October 2012 U.S. Poverty Action

Gearing Up for the Lame Duck Session: Doing Outreach to Build Our Groups, Local Action Networks, and the Movement to End Poverty

There is a lot at stake for low-income families during the upcoming Lame Duck session of Congress (Nov 13 – Dec 31). Our advocacy will be critical to protect the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit for millions of low-income families — both ensuring that expiring improvements are extended beyond 2012 and to make sure any deficit reduction proposal/deal  protects these tax credits from cuts. To amplify our voice in this process, we’ll use October to focus on outreach. By spending time this month building our groups and solidifying our broader action network, we can strengthen our base and speak up more strongly in defense of society’s most vulnerable.

To help in this process, we are thrilled to announce that best-selling author Barbara Ehrenreich will speak on the RESULTS November National Conference Call on Saturday, November 10, at 12:30 pm ET. We are designing this conference call (which may have a webinar component) as an outreach event for your group — a perfect way to introduce new people to RESULTS, let them know what’s at stake during the Lame Duck session, and get them involved.

Plan a Great Outreach Event to Educate and Recruit New Activists

Here are some steps for organizing an outreach event:

  1. As a group, decide what kind of outreach you want to do. In addition to the November Conference Call, be creative and look for other opportunities to do outreach locally, such as:
    • Organizing a house party or potluck
    • Leading or co-organizing a presentation about RESULTS, our issues or an advocacy training at a local university, community center, library, school, or faith community
    • Setting up an information/action table at a local farmer’s market or faith community
    • Hosting a screening of a film – such as The Line, a new film about poverty in America
  2. Brainstorm a list of people to invite. This can include former or current RESULTS donors, friends, family members, work colleagues, community organizations (see below for suggestions), and especially those who will be directly impacted by Congress’ attempts to cut critical safety net programs. See a list of other possible invitees below.
  3. Draft or tailor a laser talk to use for inviting others. Focus on what inspires you about RESULTS, how your group has made a difference, and what they might get out of the event.
  4. Set goals. How many new activists do you want? How many new local Action Network members? ? Be sure to review your 2012 group plan for any goals you set regarding outreach. Remember everyone you invite will not agree to come and those who do come will not all agree to join RESULTS. A good rule of thumb is that you’ll net one new group member for every ten people you invite.
  5. Create an inviting plan and timeline. Contacting people personally is the key to your success and you’ll want to regularly check in with your group on your progress. In addition to personal invitations, you may want to explore other strategies such as inserting announcements in newspapers, putting up flyers, tabling at events, creating a Facebook event page, etc.
  6. Work with your group to create an agenda for your event(s). See the Sample Outreach Meeting Agenda and Script for an agenda you can tailor to fit your needs. We will also post a sample outreach agenda for the November National Conference Call featuring Barbara Ehrenreich.
  7. Assemble any materials your group will want to have at your event, including brochures, a copy of RESULTS “Everyday Heroes” video, printouts of the Tax Credits Outreach Action Sheet, RESULTS Basics CDs, and Participation Forms.
  8. Follow up with each confirmed guest (and "maybes") 24 – 48 hours before the event. To maximize turnout for the event, this is essential. A quick call reminding them of the event will do the trick.
  9. After your event, follow up with everyone who attended. Thank them for coming and remind them of your upcoming group meeting date, time, and location.

Need materials, sample invites, agendas from previous RESULTS presentations including advocacy trainings, or want additional support? Contact Meredith Dodson or Jos Linn.

Make the Most of Your Outreach: Tips for Hosting a Great RESULTS Outreach Event

These tips are adapted from RESULTS Activist Toolkit piece on how to conduct a successful outreach event, which include how to create a guest list and sample scripts for invitations.

Logistics & Timing

  • Make sure there is a point person for the arranging of your logistics (location, locking/unlocking of facility, technology needs, building signage)
  • 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.
  • Give yourself enough time to do invitation to participate at the meeting; give yourself at least 5 minutes to walk through the ways people can participation and hand out participation forms.

Who to Contact and Invite

Many times we don’t realize that there are many like-minded, caring people and organizations who might be interested in learning about and partnering with our local RESULTS groups. Here are some people to consider as you make your list of who to invite to your outreach event (for a complete list, see our Activist Milestone: Building a Coalition of Community Allies):

  • Family and friends
  • Work colleagues
  • Members of your faith community
  • Members of your existing action network
  • Existing coalition partners
  • Local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program
  • Anti-poverty/social justice organizations
  • Neighborhood associations
  • Local Head Start centers
  • Local child care centers
  • Local Community Action agency
  • Peace and Justice groups
  • Hunger Coalitions
  • Food banks and soup kitchens
  • Homeless shelters
  • Local colleges and universities (e.g. social work, political science, and education professors/students)
  • Student groups
  • League of Women Voters
  • Local Democratic Party
  • Local Republican Party
  • Other Local Political Parties
  • Labor unions 
  • Urban League
  • NAACP
  • Latino Organizations
  • Immigrant Organizations
  • Local faith communities (churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, etc.)
  • Catholic Charities
  • Jewish Council for Public Affairs affiliate

How to Talk about RESULTS at Your Event

Be clear and enthusiastic. Invigorate the room with this thought or another that inspires you.

What is RESULTS up to? Transformation and creating champions! We’re offering people the chance to help end poverty and strengthen our democracy at the same time. We’re up to big things. Everyday people working to educate Congress, the media, and our communities about practical and effective solutions to poverty. We’re using our voices to create the political will for change!

Weave in a personal story to underscore how powerful RESULTS is and what their participation could mean for the end of poverty.

When talking about donations, be clear about how money is stewarded — it takes approximately $1,200 per year to support a local RESULTS group — yet don’t uncomfortably overemphasize donations.

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.)

We will review outreach strategies and hear from Mark Reynolds of the Citizens Climate Lobby about techniques that have worked for them on the RESULTS October 2012 National Conference Call — Saturday, October 13, 2012 at 12:30 pm ET. To participate, call (888) 409-6709 with your group by 12:28 pm ET.