There are innumerable methods of outreaching to different groups and individuals. The best method is really the one that chimes well with the potential grassroots constituency, and the one that best describe us and what we do. Selecting the appropriate means of contacting potential constituents not only is essential to the success of our efforts, but can even backfire if we are misperceived by those we contact.
Attracting our potential constituency happens through direct and indirect channels. Direct channels are those in which we have direct personal contact with the potential constituency. Here is a brief description of some commonly used direct and indirect outreach methods.
Surveys: Surveys are used to collect data from the people for various reasons including their attitudes, problems, positions towards our issue, etc. For the purposes of constituency building, organizers should use surveys as a means to inform citizens about the organization and how they can get involved should they want. Hardly any organization does communicate the results of their surveys back to people. Communicating back to people increases the credibility of the organization and provides another opportunity for people to get engaged in the work of the organization.
Presentations: with the help of other organizations or community leaders, the organizers can make a presentation to different communities to introduce the issue and the people working on it. Presentations should be relatively short with materials distributed about the issue and the organization. The presentation must include some information about what the community members can do, and information about how to get in touch with the organizers. In addition, organizers should ask those who are interested from the audience to leave their contact information for further communication with them. Make sure to factor in time for information communications with interested individuals.
Personal Phone Calls: Personal phone calls are used to reach out to individuals. Needless to say, we should be aware of privacy issues before calling into people’s phones. Phone calls provide a good personal contact, but called people might feel that their privacy is compromised. Before initiating phone calls, we need to train the callers to ensure the uniformity of message and ability to tackle difficult situations. Like with other means, we should always ask the people we contact if they would like to receive further information from us.
Community Mailing: Organizers develop emails or written materials to introduce the campaign and encourage involvement and mail these to residents or groups in the community. Do not forget to send to your current supporters or those who supported you in the past. Nevertheless, make sure to send to new people who might be interested. Always provide information on how interested people can help out and how they can get in touch with you.
Market and Shopping Places: After securing the needed permits, organizers may set up a table at the farmers market or the local mall, passing out flyers and talking to people about the issue and opportunities for involvement. Organizers should prepare tabling materials that actively engage visitors, such as a brief survey about the issue they can complete on the spot or a sign-up sheet for our mailing list.
Open Houses: Organizers arrange an open house with speakers and a showing of a slideshow or photos as appropriate.
Film Viewing: Organizers may show a series of films that address the issue we are working on. Organizers must run a discussion after the movie showing to discuss how the film has addressed the issue, and what the people can do to contribute at their level. Do not forget the signup sheet.
Door-knocking: Door-knocking requires going door to door and asking to speak to people about what they think about your issue you are working on. You may recruit the individual or the family into the campaign by asking them to join the CAT or inviting them to an action or event.
Personal Visits: The organizer sets up an individual meeting at a person’s home. S/he presents the vision of your group and the campaign and asks the person to join the campaign or come to an action. A personal visit can be used to recruit new members or to persuade an active supporter to take a specific action.
House Meetings: Organizers find a host, who invites friends and relatives to her/his home for a meeting. The organizer leads the meeting, explaining what your campaign is about. The organizer asks for input on the campaign, identifying campaign strategies and talking about possible solutions. The organizer then invites participants to join the campaign or come to a meeting.
Meetings with Community Leaders: Convincing community leader to join your efforts and encourage community members to join can yield very good results. One of the means of reaching out to people is through meeting with community leaders to introduce our issue and how the leader(s) can contribute to the efforts. Before the meetings we should study the position of the leader(s) and come up with a potential list of reasons for why, or why not, the leader(s) should support our issue. In addition, we need to be ready with specific conditions and means of collaboration. Follow up with the leaders is essential to ensure having access to community members.
Media Publicity: Local media may cover some of your other outreach activities, write editorials about issue and your campaign, or write feature articles including information about how others can get involved.
Rallies, Marches, Marathons, etc: organizing rallies, marches, marathons, or biking contests provide a great opportunity to attract the attention of the public and recruit interested people. We should have our people available at the site(s) of these events with printed materials and signup sheets.