Forming Your Local Group
Forming Your Local Group
If there are any questions about this document they should be sent to LocalGroups@FreeStateProject.org.
Finding a Location
Before contacting anyone, you should find a meeting place, and then reserve it for a day about a month and a half out. Possible locations include Restaurants, Parks, Libraries, Coffeehouses, and even Firing Ranges. Restaurants have been the traditional meeting place for many clubs. Parks can be good in some locations. You should make sure that some covered areas are available in case of an outburst of nature. Firing Ranges often have classrooms that are available for around $10 an hour. In addition many members are gun enthusiasts, and being co-located with a range might encourage attendance.
It is important to put the reservation out about a month and a half, because the first meeting requires a lot of preparation. You will still feel the crunch, but it is doable.
Set Up the Yahoo Local Group List
Every Local Group should have a yahoo group. If your local group does not have one, have LocalGroups@FreeStateProject.org create one. If there is one, make sure you are a moderator. When you become a moderator, make sure you are notified of new signups, and those who cancel their membership. Make sure to personally welcome the new members as they sign up. Personal contact is very valuable. These yahoo groups will be very useful for sending e-mails to core activists, polling members, posting pictures of events, posting the current financial statements and gathering volunteers.
Also join the LocalGroupLeaders Yahoo Group. There is plenty of experience being passed back and forth there. You can stay up to date on what has worked in other places.
Every Local Group Meeting needs a few members. The first thing you need to do is get a copy of the Member Database from LocalGroups@FreeStateProject.org. Next, you will be writing an e-mail to be read by every member of the database. Then, you will be drafting an e-mail to be sent to no more than 50 people in the immediate area of the meeting.
Write an e-mail to be sent out to all the members of the local group. This e-mail should include the expected agenda. Make sure to mention that you will be identifying the likely core activists (all attendees almost by definition), and that there will be an open discussion of which groups you will try recruiting from. Make sure to give a prominent place to the Local Group yahoo discussion list and encourage people to join. If you decide to follow this course of action, you will not be sending another e-mail to this group for three months, so make sure you include enough information. Many Internet companies do not permit you to send e-mail to a whole lot of recipients, so the FSP has developed a way around them. Send your e-mail and the list of addresses to members@FreeStateProject.org. A person will then mail the letter to the list you have provided. They will be sure to contact you if there are any problems.
You should also write an individual e-mail to the 50 people closest to the meeting location. Put their name and Free State Project in the Subject line of the e-mail. You will be spending about 5 minutes per person looking at their entries in the database (personal web site, source of signup, location, etc.). Then write the e-mail with the express purpose that you communicate that you are writing an individual letter to them. Make sure that they know a machine is not writing it. If nothing else, ask them if they know of a place in (home-town) that a lot of liberty lovers would likely go. Experience has indicated that 2 in 10 respond when contacted like that. In this e-mail, you may want to mention that they are being contacted because you noticed that they are close to the meeting location. Let them know about the Yahoo group too. This should take about 5 days.
If you are inclined to manage Local Group activities with a database, then there is one in Access, and an Open Source database will be created shortly. You can find it at www.FreeStateProject.org/downloads.
The very next thing to do is get some supplies for the inaugural meeting. Contact Merchandise@FreeStateProject.org and let them know you are setting up a new Local Group. You will be sent a Local Group package.
In addition to the materials sent to you, you will need to get a container for donations, a handful of pens and a notepad.
Greet for your area
Each Local Group should be personally welcoming new members to the FSP. Make sure that Greeters@FreeStateProject.org knows what geographic area you want to handle. I would suggest that you pay particular attention to this. New members are particularly enthusiastic and are looking for an opportunity to help achieve Liberty in their Lifetime. Give them that opportunity. And your Local Group members will love meeting people their efforts recruited.
Speak for your area
Join the FSP Speakers. You will then be notified of any organization that is requesting speakers in your area. Do not worry if you have not spoken publicly before, there are a couple of speaking courses at www.freestateproject.org/training. If you remain uncomfortable, when the Local Group is more developed, you can delegate this duty. Your group may even decide that a great way to reach out is to have Local Group FSP speakers go to meetings of other liberty loving organizations.
