Through this training guide, you will learn proven techniques that will help you to organize and mobilize your campus and greater community more effectively so that you can have an impact on campus, local, and national issues. Using a variety of advanced social media and field tactics, you can significantly increase your impact.
Tell us about it! The training does not stop here. Generation Opportunity can provide additional mentoring to you. Let us know what your plan is and whether you would like someone from Generation Opportunity to join your efforts. Let us know about your success by sending an email to Info@generationopportunity.org. We’re always interested in learning more about successes across the country, so let us know how you did or send us photos, etc. Make sure that you take pictures of your impact.
1. Pick the issue of greatest concern to you.
There are many causes and issues that activate us to take action. Start small and pick the issue of greatest concern that you can make a difference on in a relatively short time. For example:
- University voter turnout for student government elections.
- Youth voter turnout for local, state, and national elections.
- The cost of tuition and what may be driving increases.
- Finding a job when you and your classmates graduate.
2. Set goals and develop a strategy.
Clarify the goal that you want to achieve and the difference you want to make. Be specific. For example, you could:
- Increase voter turnout on campus for student government elections.
- Have a goal to register every eligible student on campus to vote in national elections.
- Run for Student Body President to give students a voice in the university’s tuition, activity fees and academic standards.
- Start a campaign to raise awareness about the lack of internships for undergraduates, unemployment for recent graduates, or increased resources for seniors to be better prepared to find jobs after graduation.
3. Develop an “elevator pitch.”
Once you have a plan of action, you need to be able to share it succinctly and convincingly with others. In an “elevator pitch,” you want to convey your excitement, strategy, and tactics to others succinctly in less than two minutes. It’s called an “elevator pitch” because of its brevity. Always have an “ask” at the end of your elevator pitch, tailored to the person you want to reach. Not everyone will volunteer to help you, but make sure to follow up with those that express interest. Some may not be able to attend an event but may be willing to make posters, create a Facebook invite, or write an article for a campus paper.
4. Recruit supporters and volunteers.
Determine how many people you will need to accomplish your goal. Get your friends involved and rehearse your elevator pitch with them. Discuss the larger objective and assign each of them a task to own from start to finish. Then ask them to tell 10 friends, make an announcement in class, or help you distribute flyers. Once your team has a wider group of core supporters, expand your outreach by going door to door in your dorm. Now that you’ve developed a team, keep your core group informed and updated on the team’s progress via email, Facebook messages, or text messages and keep soliciting input.
5. Be visible.
Think about the successful campaigns that you’ve seen on your campus. What are the tactics that those groups used to get your attention? You probably saw a sign posted in the hallway, a banner in the student union, or school spirit t-shirts promoting an upcoming sports game. Make a list of these tactics and use them. Map out the high-traffic areas on campus to target. Post your flyers in the elevator of your building and lecture halls; chalk your cause’s slogan or important information on the middle of the quad sidewalks (for example chalk: “Don’t forget to vote tonight” or count down the days to an important date); set up a table at the student center and post flyers in the bathroom. (Yes, the bathroom — think high traffic!) Setting up a table (called tabling) can be a great way to make students aware of your cause just by walking by. When tabling, and when publicizing in general, be creative, visual, and colorful. If your goal is to send letters to university decision makers, be prepared at your table with pens, paper, and envelopes. Collect letters or signatures on the spot to make sure that they get sent.
6. Get your campus community involved.
Make a list of the people, organizations, and resources that you and your team has access to across your campus. These may include your school newspaper, campus radio shows, student organizations on campus, sports teams, multicultural centers, professors and administrators — utilize them. Continually building and using relationships campus-wide will increase you and your team’s connection within your campus community.
7. Prepare in advance and get your paperwork in.
If you need to register your student organization or event, reserve a room, or get university administration approval before you can put up flyers, know the deadlines and submit your paperwork as early as possible. Do not wait until the last minute; otherwise, you may lose the opportunity to table on campus or to reserve classrooms or auditoriums for meetings and events. It’s also important to remember to register for a space at your campus-wide organization fairs, which typically happen every fall and spring. Many campuses have an organization fair specifically targeted to incoming freshman — a prime opportunity to reach out to new potential activists!
8. Organize online.
Word of mouth, phone calls, and texting are a great way to invite the people that you and your team already know to join in and help out. To promote your cause to your entire campus, you may want to consider using email, Facebook Events, and Evite.com. How to use:
- Email: When using email to invite people to join your cause, craft the email in a way that makes sense when it is forwarded. When sending email, send it to yourself and always bcc everyone; otherwise, your entire invite list will be visible. This is something others may not appreciate if the email is forwarded.
- Facebook Events: Creating a Facebook event is a great way to let your friends know about your event. Nearly half of Americans use Facebook. To start an event on Facebook, click the events tab on the left-hand side of your newsfeed that says “Events.” You must have a Facebook account to create a Facebook event. You will need to know the date, time, and location when creating a Facebook event (but this information can be updated at any time).
- Eventbrite: There are many different electronic invitation solutions on the market to choose from. One that is popular is Eventbrite. It became popular in 2009 and has since fostered over 35 million RSVPs. Eventbrite is free to use for free events. If you are charging for your event, be aware that Eventbrite charges a percentage of every ticket sale, so it is best to use for free events. You need an account to promote your event at Eventbrite, but it’s free, easy to do, and well worth the effort. You can get started at eventbrite.com and click “Sign up” in the upper right-hand corner. Eventbrite will also provide phone support: 888.541.9753. To get familiar with Eventbrite, browse through the events that other people have posted to get ideas. Consider hosting an event that highlights an important date, like the day tuition would increase or the date of campus elections.
- Twitter: Twitter boasts 100 million active users with an aggregate of 140 million tweets (on average) sent per day. Twitter is a great tool for getting your message out in short, pithy sentences (140 characters or less) called “tweets.” Users can all post pictures (through TwitPic) and links to news articles and websites. Consider using Twitter to promote your cause on campus. You can set up an account for yourself, your organization, or your cause’s mascot. To start, follow your university’s Twitter account and people you know on Twitter. Use a hashtag for your cause, like #collegetuition or #ArizonaTuition, to have your message spread even further.
9. Celebrate your team’s milestones — and thank those who helped.
Throughout this process, it is important to learn what works and learn from your previous successes or failures. Always remember: Success is never about “you.” It is the result of your team and those who offered their time and expertise to help your cause. Every campus is different. A tactic may work at one university but not at another, and what worked in the past may not work in the future. Take time to reflect on the progress that you and your team have made, even if you haven’t fully achieved the goal yet. Make sure to highlight supporters and volunteers that have devoted their time to further your cause and recognize their work through thank-you notes and emails. Although it may be “old school,” a brief hand-written note is especially meaningful and more personal.
10. Do it again.
The objective is to build for the future. Learn lessons now on a small scale with the mindset of being twice as effective next year. The more activities you plan and events you host, the more effective you and your team will become. Repetition will allow you and your core group to develop and sharpen different skill sets and expand your team by identifying more people to join your cause.