after the new president was inaugurated. VolunteerMatch’s second busiest day was November 10, two days after the election, with 69,318 visitors. January 25 and November 15 ranked third and fourth in web traffic.

The amount of civic participation in the USA right now is staggering. But it’s also unsustainable. People will need a break. They will also need to be re-inspired at some point. Those are critical points that those supporting and managing these activists and volunteers need to keep in mind.

I’ve been more politically active since November than I’ve been in more than 20 years, and I’m exhausted. So, a week ago, I wrote on Facebook “Sometimes, you have to cash in some privilege and go to the beach….”  and posted photos of me, my husband and our dog at a beach. One of my Facebook friends got upset, affirming that just because you can go to the beach, you aren’t privileged, that lots of people of various ethnicities go to the beach, etc.

In my computer’s dictionary, the word privilege is defined as a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people. And, therefore, being able to go to the beach amid green cards getting canceled, families and children living in terror for fear of some members being deported, millions of people realizing they won’t have health insurance after 2017, women’s health care choices being restricted, people’s water supplies threatened by pipelines and dangerous amounts of lead and an upswing in racially-charged language, is, indeed, a privilege.

wizardMy colleague and friend, Erin Barnhart, was one of the people organizing the Oregon members of the January 21 March for Women in Washington, DC.  I’ve no doubt her fellow organizers were so thankful for her extensive volunteer management knowledge and highly sensitive nature, especially her incredible sensitivity to difference. I also know that she’s exhausted and needs a break! She wrote the following on her Facebook page and, with her permission, I’m sharing it here:

There’s a concept in volunteer management that I and others like to call “stepping forward, stepping back.” Here’s how it works: volunteers collaborate as a team and, as life obligations interfere or energy is depleted, people are able to step back from the work for a time while others step forward to carry the load. When they return to the team, they then make it easier for others to temporarily step back from the circle. It’s a great way to keep projects going while also making appropriate space for people’s needs. This model is on my mind today.

Specifically, I’m aware of my privilege as I post photos of a sunny vacation while, around the country, people are still protesting, filing legal briefs, fighting for their and other’s civil rights with everything they’ve got. While I enjoyed a walk by the beach, camps were being cleared at Standing Rock. The fight continues and the work hasn’t stopped. Indeed, in many ways, it’s only just begun.

My goal this week is to enjoy time with my mom and to engage in some much needed self care. There’s a long battle ahead and I intend to be in it. That said, as I step back knowing that others have stepped forward, I will also do my best to stay aware and engaged, bearing witness and signal boosting where and when I can.

The takeaway from this self-aware post is, I hope, this: Step back as needed, folks. Take care of yourselves if and how you can. You are needed and valued and we will step forward to cover you. Thank you to everyone doing the hard work this week so that I can step back myself.

Remember that your volunteers and activists need to step back and take care of themselves sometimes. They may need a break. And you, the lead volunteer or lead manager of volunteers, may need to tell them that, explicitly. And you may need a break yourself! Don’t feel guilty; refresh, reboot, recharge.

You also need to help re-inspire your volunteers and activists. Don’t just focus in your messages to them on things they need to be doing to support a cause – give them reasons to celebrate sometimes. You might need volunteers who are focused specifically on identifying the impact of activists’ efforts.

See you out there – or at the beach.

Also see:

Facebook use to organize Women’s Marches: lessons learned

Being emotionally ready to volunteer – or to continue volunteering

When “participatory” & “consultation” are just words

social cohesionWhen you work in humanitarian initiatives in other countries, whether your project concerns water or HIV/AIDS or maternal health or vaccines or bridge construction or government web sites or whatever, your nonprofit headquarters and your donors will emphasize over and over that you must employ ways for the local people to participate in decision-making.1,2

Yet, too often participatory decision-making doesn’t happen in developed countries, by the governments that fund overseas initiatives and demand details about how participatory decision-making was assured.

The backlash against the European Commission (the government of the European Union), manifested most recently by Brexit and the Belgian region of Wallonia rejecting a long-planned free trade pact between the EU and Canada3, are great examples of lack of participatory decision-making.

