Organizing for Action Toolkit 2018
This is our moment to fight and to actually win something. Over the past two years and across the entire state of Vermont we have engaged 1,000s of members and now we have one simple ask: show up. This time around, showing up means being organizers in our own communities, asking more of our friends and neighbors, and uniting around the simple but monumental goal of creating a more livable Vermont.
How do we do that?
We start small and we build momentum and we do it quickly. We ask questions and gather stories. We build our power collectively and bring it into the State House. As always, the opposition is well funded and familiar and the only way we will win this fight is if we truly put poverty on trial here in Vermont.
Our stories are more powerful than we know. Living day-to-day is hard enough for anyone and Vermonters have families and obligations and hobbies. However, when our collective participation adds up, it makes a difference. On our own, our organizing can feel insignificant. That’s why Rights & Democracy exists: to create an overwhelming body of Vermonters acting together to bring our voice to our elected officials and make our stories known.
With that, we have A Plan:
- Member organizers doing community surveys that highlight the reality of the hard working poor.
- Member organizers collecting stories by gathering letters to the editor, video testimonials, and people’s everyday stories.
- Member organizers forming the People’s Lobby and bringing all our friends and neighbors into the State House to show off our collective voice.
- Member organizers coordinating small group and one-on-one sit-downs with legislators in their home communities.
These small actions will lower the barrier of participation to the smallest thing: writing 250 words, speaking on camera, or talking to community members while buying groceries, pumping gas, and running errands.
Roles for Member-Organizers: What YOU Can Do
Here at Rights and Democracy we have a saying—friends who organize together, stay together, organizing others. This is the only way that we are going to achieve our goals—and form deep, lasting, and powerful relationships along the way.
Remember: together we win. This means that we do not do this work alone, we do as a team. This is a great opportunity to connect with friends or revitalize a group you’ve been a part of in the past.
Note: No role is permanent or silo’d—you can be all of these or just one—it can look different for you than it does for someone else, these are just options. Choose how you’d like to participate and own it.
Surveyors/Community Organizers - Member-organizers in this role will engage others to use (and adapt) the RAD community survey tool (in this kit) to let people know about our movement while collecting powerful stories. This is a first line of outreach to the public. Asking questions and listening are significant in our movement. The goal of this project is to bring people into our work and engage them on the important issues facing our state: whether by writing a letter to the editor, recording a video testimonial, or meeting with a legislator. Easy tasks in this role: following up with new connections via email and phone, data entry from surveys collected, etc.
Story Collectors and Communications - Either through our survey or through personal networks, story-collectors act as recruiters and engagers. They follow up with people they meet or other’s on their team meet to record video testimonials, help write letter to the editors, and collect signatures on raise the wage support cards. The trick here, as with all organizing, is following up. Most people aren’t ready to share their story the first time you ask for it—so Story Collectors will be nudgers, editors, and relationship builders. Easy tasks: conducting interviews, compiling videos, outreach to locals to do testimonials.
The People’s Lobby - This is how we’re going to bring our power right into the Statehouse. Over the next few months, Rights and Democracy will be hosting large People’s Lobby days in the Statehouse. To build and practice for those—we invite all our members to join us in committee meetings and floor discussions. Can you and five friends join us for important moments? Once a week? We want to physically show our presence and the interest of Vermont voters by showing up in the Statehouse as often as possible. Coordinators for the People’s Lobby can organize sit-downs in the building with their elected officials and recruit others to join them. Easy tasks in this role: carpool coordination, pre-visit preparation (emailing senators, communicating with staff about when/where), asking friends and family to go with you.
Back-home Meeting Coordinator - Back-home, otherwise known as in-district, meetings are a tried and true tool of legislative campaigns. Back-home meeting coordinators will engage others to do focused sit downs with legislators back in their hometowns—at coffee shops or in living rooms. Coordinators will encourage as many people as possible to hold these conversations and help to schedule these small, casual, but very impactful actions. The best time to meet with legislators back home is usually on weekends or Mondays when they are not at the State House engrossed in their committees. Easy tasks: hosting meetings, coordinating logistics, recruiting people for meetings.
Rights & Democracy Community Survey (Guide)
RAD members know that there is nothing more powerful than a face-to-face conversation and there is nothing more capable of moving people than a story. With this project, RAD members become organizers who reach out and connect with Vermonters and bring them into our movement. Collectively, it becomes our job to gather the important stories that highlight the reality of poverty-wages and the high cost of living in our own communities.
- First: ask yourself or your team some evaluative questions. You know your community best. Where are the local services? Where do people gather to support one another? Where are the low-wage workers you know employed and where do they live? Churches, grocery stores, food banks, community spaces, gas stations, etc. Who do you know personally? What stories do you hear in your day-to-day? What parts of town, streets etc, do you know are particularly affected by Vermont’s high cost of living?
- Go to these places. Knock on doors and start conversations. Use this exercise as an excuse to reach out to an old acquaintance or start a new one. This survey is a tool to elicit stories and gain support. By the end of your conversation, you will know what ask to make of these people moving forward.
- Conversations are not enough. We need people to take action. This means we’re going to have to ask them to. Here is a list of easier to harder asks to make once your survey is successfully complete:
- Will you support a $15 minimum wage by sharing your story?
- Will you record it on video? (we have a script for this)
- Will you write it down as a Letter to the Editor?
- Will you fill out this story card? (this is the easiest ask but also the least impactful)
- Will you take a photo petition to show your support? (easier ask.)
- Would you be willing to sit down with your elected official and tell them what you just told me?
- Would you like to join us in the State House to show legislators that this matters to us?
- Can we follow-up with you another time to talk more about the campaign and how you can get involved?
Tips for Successful Interactions:
Don’t be afraid to ask for stuff! The smallest action can lead to more engagement down the road.
Remember that every story is powerful. People connecting over the important issues is also powerful. A common response when being asked to participate is “who me?”. As organizers, we get to say “yes, you!”
Follow-up is 90% of organizing. If you find someone who might be willing to do any of the larger asks, like recording a video testimony or meeting with a legislator, make sure to note that for follow-up!
It’s rare that someone is willing to dive right into a monumental project like Raising the Wage. Most of the time, it takes a second or third contact with someone. If you feel like a person is about At the most, get people’s contact information. Take good notes, if possible.
If anything in this project: get people’s contact information for follow-up by staff or member organizers (like you!). RAD staff contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
LINKS TO REST OF THE ORGANIZING FOR ACTION TOOLKIT:
- Roles for Member Organizers
- Raise Up VT Community Survey/Guide
- Citizen Lobbying - How To
- Video Testimonial Guide
- Letter to the Editor/Front Porch Forum - How To
Other Helpful Links:
- Raise the Wage Letter to the editor (LTE) template
- Family & Medical Leave Insurance LTE template
- Raise the Wage Messaging Guide
- Raise the Wage Talking Points
- Family & Medical Leave Insurance Talking Points
- Family & Medical Leave Insurance Fact Sheet
- Raise the Wage Fact Sheet
- Corporate Accountability Now! Fact Sheet