Community organization and mobilization centers on contacting people. Serious community campaigns begin with contacting people sympathetic to or interested in your campaign. For our purposes we should begin with the idea that the main goal of community mobilization is to create grassroots or bottom up power for regular people. If this is true, knowing who lives in your community and who wants to help make change is important. There are different ways to gather this information and we are going to go over a few of the main ideas and information organizers need to begin a campaign. In this post we will talk briefly and specifically about lists of supporters and how and why these lists are created and used. The methodology of mobilization helps us understand the intentional movement of people.
Identify supporters and potential allies.
Much of the work we need to do is communicating with others the importance of the work we are undertaking. Take a moment and list out for yourself an initial list of supporters and allies. When you do this it helps create in your mind the directions you can go in and the possibilities of alliances you can create within the community mobilization effort.
Identify other groups and make contact: Everyone has potential allies. Make a list of different organizations who you think maybe yours. Think of groups that may be economically affected by a particular issue. Try to meet with organizational leaders before arranging to address the larger gathering of its members.
Make contacting members simple and easy.
Quick mobilization can be of the utmost urgency. How do you get a hold of people? There are times in every community mobilization program when quick and significant turnout can mean difference between success and failure. Contact lists should be set up with ease of use in mind.
How do they want to get involved?
Record the information of everyone you speak with.
Make a record of their contact information and make a note about their level of interest, skills, or concerns. Make information accessible. Contact lists should be structured in such a way you can easily access names and phone number as well as other key information.
New volunteers need to be contacted immediately.
New people should be contacted within 24-48 hours. This is critical to harnessing the energy of new activists. If your new volunteers request additional information get it to them in a similar timeframe. Most people are moved to action through personal contact.
Set guidelines for using the list.
Access to names and addresses is power. Set some working ground rules for their use. In one community mobilization drive a married couple working on the issue was having problems. As a means of retaliation one of the spouses wrote a letter detailing how their partner was not a good parent because they were using politics to ignore their family. They then mailed this letter to everyone on this list. Needless to say that was the end of that community mobilization movement.
Constantly update your list. Keep it hot.
Assign someone to systematically maintain and update your list. List can quickly become outdate – don’t wait for a crisis to find out about yours.
Invest resources in maintaining the list.
Computer software that manages email databases is cheap and easy to obtain. Computers come with database software. There are countless ways to maintain your contact list. Check out programs like MailChimp and Constant Contact.
New and unexperienced organizers are often lazy in their mobilization. They think because they have created an email list with hundreds of addresses or a webpage that everyone who needs to know now knows. Ask yourself; do you email everyone? Does everyone you know read all their emails? More importantly and take a moment to consider this. Does everyone who might be interested in what you are doing have email or access to the Internet?
In this day of social media and email there are a million ways to avoid actually talking to another person - a simple phone call might be much more appreciated.
Within each organization are individual members that will serve as contacts or liaisons for your mobilization effort. These individuals are very important. When experienced organizers talk about having good relationships with different organizations what they really mean is they have taken the time to cultivate strong relationships with certain individuals within that organization. Business people call this networking - if it works for them why not us?
GET ON THOSE PHONES.