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8) Create a Following

Once the groundwork is laid, you need to cultivate the support of the community, reach out, and involve more people. In order to succeed, your organization is going to need the support of many people.

  • Start an organizational mailing list. Compile the addresses of your animal-loving friends and ask all your board members and volunteers for names and addresses of people they know who may be interested in being a part of your organization. You’ll need a simple, computerized mailing-list database or even spreadsheet.  Your mailing list forms the foundation of all your future fundraising efforts. While it may seem obvious, organize your mailing list so that each part of the contact information is in a separate column of the spreadsheet. This will make the information much easier to work with later.

  • Hold a public meeting. One way to garner support from a broad spectrum of the community within a short timeframe is to hold a public meeting, where you can explain what your group is going to accomplish. 

    • Publicize the meeting. Send a meeting notice to all the nameson your newly created mailing list to announce your meeting. The U.S. Postal Service www.usps.gov offers services on their website which can help you make eye-catching postcard notices or other sorts of invitations and mailings. Put up flyers and posters, make announcements in local list serves and newsletters, or write up a press release to help get the word out. Make sure that ALL of the following pertinent information is included: organization’s name, mailing address, phone number, e-mail address; subject of the meeting; when (date and time); where (give the address and directions).

    • Set a goal for the first meeting. State in one or two sentences exactly what you would like your meeting to accomplish. At this first meeting, it's important to establish your credibility and to explain your organization’s program clearly and positively. While you want to convince people of the seriousness of your issues, be sure to speak in a positive tone. It is important that you convince attendees that this is a do-able project and that they can make a difference. An unproductive meeting can be the kiss of death to a young group, since the busy, productive people you need to connect with do not have time to waste.

    • Provide written materials. Provide take-home handouts and encourage attendees to share the information with others. Materials you’ll want to have available at the meeting include:
      • Information about the program/organization
      • Donation request form or flyer and donation coin canister
      • Sign-in sheet with fields for name and contact information
      • Volunteer form for attendees to indicate their area of volunteer interest and to inform you about any feral colonies they are aware of in town
      • Posters announcing the next meeting date
      • A printed agenda with time limits for each item 

    • Organizing a Successful Meeting. Set ground rules and appoint a strong, but fair, chairperson. The chairperson’s job is to maintain focus and order and prevent the meeting from degenerating into a series of "cute animal stories” or “war stories.” The appropriate time for people to chat is after the meeting ends. (As one of the organization’s leaders, don’t underestimate the value of your personal time spent getting to know people. Many valuable connections are made informally, after the meeting is over.).  Arrange follow-up items for attendees. Note action items and take action!

    • Make it fun. People come to meetings because it is a cause they believe in and want to help; but they also want their time spent devoted to causes to be social and fun. Consider offering refreshments and allow time for people to mingle and get to know one another. Invite people to bring a friend or even offer door prizes to supporters who bring the most friends. Word of mouth is your greatest ally in generating your own local movement.

  • Create eye-catching publicity materials.

    Appearance matters! If it’s too busy, hard to read, sloppy, or dull, it will not have the desired result. Use professional-looking graphics or photographs to make your materials more eye-catching. Place your logo and organizational name prominently in each piece. Design your materials to have the same look and feel to help people recognize your organization visually.

    Accuracy counts. Have at least two people proofread and edit all materials before they go out – letters, posters, flyers, literature about the group—everything. They should be checking for errors in spelling, grammar, content, and comprehension.

    Style and tone. Avoid using guilt or a “doom-and-gloom” approach. You can present substantive information in a positive manner. Your events should sound appealing and upbeat and your organization should be presented as a winning, successful program. Always phrase things in a positive light.

    Share materials all around town. Select locations and assign volunteers to post the notices. Vet clinics, groomers, public libraries, town halls, supermarket bulletin boards, pet supply stores, and local businesses should all be covered. To maintain good relations in the community, always ask permission before posting notices.

  • Build relationships with the media. Send news releases to the local newspapers and a public service announcement to local radio stations about events and organizational activities. Read more about publicity materials.

Next Step: Recruit Supporters, Volunteers, and Employees