So is the anger in Portland, Oregon regarding the new contract with Portland Police Department4, 5

And so is the anger and protests regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline. The pipeline is being built by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners and will transport as many as 570,000 barrels of crude oil daily from North Dakota to Illinois. The Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now, a group that supports the pipeline, says 100% of the affected landowners in North Dakota, where part of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe lives, voluntarily signed easements to allow for construction, and the Army Corps of Engineers, the consulting agency for the project, has a list of dates it said it contacted the tribe, or tried to and never heard back.6, 7 In addition, government officials believe they have followed the consultation process promoted by the President’s office in 2010.8

But the Seattle Times says “Environmental documents filed by the company show that during its permit application the tribe was not even listed in the entities consulted during a piecemeal, fast-track review of the project by the Corps. Company contractors contacted the county weed board, the Audubon Society, county commissioners and more. But not the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, permitting documents show.” The company has not allowed the tribe’s archaeological experts to review the ground in the path of the pipeline as it comes toward Standing Rock. The tribe’s expert, Tim Mentz Sr., in a review at the invitation of a private landowner, discovered some important artifacts, including stone effigies, burial sites and rare depictions of celestial constellations. The Seattle Times says, “So confident was Energy Transfer Partners that its work would go smoothly, that it started building the pipeline last spring, long before it had all its last permits in hand.”9

There can be no argument that tribes have been historically unable to influence projects that affect them and the land they hold sacred so this feels like just yet another land grab against native people in the USA that will marginalize them and hurt their lives. Sarah Krakoff, a professor at the University of Colorado specializing in American Indian Law and Natural Resources Law, says, “Sometimes what the agencies think of as adequate and with all good intentions do not feel adequate from the tribal side. Either because the process isn’t meaningful to them, it doesn’t accord with their timeframe or decision frame.”

Even when participatory decision-making is emphasized, the actions taken that are supposed to provide ways for lots of different people to influence what’s happening can be just for show; any community activist can tell a story about meticulously capturing the input of a group through a variety of listening exercises, only to have all that feedback utterly ignored in the final plans. I don’t know that this happened in the case of the Dakota Access Pipeline, but I’ve seen it happen overseas in my own humanitarian agency work; it’s infuriating.

And even well-done participatory decision-making isn’t always enough to keep protests at bay: until 2016, the ongoing consultative processes regarding the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge between local people, including ranchers, birders, outdoor enthusiasts, environmentalists, tribal members and others was considered a model for other communities. But that process, including a landmark 2013 agreement, didn’t stop people from far outside the area from using guns and force to invade the refuge, occupy it and cause many thousands of dollars in damage, including to private property and tribal lands.10, 11

On a related note, social media posts the Dakota Access Pipeline are often tagged with #NoDAPL, and slackervism / slactivism abounds, with people posting memes in support of the the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, or adjusting their Facebook page to show they are at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation when they actually aren’t.12 It’s supposed to somehow create support for the tribe and to confuse law enforcement authorities regarding who is at Standing Rock and who isn’t, but Snopes points out that there’s no record that such has helped at all, including in attracting more “material assistance.”13

Since I’m really not fond of slacktivism, here are ways to REALLY help re: #NoDAPL without leaving your house or coffee shop or wherever you are with Internet and phone access :

(1) Call North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple at 701-328-2200, leaving a RESPECTFUL, firm message on this subject (I find writing out the statement & reading from it helps me).

(2) Call the White House at (202) 456-1111 or (202) 456-1414 & tell President Obama to rescind the Army Corps of Engineers’ Permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

(3) Sign the petition at petitions.whitehouse.gov

(4) Contact the executives of Energy Transfer Partners that are building the pipeline:

Lee Hanse, Executive Vice President
Telephone: (210) 403-6455 or email: Lee.Hanse@energytransfer.com

Glenn Emery, Vice President
Telephone: (210) 403-6762 or email: Glenn.Emery@energytransfer.com

Also see:

Sources:

  1. Oil workers and oil communities: counterplanning from the commons in Nigeria, Terisa E. Turner 1997
  2. LEFT BEHIND; As Oil Riches Flow, Poor Village Cries Out, New York Times
  3. Wallonia rejects EU ultimatum over Canada free trade deal, EuroNews
  4. Portland City Council approves police contract amid unruly protest, Oregon Live
  5. Why protesters are mad about the police contract, Oregon Live
  6. What to Know About the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests, Time
  7. Tribal Consultation At Heart Of Pipeline Fight, insideenergy.org
  8. Guidance for Implementing E.O. 13175, “Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments” , whitehouse.gov
  9. The violent Dakota Access Pipeline protest raged for hours — until this tribal elder stepped in, Seattle Times
  10. Audubon Society of Portland Statement on the Occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge
  11. Beyond the Oregon Protests: The Search for Common Ground, Environment 360, Yale University
  12. Standing Rock Facebook Check-in, CNN
  13. Facebook check-in at Standing Rock, Snopes

What I learned launching my first online petition

logoLast week, I launched my first ever online petition. I chose change.org as the platform. You can read more about the petition, and why I started it, at this blog, OPB & Congress Think Volunteers are Free.

