July 2008 KTA: Bringing It All Home: Freedom Voter House Parties

From backyard ice cream socials in Junction City to fresh strawberry shortcake in La Grande, local human dignity groups are sweetening this election year with gatherings that educate and motivate their friends and neighbors to take action that grows their local movements AND builds votes for justice.

WHAT IS THE ACTIVITY? Most groups working hard to make a difference on the ever-growing list of issues at stake this election year – war, civil liberties, immigration, prisons, taxes – are taking stock of their ranks, wondering how we will win the fight for justice when there are 20 or 12 or 2 of us doing the organizing. Email updates and ongoing events are key threads that bind our groups together. But, when we need to pack more of a punch, pack the room, or pack the voting booth – like with ROP’s Freedom Voter Campaign – the time is ripe for a little volunteer recruitment. This month, we are making our group the place to be this election season. This month’s KTA is to host a Freedom Voter House Party that helps launch the Freedom Campaign in your community. Remember our goal is to get 1776 conversations using the Freedom Survey and/or Freedom Pledge completed in the weeks leading up to and following July 4th. So far, we have 4 weeks to go and 538 surveys and pledges completed! What can you do towards this goal? What about your local human dignity group? Whether you can commit to 14 or 40 or 400, we need you!

WHY THIS ACTIVITY? To build a vibrant rural human dignity movement, we need to keep growing our local movement centers, AKA our human dignity groups. And this takes people! And the best ways to get people to join our groups is to make it relevant to their lives and their concerns, to ask them personally, and to make it fun and easy! House parties can do all these things. Some of what local groups are reporting from their house parties this last month are that people are:

  • Getting excited and hopeful about their power and potential to influence the outcomes of the 2008 elections, defeat anti-immigrant, prison expansion, and other anti-democratic ballot measures, and to make change in their community and beyond – even after November 4th
  • Becoming familiar with the tools and strategy and feeling motivated to take action in ROP’s Freedom Voters Campaign
  • Committing to participate in the Freedom Voters Campaign (and hopefully become long-term members of your local Human Dignity Group!)

STEPS TO COMPLETE THE ACTIVITY: A more detailed step by step overview is at HouseParty.pdf, but here are the basics to get you started!

  1. Convene your organizing team of 2-4 people and choose a date, time, and location.
  2. Put together the list of people to invite. 15-20 people at an Elections House Party is ideal – but to get that many participants, you probably have to send at least 30-50 invites. Think of new friends, co-workers, congregation members, neighbors, and group supporters that haven’t been involved deeply in your efforts – yet. Make a list with their names, addresses, e-mails, and phone numbers. Ask other members of your group to do the same. If you have a mailing list of people that you don’t know well, mail to them anyway – a good way to let them know what’s going on.
  3. Create your invitation. Make sure to include the date, time, place and phone number/e-mail for the host. Ask people to RSVP. Let folks know what sort of refreshments and discussion to expect. Do something interesting with your invitation. You can use store bought invitations or you can make your own. Put it on colored paper or in a colored envelope. Have your kids decorate them. Use stickers. Be creative and have fun!
  4. Send the invitations! 2 to 3 weeks prior to your party, get together a few friends or members of your local group to address the invitations. Adding a personal note is always a good idea. While you are all together, figure out who will make follow-up phone calls – divide them up a few calls per person.
  5. Make personal phone invitations 7 to 10 days prior to your party. Call all confirmed guests to remind them and anyone who hasn’t yet RSVP’d.
  6. Plan the discussion and divide up roles, such as facilitator, greeter, refreshment leads, etc. Make sure that those who are facilitating the discussion are familiar with what they will say, what questions they will ask, etc. For ideas and a sample agenda check out HouseParty.doc, but your evening might look something like this:
    • Generally you want to have a little time at the beginning to mingle and socialize – this is a party, after all! – and then begin with an introductory go round with a conversation question such as hopes and fears for 2008.
    • Next you would share a brief but engaging overview of what’s at stake in 2008 – from ballot measures to our Bill of Rights.
    • Then spend the bulk of the time talking about what you will do about this as a part of the Freedom Voters Campaign.
    • The party should with specific asks to join your group whether that be signing up for a door knocking day with the Freedom Survey or taking 16 to complete on your own by the end of the month. You can also get volunteer cards by emailing cara@rop.org.
  7. After the party, make sure to update everyone’s information in your group’s database. Send thank you notes or a quick email to those who attended, reminding them of what they committed to. Follow up with a call to the people who were new and those who were most energetic. One group sent emails to everyone who missed the party as well updating them and asking them to join the effort.
  8. Update ROP and ask for the support you need to make growing your local movement fun and fruitful this summer!
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