- Decide which issues you want to focus on. You and your group may be busting with enthusiasm, energy, knowledge, and experience; still, take the time to narrow your focus. If you commit to a great variety of animal issues, you may find yourselves spread too thin to be effective. Instead, organize around one issue, defined broadly enough to allow for sustainability. When deciding on your issue, use your organization’s mission and goals as a guide.
- Gather the Facts – Do Your Research. Time spent on research and planning will form a solid foundation for your program and future campaigns and will save time, preventing mistakes later. One of the most critical success factors for any campaign is having well-informed leadership who can clearly communicate information effectively to volunteers, media, and public officials. Take the time to educate yourself and your organization’s leaders by reading and sharing pertinent information, highlighting key points for future reference.
- Make connections. Network with other people who have done similar campaigns or other undertakings. Check out the Feral Friends Network to find and network with other groups and people in your area. You might also approach leaders of other local community groups that do not focus on animal issues and ask them about the best ways to get things done in your community. They may also be able to help you set up appointments with the decision makers whose minds you will need to change.
Before you talk with other group’s leaders, it is important that you get your thoughts organized and prepare a list of questions to ask that might be about doing business in your community or about being involved with animal welfare in general. These might include things like:
- What programs have worked well for your group?
- What difficulties have you encountered and how have you handled them?
- How have you successfully raise money for your program?
- How have you been successful in engaging volunteers to help your organization?
In addition to getting to know people who can help, you will gain valuable insight into your community. You will learn things like who really holds the power, who you should absolutely not approach on animal issues, or why you should never ask for a meeting with the mayor on a Monday. Also, you may be able to preemptively influence officials and avoid any potential crises.
- Track your work. If you have been doing hands-on work for any amount of time, it’s important to maintain a tracking sheet on the colonies for which you manage. Public officials may be particularly interested in your statistics and how well you can show local public involvement. If you are not tracking your work, now is the time to start. Use Alley Cat Allies’ Colony Tracking Sheet.
Leaving enough time for information gathering and research will pay off later, giving you baselines to measure your progress, and saving energy and preventing problems later.
- Consider Forming or Joining a Coalition. A coalition can be a formal or informal group that is organized around a particular issue. Coalitions can be temporary (i.e. formed around a special event) or permanent. Gather information about like-minded, local, state, and national groups. Even if you decide not to participate in a coalition, you now have an excellent list of groups that you may refer to in the future. For a list of local Feral Friends that could include groups in your area fill out our Email Aiistance Form: http://www.alleycat.org/response
How do you know if you should join a coalition? Consider these pros and cons:
Pros: Partners working together toward a common goal can lead to: combined resources, increased momentum, and a larger group of supporters to activate for events and campaigns.
Cons: Increased resources and people can lead to: infighting, delays, disagreement about tactics and increased bureaucracy. Be aware of these potential factors and maintain a positive attitude and remember you are all working for a common goal.
- Identify the Talents of Your Organization’s Supporters or Members. Find out what each person can bring to the cause. Members may be willing to speak publicly, design a website, provide accounting services, or even bake brownies for a meeting. Also, talk to members about their connections in the community. Sometimes your “in” to that local celebrity or government officials is as close as a phone call by one of your well-connected supporters. Create a spreadsheet or database to help you keep track of all of your supporters and their many talents.
- Access Free Resources in the Community:
- Local businesses. Connections in the community may be willing to provide free or low-cost copying, office supplies, or other resources you may need.
- Neighborhood email lists. Yahoo Groups and Google Groups are both excellent places to look for local email lists and build your outreach efforts.
- Local CraigsList.org. Post your needs and check the “free” section. People are always looking for good places to donate items.
- Local FreeCycle.org group. Find items you need through this grassroots group helping people network with others who are interested in their usable items.
- A classified ad in the local paper or penny saver. Publicize the help or items you need. This is a great way to solicit donations—both financial and in-kind items—as well as volunteers. Also consider building relationships with reporters or editors: they may be interested in stories about local groups, their successes, and their needs.
- Gather Expert Endorsements and Support. It is helpful to have local veterinarians, animal control, and other prominent people in your community support your organization and its campaigns. They may become members, agree to write letters on your behalf, or speak to others in their profession. Be careful not to demand too much of them. Use their voice strategically to garner the greatest support.
- Have a Response Network in Place. Whatever form your organization ultimately takes, you will need to have accurate contact information for your members and supporters as well as like-minded groups. It is essential to have internet access and your group should have a presence on the internet, including an email address and webpage. Once you have that set up, you will want to have a public email address that can be used to send action alerts, updates, and requests. Setting up a private email list on a website like Yahoo Groups or Google Groups will help you maintain information about your members and supporters and make it even easier to contact them as a group. You should also set up a phone tree for your members in case a fast response is necessary.
- Start a Media Contact List. Gather names, phone numbers, and email addresses for local and national newspapers and radio and television stations. Highlight known animal-friendly journalists and editors. Find out how your organization can publish meetings and announcements in your local paper. Take the time to ask your supporters and members if they have connections with the media. You simply never know who might know “someone.”