My goal was to have 100 signatures by Sunday evening, and then I would set a new goal Monday morning. I had four days to get there. I thought that goal would be oh-so-easy to meet: I have more than 300 friends on one of my social media accounts, and they are real friends, people I know personally, many of which I’ve known for years, and they are very active on social media and they “like” or respond to much of what I post (about Star Wars, about politics, about my dog and/or cat, etc.). I just knew 100 of them would happily sign the petition well before Sunday evening, just because I posted a status update about it and they love me (grin).

I also tweeted about the petition several times, at different times during different days, to my more than 2000 followers on my professional Twitter account, using various keywords (even tied it to Star Wars: The Force Awakens!), to my almost 600 followers on my personal Twitter account, to my more than 350 friends on Facebook, made up mostly of colleagues and neighbors rather than close friends, and to my Facebook page, which has almost 1000 “likes” (though I didn’t have much hope for that – Facebook, either via my account or my page, hasn’t proven a good way of reaching folks regarding my work or even my vacations). I also did “mention tweets” and direct tweets to various associations of managers of volunteers – DOVIAs – asking them to share the petition with their members. And I gave GooglePlus a go as well.

As of the end of the day on Sunday, at 11 p.m. Pacific Coast USA time, I had 94 signatures. That’s what I still have as I publish this blog on Monday. And most of those did NOT come because of any social media activities. Rather, they came because I emailed or direct-messaged about 80 friends and colleagues and asked each of them, separately, personally, to sign it. THAT laborious method got me far, far more signatures than any of the aforementioned social media blasts, no matter how often I blasted.

Why didn’t others sign? I asked friends and colleagues who didn’t sign, specifically, directly, individually, why they didn’t sign, and the vast majority who responded said they never saw any messages on social media about the petition, especially not the status updates on Facebook. In addition, a few, all managers of volunteers or working somehow in volunteerism, said they were prohibited from signing a petition by their workplace – which is entirely untrue, but they’ve been made to believe that their employer doesn’t allow them to be politically active at all, other than voting.

So, what have I learned in trying to get signatures for my petition:

  • Even when a petition is all about a very hot topic among those that you want to sign the petition – in this case, funding volunteer management, and the target group is those that work with volunteers or promote volunteerism (though absolutely anyone can sign) – that isn’t enough to get people to sign.
  • Direct, person-to-person, customized emails or direct messages, sent individually, from me – messages that I did not cc anyone else on, but each going only to one person, are, by far, the most effective way to get signatures on a petition. BY FAR. I had a 85% sign rate from individuals I messaged directly via email or Facebook. However, I’m reluctant to DM absolutely every one of my 300+  close, personal social media friends… that seems so overwhelming, to them and me.
  • I have some really great friends.
  • Setting a goal for how many people I wanted to sign, by a particular date, really pushed me to keep pushing. I did 10 times more work over the weekend to promote this petition than I had planned to, but I was determined to reach that goal, rather than to be hurt and give up early.
  • Facebook status updates, whether via a personal account or a page, are rather useless in promoting a petition (or most anything), because most of the people that are your Facebook friends or have “liked” your page will never see it – Facebook will never show them those messages in their newsfeed, because they see only “Top stories.” The more people that like that status update, the more people that will see it, so if you are going to do a petition, direct message several people and get at least 10 people to “like” that status update about your petition if you want it to be seen by anyone!
  • We are all drowning in a sea of online information. It has never been harder to reach people! So much noise!
  • You have to get organizations to promote such petitions to their members, because without organizations talking about such, organizations like DOVIAs, this petition will never reach much over 100 people, and will have no hope of going viral, let alone any media outlet paying attention to such. And with that said: thank you, Northwest Oregon Volunteer Administrators Association (NOVAA), based in Portland, Oregon, for helping to raise awareness about this petition!
  • There is a huge misunderstanding by too many managers of volunteers that they are prohibited from signing online petitions, or sharing such petitions. They are absolutely allowed to sign such, as individuals rather than representatives of their organization (though many organizations DO allow this), and they may share such petitions, they are allowed to, so long as they don’t tell people in their message whether or not to sign it but, rather, say, “Interesting: a person/organization has started this petition that says such and such. How do you feel about it? Share in the comments below.” If people sign, that’s their choice – you’ve just informed them of an activity. You can do this about a petition regarding volunteer management – but probably not a political candidate.
  • Associations of managers of volunteers like to complain at conferences and in online discussion groups about how volunteer management isn’t funded – but when they have a chance to make a difference on the issue, they are silent. Very disturbing.