That First Meeting
This meeting sets the pace for the future meetings. Read the training package "Holding a meeting: Really pack them in" at www.freestateproject.org/training. There are three important things that must take place at this meeting. First, you must develop a focus. Second, you must develop a group identity. Third, you must get to know each of the volunteers.
Local Groups do not have the resources to reach everyone. We are extremely limited in time and money. As a result we need to put our efforts where they are going to be most effective. We also know that a good message delivered many times is more effective than a great message delivered once. With this knowledge, we should focus on recruiting in populations that have high concentrations of freedom lovers. To avoid overextending ourselves, we should choose no more than three populations. The SoCalFSP Local Group decided that most Libertarians have already made up their mind about the FSP, so we are focusing our efforts elsewhere. If you are unsure about what populations might be interested, go to www.freestateproject.org/liaisons for a list of possibilities. At the meeting finalize your list, and ask the people there to submit ideas on contacting them to the Yahoo Group.
The Local Groups will be working hard, and will not see an immediate payoff. One way of motivating volunteers is to get them to feel a kinship towards the local group. (Yes I know we are liberty lovers, but a group we voluntarily help is not the same as collectivism. It is more like team sports.) At the first meeting ask people to create a logo, symbol, or flag that the local group can stamp their efforts with. Have it posted to the Yahoo group in the files section, and then use the polls to vote for it.
At the meeting you will get to meet those in your local group who are likely to volunteer. Get to know their interests and desires individually. Find out what they want to get out of the Local Group. If Sally wants to shoot fire full-autos, and Rob wants to get home schooling rights restored, then who is more likely to help at a gun-show? It is also important because you want to show as much consideration as possible for those who are giving their time to advance the dream of freedom we share. A survey that is filled out by the attendees may help accomplish this with a minimum of fuss, but don't forget the individual human contact.
Collect Donations. You will likely be surprised by their generosity. The amount donated will further increase after a few activities are completed.
After the First meeting
Post a summary of the First meeting to the Yahoo group as soon as you possibly can. Get a couple of Logo ideas posted in the Files section of the Yahoo group. Make sure that conversation relating to outreach keeps moving along. When you get a couple of good ideas, use the Poll Section of the yahoo group to vote on both the logo and first outreach. Make sure that volunteers and detailed plans are made for the actions the Local Group undertakes. You can find stories of past actions and their results at www.freestateproject.org/archives.
Schedule the Second meeting for the weekend before the Local Groups First Action. Use it as an opportunity to speak on the concerns of the group you will be contacting, to discuss in detail what the plan is, and to brainstorm on possible problems.
You must make certain that the first actions that you undertake are completed. They do not have to be stunning victories. The Actions just have to be done. If there are "learning experiences" then they can be planned for next time. Maintain flexibility, stuff will not go as planned. No worries, just do it.
Another important thing to do is talk about your activities. Send the story of the Local Group's Action to FSPLocalGroupLeaders@FreeStateProject.org. You will be contributing to a climate of action. Your Local Group will inspire others that it is possible to win this. Others can learn from the example by reading about it on the archive, multiplying our effectiveness.
The Third meeting
You are now established as a local group. You did something. Keep doing stuff. Continue to follow the advice on holding effective meetings at www.freestateproject.org/training.
Looking Ahead: Build the Group
After completing a few actions, and holding regular meetings for three or four months, send out an email to all the FSP members in your local groups area. This e-mail is going to show what the Local Group has achieved. You will show how different the Local Group is. The Local Group doesn't just talk. It ACTS! Then describe how they can get involved if they choose. Make sure to mention that part of grassroots is being short on everything, so anything they can do would help.
You will almost always be short on cash. Keep checking back at www.freestateproject.org/training for lessons on effective fundraising from within the membership and soliciting donations from outside the organization.
Delegate duties to other activists in the Local Group. There is training available to teach them what they need to know. You are going to be busy just trying to keep everyone coordinated when these activists as they start pushing you. Their energy will inspire you. You may even long for the days when there was a weekend with nothing planned. But I doubt it.