Strategies for Arranging a Successful Meetup
I spent a good amount of time thinking about how to present the suggestions I wanted to put out to you about ways to organize a Meetup more effectively, and I think the most benefit can be had by going step-by-step. In our group, it was through the response to challenges we faced that we created our own solutions, and as a general principle, I think that is what you want to be: flexible and adaptable. Different places require different techniques, and please read these suggestions with that always in mind, that these are just ideas that may be helpful.
At the beginning of our meetup, we had a few major challenges. We didn't have the resources to do much. We weren't really sure what we could do out there. We didn't have a plan. We had a few people sitting around a table who knew we supported Ron Paul and knew that we wanted to do something, but beyond that, we just had optimism and desire.
I will tell you here that it took us about two months to figure out how to convert that desire into something tangible and a rather decent political machine. That said, we can save you some of the pain by sharing a few things that I wish someone could have told me as an organizer when we began. I also want to say these suggestions are designed to be equally helpful for organizers, assistants, and members, as it takes everyone working together to pull this off.
Step 1: Figure Out Who Is In Your Group
Before you can begin doing things, you have to know who you have. At our first meeting, what I did was collected contact information from all of my members, and also information about any skills, abilities, or affiliations they have. In doing so, we discovered that people had computer skills, marketing skills, and valuable connections that we were able to use to grow our group and spread our message.
Looking at it from the other perspective, it also helps when you can ask someone to do something they know well. Being that a majority of the people in this movement are not political operatives, I find that it works much better if you can ask people to do something with which they are familiar, so they feel empowered. Obviously, there are events where you all will learn together, but knowing what you have is a real edge.
Step 2: Set A Clear Agenda.
Groups have a tendency to descend into debate socieites without the presence of leadership and focus. Ideally, this will come from an organizer and I encourage everyone in that position to set an agenda for your group, at least as a starting point for what you want to accomplish.
When we began, we spent our first few meetings throwing out ideas about things we might like to do, and there were some very good ideas, but it became difficult to choose which ones were realistic. There was lots of talk, and no action, so both myself and my great assistant organizers got together and we hammered out a real plan of things we were going to do. The difference here is a commitment to action, and that is a big transition that every group needs to make to be effective. It begins with a plan.
When drafting an agenda, set up something that you can do, that utilizes the skills of your group in a way that promotes Ron Paul in a positive and visible light. You can start small to build confidence, and please realize some of your most effective events will not require thirty people. Sometimes, three people, in the right place, will accomplish the same.
Step 3: Build a Group Identity and Fundraise Within
Once you have a plan, you'll begin to understand what materials and what people you will need to make it work. This is the hardest step, but we had a really good way to go about it.
I had a barbecue where everyone came down, and we had food served for a donation of $20. From that, we built up an initial war chest so we could begin buying campaign supplies such as bumper stickers, yard signs, t-shirts, and the like. Everyone got together and had a chance to talk to one another, and we had a fun day that raised money for what we needed to do, and it built a sense of something larger.
That's one fun way to raise money, and there are many others. I know some groups encourage a monthly contribution. We actually have this Uncle Sam hat that I pass around at every meeting asking those who can give to throw in a little money, and we get support. We also get donations for supplies used and that helps ensure we can continue providing support.
Beyond the fundraising, however, it works well if you have a group where the people feel like part of something larger. I have noticed all the more successful groups have this, and it requires working together between the members, the organizers, and everyone. This is a diffuse effort and everyone is important.
Step 4: Managing Your Events
Now that you would have some money and some people, you just need to get out to the community. The internet is ours, but we need to branch out from the castle. There are any number of ways you can approach this, but we have found that it is much easier to do smaller things than larger.
To that end, my personal suggestion is that you have your group look for events of opportunity. We scan calendars a month or two in advance, looking for places where we can have a presence with people who we believe would be receptive to the Ron Paul message. We find a person in our group to coordinate the event, once we become aware, and then the whole group gives the support to make it work.
If you do it this way, you allow people to attend whatever events they are able to reach, and you become very flexible. For instance, on one day, using this technique, we actually were able to have four distinct events on a single day, and each was covered because we worked smartly. The central group provided the resources, and the members stepped up and made things happen.
As you get better at handling smaller events, and bring people into the fold, you'll find you have the ability to attempt larger things, and this is the eventual goal. For help with those, you'll need to use all you have, and realize there is a whole network of national supporters out there behind you.
Step 5: Network
While you are doing all of these things, to grow your group, you need to network. That means reaching out to other Ron Paul Groups for support. We are linked through Facebook and MySpace with other groups, and coordinating that way is effective. We're also linked with the Constitution Party, the Libertarian Party, and the Republican Liberty Caucus as well as having established connections with the local GOP. Talking never hurts and often will find you good allies. You don't have to agree on everything to work together.
For larger groups, networking is vital because you have the ability to help smaller groups. For instance, we actually have five satellite groups, as well as provide support in materials and guidance to at least ten other groups. It helps everyone work together for the larger goal.
For smaller groups, look to the people who are established in your area, because they can help you. In every state, we need to become organized and focused, and once that is completed, you'll begin amplifying your impact.
This was a long primer, but I hope it was valuable in showing you some strategies to get started. From here, I am going to use this to share actual examples of what groups are doing, things that are happening nationally, and provide support to groups as well as individuals supporting the cause. Some of this information may seem obvious, but time is short, and getting as much help out there as possible has to be a priority.