How to Be an

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Draft a vision/mission statement. This may seem redundant or unnecessary, but a vision statement is crucial for you and your organization. How would you summarize your organization's purpose in two sentences or less? You can print the statement on fliers, use it to unify your volunteers, and quote it for people who ask about your organization.

Draft your own vision statement. What is your purpose and why are you involved? Why are you an activist? Your personal vision statement might be different from your organization's statement, and that's OK.

Hold a retreat for your organization's leadership. It could be as short as a few hours, or as a long as a weekend. Discuss your vision statement, and formulate a list of 3-6 general goals that will help fulfill your mission. Prioritize these goals, and then draft a list of actions for each goal. You might want to share your individual vision statements as well.

Print up a chart/outline listing your organization's mission, goals, and planned actions. Keep this in a handy place where you can refer to it. A few months down the road, have your leadership team do a reassessment. How are you progressing toward your goals? Can you check off some of the actions?

Take initiative at the individual level. Most of the time, someone just needs to step up to the plate and swing the bat to get things moving. Sometimes people just need to see someone else doing something to realize how much a particular issue needs to be addressed in a community.

Don't be afraid to ask others outside your organization to help you and don't avoid recruiting people whom you don't normally think of as "activist" types. You'd be amazed at who will join a cause!

Recruit high school and college students to help your organization. Students are a great resource you can tap into. Local student organizations might be willing to let you speak at one of their meetings about volunteer opportunities. Students in public relations often need advertising campaigns to practice on and you could find your organization some capable assistance.

Be bullheaded about what you are doing and be persistent. Just because one door has been slammed in your face, does not mean that another one won't open.

Bring a sense of joy to the world. Bring energy and happiness to what you are doing, whether it's an internal strategy session, a mail-stuffing party, or a news conference. Don't be all business and no fun when you run a meeting.

Remember why you do what you do. Do not allow unfavorable circumstances to blow the wind out of your sails. Know what you are for, not just what you are against. Focus on your goals and not your opposition.

Keep working toward your goals and keep things moving within your organization, even in the face of opposition or defeat. It's like piling up little pebbles of sand and you may only be able to add one handful of sand at a time, but eventually you will fill up the box.

Work on structural issues within your organization and keep your structure fluid. Build a structure that allows people to step in and pick up the vision that you started.

Delegate responsibility whenever you can. This allows others in the organization to assume some responsibility and splits the work load. Don't be afraid to delegate both large and small tasks.

Never ask someone else to do something that you are not willing to do yourself, when you delegate something. You should never communicate to a volunteer that you are dumping an unwanted or exceptionally onerous task onto her/him just because you don't want to do it.

Explain things clearly. You may need to take some time to explain a particular task to a volunteer. At times, it may seem easier to do the task yourself than to explain it to a novice, but resist the temptation. A volunteer will remember your attitude, and will remember the time you spent patiently explaining something.

Communicate to your volunteers/assistants that you trust them, and tactfully check on the completion of a delegated task. Ask people how things are going, and tell them that you appreciate their hard work and effort.

Take time to get to know your volunteers and invest in individuals. Find out who your volunteers are and why they are helping your organization. People often need to forge personal connections within organizations.

Focus on empowering people. Without individual ownership of the vision, you can not build an organization with strong grass-roots based support. Focus on giving individuals ownership of the organization and its purpose.

Give individuals within your organization room to be different and understand that they are not all there for the same reasons. There might be multiple ways of doing things, and individuals might join your cause for different motives than your own.

Facilitate people within the organization getting to know each other. You could informally suggest everyone go out for something to eat after a strategy session, use a 5-minute icebreaker to start a meeting, or pass out coffee club/lunch bunch cards to encourage people to get to know each other.

Be willing to listen to people within your organization and be accessible to them. Maybe a volunteer just needs to check in with you and wants to update you on her/his progress. Is there a problem that someone needs to tell you about?

Watch for the good things. So often we tend to focus on the things that go wrong that we forget to notice the things that go well. Rejoice in the small victories that happen everyday. You might even want to keep a log book of accomplishments. Did you meet a fundraising goal? Mail information to voters? Have a good talk with a local politician?

Listen to your opposition. What are they saying and why are they saying it? Do you share areas of common interest with them? Is your opposition consistent? Do they have points of disagreement within their organization?

Formulate a rational point-by-point response to your opposition's arguments. Don't just rely on your emotions for your response. Think before your speak. Do research and don't make charges without evidence to back them up.

Designate a spokesperson to officially speak to the media for your organization. Carefully draft all news releases and policy statements and inform your volunteers about news release policies.

Don't fight with the media over minor misquotes. If a reporter misquotes you, just let it go. You'll get better coverage down the road if you don't rankle a reporter and her/his editor.

Build concentric circles. Word of mouth can be both a powerful and a detrimental public relations and recruitment tool. Talk to a lot of people about your ideas and encourage others in your organization to do the same.

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