So, what now? Well, today, with still just 94 signers, I’ve:

  • Sent a personal email, individually, to more than a dozen colleagues that are managers of volunteers, that work at nonprofit centers, or that are somehow associated with volunteer leadership, asking them to please consider signing the petition, commenting on it, and promoting it.
  • Posted to several LinkedIn groups.
  • Posted again to Twitter, particularly my pro account, and I will be posting at least twice a day, every day this week, at different times of day, using various keywords.
  • Commented and liked the NOVAA Facebook page where they talked about this petition, so that they are thanked and so that their status update might show up in more members’ newsfeeds.
  • Hope that another association of managers of volunteers – a DOVIA – will decide, oh, hey, this is exactly the kind of thing we need to be doing in order to represent the interests of our members! 
  • Blogged about this experience as a learning experience regarding online communications (and you are now reading this blog!)

And I hope if you have read this blog you will SIGN THIS PETITION.

My next goal is 106 more signers by midnight New Year’s Eve – that would put me at 200 signers and maybe, just maybe, the petition will get the attention of the media. But I’m not holding my breath.

learning from a campaign that went viral

Sweeping the Internet this week: a viral video campaign by Invisible Children to make Joseph Kony, a terrorist leader in Uganda, a household name, and thereby get the media and politicans to pay attention. Viewership is through the roof, #KONY2012 is trending on Twitter, and the press is all over it. Even Lord Voldemort is on board:

voldemort protests kony

The video is here; jump to 10:30 on the video if you want to get to the heart of the video, and watch until 27:00, to get a sense of what the campaign is trying to achieve and how it will do so, without having to watch the whole thing – it’s 16 or so minutes of your life worth spending, both to learn about an important human rights campaign and to see how to make a campaign go viral.

This is already a wildly successful activism / digital story-telling campaign – but it’s not a campaign that can be easily replicated by *most* nonprofits.

Here’s why it is working:

  • it’s an easy-to-understand cause
  • it’s a cause that gets an immediate emotional-response by anyone who watches the video
  • it’s a slickly produced video – very well edited, compelling imagery, excellent script
  • it offers both simple and ambitious ways to get involved: at the very least, you can like the Invisible Children Facebook page, share the video with your online social network, and help get the word out further. At the other end of the spectrum, you can organize an event on April 20, per Invisible Children’s guidelines for such, garnering press coverage and participation on a local level for an international issue.
  • it builds up to a specific day – April 20
  • it has a wide range of items for sale for activists to wear and display on April 20, which will help publicize the event and help make participants easy to identify the day of the event, and the sale of those items helps fund the campaign
  • there are Invisible Children staff engaging with people on Twitter and Facebook for hours at a time – not just tweeting one link to a press release and hoping it catches on
  • it has an easy-to-remember Twitter tag that isn’t in use by anyone else: #KONY2012

It’s having that specific day of action and a video that creates in-depth awareness about a specific issue that, IMO, makes this go well beyond slacktivism/slackervism.

What did it take for this campaign to be successful:

  • money. Yes, I’m sure a lot of things were donated and a lot of expertise was give pro bono, but it still took money to pay for people and their time and knowledge to make this happen.
  • wide-ranging, deep relationships with key people (media, corporations, celebrities, politicians, communications strategists). These relationships took many months, even years, to cultivate – more than some tweets and email.
  • a very detailed, well-thought-out strategic plan. Somewhere, this plan is in writing, no matter how spontaneous the feeling this campaign is conveying.
  • a LOT of people to undertake the necessary outreach activities via traditional and online media. This isn’t just sending press releases; this is also engaging with people on Twitter and the phone for hours at a time. It took people to design the web site, to design the materials, to distribute those materials, to talk to the press – and it took those people MANY hours of work to do so, and it’s taking even more time to respond to all of the press and critics now focusing on the effort.

