Building Support for an Issue in Your Community
The organizing being done by grassroots volunteers across the country is creating momentum and changing the conversation on important issues—and you have an important role to play in growing this movement.
Asking people in your community to sign on to show their support for an issue that matters to you is one of the best and easiest ways to raise awareness locally, and to bring more voices to a cause. It's easy to get started, too—you can work as a group with friends and neighbors, or you can take action on your own. Below are a few tips and tricks for successfully asking others to add their name and join the fight:
Be Strategic About When and Where You Go
Focus on places with lots of foot traffic. You can maximize your efforts by talking to more people in a short period of time.
Choose a time of the day when more people are outside. Mornings, lunch hour, and early evenings are often the best times to gather signatures on weekdays.
Do your research. Make sure you know the rules about the location you choose. Do volunteers need to stay within a certain area? Will you be on public property? Best of all, check out the location beforehand. Finally, keep track of the location, time of day, and amount of time spent gathering signatures to build a list of the best places in your community to gather signatures.
Have a backup plan. Even the smoothest events have their surprises. Have a backup plan in case something comes up. What will you do if the weather is bad, or if there is low foot traffic?
Catch people in line or as they exit. DMVs, shopping centers, libraries, theaters, timed crosswalks, and bus stops can be a great place to talk to people as they wait.
Ask for advice. Your friends, co-workers, neighbors, and fellow volunteers know their neighborhoods best and may have good recommendations for where to look for signatures.
HOSTING YOUR EVENT
Gathering support for an issue in your community starts with you. You can choose to host an event with friends and neighbors—or you can get started on your own.
Before the Event
- Choose a date, time, and location for your event.
Create an online listing for your event.
Download printable forms or ask your local OFA organizer. Make sure to print out copies that are easy to read—even from a distance—and clearly communicate why you support the issue—and why others should add their name.
- If you're hosting an event you’d like others to attend, you can recruit volunteers using email and social networks, or by calling OFA volunteers in your area. Be sure to recruit at least twice as many volunteers as you would like to have at your event to account for people who can’t attend at the last minute.
- Conduct some basic research related to the issue you’re building support for. Helpful information on issues can be found at http://www.barackobama.com/#get-the-facts.
- Make confirmation calls to everyone who has RSVP’d for your event 24 hours beforehand.
- Gather all the materials you will need (forms, clipboards, pens, etc.).
During the Event
Get support from as many people as possible, and make sure all of the required fields are filled out! Collecting all information—including email addresses—and reporting back is critical part of making sure that people who are interested in the issue can hear from us again.
Take pictures, tweet, and update Facebook with stories, quotes, and fun anecdotes. Use the hashtag #OFAction so other OFA supporters can see the work you’re doing.
Make the Ask the Right Way
Be approachable, but don’t wait to be approached. Having a friendly demeanor goes a long way when it comes to gathering signatures. Even if it doesn’t come naturally to you, smile and speak with confidence—it can make your outing more successful.
Make a clear ask. Research shows that people are more likely to respond when you phrase the question as "Have you signed on in support of ______?" rather than open-ended questions like "Do you support ______?"
Be sure to smile, make eye contact, and use open body language. Try not to wear sunglasses if you can avoid it, and be as engaging and friendly as you can. Don’t cross your arms or hold your clipboard in front of you.
After the Event
Be sure to thank anyone who helped with your event and confirm them for your next action.
Within 24 hours, report back how things went and fill in the information from your forms. This is a crucial part in making sure the work you did has as big of an impact as possible, and ensuring supporters in your community stay connected with OFA to find out more about the issue you’re fighting for.