But while there is a lot to learn from this campaign for nonprofits and NGOs, this is not the campaign most should aspire to.

  • Most nonprofits and NGOs do NOT have the resources to make something like this happen – and never will.
  • Your nonprofit is probably engaged in something that’s only local, or that is a more complex issue to explain, and that doesn’t garner an immediate emotional response.
  • Your nonprofit might not be able to survive the incredible attention and scrutiny that a campaign like this would bring.

That doesn’t mean your nonprofit is less worthwhile than Invisible Children – it just means that having a video go viral nationally or internationally might not-at-all be what is best for YOUR nonprofit.

As you read about this campaign and see it get so much attention, think about what you really want from donors, volunteers, the press, politicians, clients and the general public regarding your organization.

Think about local celebrities, local policy makers, local leaders (both official ones, like elected officials, and unofficial ones, like prominent business people or local leaders of religious communities) and local activists – what do you want them to say about your organization, and how might you get them to?

Also see this TechSoup resource on Digital Storytelling.

Another lesson to learn from this campaign: don’t spam celebrities. I’ve seen a lot of celebrity Twitter feeds over-run with tweets from people begging for that person to follow or mention this or that nonprofit or cause. George Clooney probably gets 100 of those tweets in just one day! Don’t make George Clooney dislike your organization because you keep tweeting him, begging for a mention.

One of the things that has been amusing to see is the stampede of smug aid workers and other smugsters to condemn the campaign – the theme of the pushback falls into four categories:

Here’s why a lot of these criticisms are bogus:

Americans are some of the most globally-unaware people on the planet. I moved back to the USA in 2009 and have heard things every day by neighbors, people I volunteer with and people on TV that have reminded me of this every day. And this ignorance about the world leads to some profoundly ridiculous statements and actions by my fellow Americans. Maybe this campaign will help make a few people, particularly young people, aware of the world beyond the borders of the USA. BandAid/LiveAid did that for me once-upon-a-time – don’t laugh, but it did. I was a teenager in Kentucky as ignorant as a box of hammers. That record and that concert set me on a path for a lifetime.

Also, in the USA, no human rights movement has ever succeeded without a lot of outside pressure and support – and anyone who thinks apartheid was removed as an official policy in South Africa only because of pressure and evolution from within South Africa isn’t paying attention.

Some of the arguments I’ve heard about why the USA should not be focused on Uganda are the same arguments I’ve heard from China and Russia about why the world needs to not “interfere” with Syria.

Compassion for one thing breeds compassion for other things. No one – NO ONE – is saying, “Don’t be focused on local issues – instead, care about what’s happening in Uganda!” As this campaign ends, the people that have gotten caught up in it, particularly young people, are going to have a taste for advocacy and wanting to make a difference. If your local nonprofit is jealous, then start thinking now about how you are going to leverage what’s happening. Is there going to be an anti-Kony event at your local schools or in your local community? Then start designing the handbills you are going to give out at anti-Kony-related events to tell those energized young people about your local cause and how and why they can get involved.

By all means, offer legitimate criticisms of this campaign and Invisible Children. But some people are trying to kill this campaign – and I question their motivations in doing so.

Also see:

Use Your Web Site to Show Your Accountability and To Teach Others About the Nonprofit / NGO / Charity Sector

How to Make a Difference Internationally/Globally/in Another Country Without Going Abroad

Ideas for Leadership Volunteering Activities to make a difference locally

Advice for volunteering abroad (volunteering internationally)

Do online petitions work?

Online petitions got off to a very rough start when the Internet went mainstream back in the early 1990s. You may remember one of those early efforts, if you have been on the Internet as long as I have: it was the 1990s, and you got an email written by someone at Brandeis University who wanted to help the women in Afghanistan suffering under the warlords and the Taliban. That email accurately told you about the situation for women in Afghanistan. But the email was inaccurate in suggesting that signing your name to the bottom and forwarding it to all your friends would have any impact on those in power in Afghanistan. The petition’s author was totally unprepared for the consequences of her email petition, and hadn’t thought through how her efforts would pressure any change on a country that had no means to receive her petition, let alone take it seriously. It was one of the earliest forms of Slacktivism or Slackervism – all sorts of people signed it, and I’m sure most of them did nothing else, like giving money to an NGO that was actually trying to help in Afghanistan, because, hey, they signed a petition!

I’ve always wondered what happened to that woman…

Online petitions have evolved since then. While some remain ineffective — just unverifiable names on an online document no one who matters will read — some do generate impact. Online petitions that generate impact have this in common:

  • They are web-based. People sign them via the web, not email. That puts the petition in ONE place, and makes it easier to find online.
  • Signers are required to use a verifiable email address (one that actually works), and to submit full names and full mailing addresses.
  • Each time a supporter signs the petition, an email is automatically sent directly to the person or organization at the government or company being targeted, with the supporter’s full name, full mailing address and his or her message.
  • Signers receive tools and information to help them talk about the issue via their other online activities, as well as their face-to-face, offline activities with family, friends and colleagues.
  • Signers are encouraged to take offline action, and are given all the information they need to do this: to make phone calls, to hand write and mail letters through the post, and to contact their elected officials regarding the issue.
  • The petition has momentum in the media; there are stories in newspapers, on TV, on the radio and in blogs about the issue, and at least some mention the petition drive.

Change.org credits its online petitions with a number of public relations victories on many different issues, including:

Here is more about How Change.org petitions work.

I’m quite transparent about my petition activities.

More about Online Action Creating & Supporting Offline Action

A war on nonprofits & NGOs?

The Fall 2010 election in the USA should have every nonprofit’s attention – and every NGO’s attention abroad that receives money from the USA in some way, directly or indirectly. Government budgets have already been cut severely, and these cuts will become even more severe over the coming months — and the irony is that the same local, state and national governments cutting nonprofit budgets are also asking nonprofits to maintain their services in the face of these cuts.

In addition to the budget cuts, there is also a significant backlash in the USA, and in some cases, abroad, against nonprofits and NGOs; there is growing rhetoric against the work of mission-based organizations, which are being accused of everything from promoting inappropriate agendas to being corrupt.

Your organization needs to get up to speed on what could be called the war on nonprofits and NGOs:

Your organization needs to develop a strategy that employs a variety of activities over the next year to ensure local officials, state legislatures, and US Congressional representatives, as well as political leaders that are not office holders, understand just how vital your organization is and just how well managed and efficient it is. This isn’t something nice to do; it’s absolutely necessary to your organization’s survival.

There are several things your organization can do:

    • Build a relationship with elected officials, politicans and pundits:
    • Ensure that office holders, representatives from local political parties and various media representatives receive press releases regarding your organization’s results and the difference your organization makes. This can be evaluation results and testimonials from clients or volunteers.
  • Invite office holders, representatives from local political parties and media representatives (radio, TV, newspapers and bloggers) to events where they will hear about the difference your organization makes, or to observe your organization “in action.” Thank office holders, politicans, media representatives and others for attending your event with a personalized followup letter or email.
  • Set up meetings with elected officials, politicans, media representatives and others, one-on-one. It can be a morning meeting at their office, a lunch, whatever. Try to know them on a personal level.
  • Respond to criticism and rhetoric from elected officials, politicans and pundits. Respond with a phone call, a request for a meeting, a letter, an email, a newspaper editorial and/or a blog. Responding to criticism is vital both in countering negative PR and in showing office holders, politicans, pundits and others that you are listening!
  • Post your annual reports for the last five years online. Give an idea of why things cost what they do. Spell out administrative costs — what does having a copy machine allow you to do that you could not otherwise? How does having computers and Internet access allow you to serve more clients? Why do you rent or own office spaces, meeting spaces, event spaces, etc.?
  • Post information about your paid staff and their credentials online. Show that the staff you are paying are worth their salaries.
  • Talk in your newsletter and blog about what a cut in the budget will look like, what programs would have to be eliminated, what services you would not be able to provide, etc. Don’t sound desperate but do be clear about why decisions are being made and what cuts will look like.
  • Talk in your newsletter and blog in blunt terms about expenses. For instance, involving volunteers is NOT free; talk about all the costs that come from involving volunteers, your commitment to involving volunteers as something much more than free labor, etc.

You cannot afford not to do this!

Also see: Going all-volunteer in dire economic times: use with caution.