As I said in the first column in this Grassroots Leadership series, the question I get asked more than anything else is, “What can I do?”
People aren’t asking for generalities about effective leadership. They’re asking for clear instructions.
In the first two columns I discussed what is generally effective (grassroots organizing) and what is not (volunteering on a campaign or trying to educate the public).
Now it’s time to get into the nuts and bolts of grassroots leadership.
Maybe you are already involved in a grassroots group and are looking to change its direction. Maybe you run a grassroots group, but are asking “what should we focus on?”
I will cover these in a future column.
In this column, I want to discuss starting from scratch. Let’s say you have no local liberty organization, or none you’re aware of.
Sadly, this is the case for most people. This is why liberty is losing.
We need local organizations in every city and township. And every city and township has more than enough people to start an effective organization.
Where do you start? The very first step is bringing people together.
You Need To Organize A Meeting
Not online. In the real world.
There are three huge problems with meeting online.
The first is that all politics is local, and by meeting online, you’re already tempting yourself to bring in people that don’t live anywhere near you.
The group you want to create will be going out into the real world, to bring more people together and to create political impact in your area. This isn’t going to work if your group members are far-flung and aren’t going to be able to work together in the real world.
Second, online meetings are hugely dysfunctional by their nature. Any meeting with a substantial number of people is going to have a substantial number of technical difficulties. You’ll also have problems with people being inattentive and minding what’s going on around them instead of paying attention to the business of the group. You will have problems with group organization. Either a group leader will control who can speak and who is muted, which can often put off participants, or it becomes a free-for-all where people talk over each other and nobody can hear anything.
Third, meeting online will never have the human component of bringing people together to talk and socialize, and this is a critical component, especially if you’re getting people together for the first time.
Local political groups die when members don’t feel like they’re forming a community. The social aspect of a meeting is critical.
When every real-world meeting ends, people hang out and chat. This is how relationships are formed. This is often when, after someone at the meeting announces he or she wants to do something, another person or more volunteer to help. Before the evil lockdowns, people would often migrate to a restaurant to discuss matters further, and begin laying plans.
When an online meeting ends, everyone is immediately cut off. There is no immediate follow-up in a more relaxed setting.
Online meetings do not work, period.
If you have the technology and want to offer an online alternative for your meetings, where people can “watch” the real-life meeting from home and possibly comment over a PA system, that’s fine.
But you cannot rely on an online format. It will not be successful.
You need a real-world location.
Getting People Together
Before we discuss when and where to meet, let’s first discuss how the heck you find like-minded people to invite, because this will actually make these other tasks much easier.
Finding a good meeting location is difficult in these times. Normal places like restaurants and public buildings are shut down. If you can first find people with a desire to get together and meet, there’s a likelihood one of them has a heated pole barn or an office, or knows someone with a suitable meeting space.
How are you going to find like-minded citizens to invite to your meeting?
It is time to take your very first step. It is time to create your list.
The list is the backbone of every effective political organization. Whether it’s a township group or a presidential campaign, the list is the foundation.
Be organized and create a spreadsheet (or a database, if you know how). I’ll discuss list-building in more depth in a future column, but for now, just create columns for first name, last name, email, phone, address, and city. (Make sure you put first and last names into separate columns. Trust me; you’ll regret it if you only use one column for name.)
The first people is to add like-minded people you know personally that live in your city or township, or close enough to be worth inviting. Hopefully, you have at least a few people you can think of. These are your friends, coworkers, and fellow church-goers. Even if you have no particular relationship with them, if you know they share your politics, put them on the list.
Your objective is to build the biggest list you can.
Now it’s time to find some new people.
It isn’t as hard as you might think.
Take a look around your neighborhood. Depending on where you live, you might just walk, or it might be easier to drive.
Get a map and survey your neighborhood, including all of the side streets and cul de sacs. You’re almost certain to find people who still have Trump signs or flags in their yards. You’ll see “Don’t Tread On Me” flags.
But don’t just look for the telltale signs.
As you go from house to house, notice how many homes’ appearances tell a story.
Children’s toys in the yard tell you the family has young children or grandchildren. Signs for so-and-so and the sports team tells you they have middle or high school children at home.
You’ll see fishing boats, sports cars, religious symbols, and all kinds of other clues to the family’s lifestyle.
Some communities are more outgoing than others. If you come up with little information, try again at another time on another day. You’ll see different cars with different bumper stickers. You’ll see open garages that were closed before.
You’ll learn something. And you will find some households that practically scream “Liberty Supporter.”
Write down those addresses. Put them on your list.
And then you must do what is extremely hard to do for the first time: knock on their doors.
If the house is obviously a Republican household, you might say:
“Hey, I like your yard sign. I’m Adam; I live around the corner. I’m a “x” supporter too. I’m looking to get some neighbors together and start a group. Something that’s part social club, part trying to figure out what we can do to help people see what’s going on.”
I know how hard it is to talk to strangers for the first time. Start with these houses, where it’s very likely you’re talking to a friend. But if the person at the door gives you a cold “no thanks”, you just have to accept that some people are like that, and move on to the next door.
Summoning the nerve to knock on the first door is the hardest step. With every door, it gets easier.
Depending on your community, you might come up with other creative ways to find people to invite to your meeting.
I recently chatted with a business owner whose business has a high percentage of Trump supporters. I recommended this process, until I remembered he lives in Ann Arbor, a city dominated by Marxists where conservatives live in fear of expressing their opinions. He would be unlikely to find anyone with a Trump sign in the yard.
But having made the recommendation, it suddenly occurred to him:
“I get lots of Trump supporters in here every day! I’ll just start up a list!” He whipped out a pad and wrote at the top: “MAGA Supporter Group Sign Up!”
In the past four years, the guy never thought to build a list of Trump supporters. In two weeks he will have dozens of people’s phone numbers and emails.
In a normal world, a restaurant, library, or town hall would be suitable, but in this postmodern hellscape, you’ll have to be more creative.
You may find a church willing to host your group. You should certainly ask.
You may find somebody with an office or other space they will allow you to use. If they offer you the space, you need to make sure they understand and accept the risk, because you cannot allow them to cancel after you begin promoting your meeting.
If you promote the meeting in a public way, it may draw the attention of the left-wing mob. If your host is sensitive to public pressure, he might cancel your meeting. (It won’t help him/her; the mob only reacts to placation with increased hostility. But he/she won’t know that.)
On the other hand, if you only invite people to the meeting that you know you can trust, negative publicity is very unlikely. And if the host is a Liberty supporter, he/she may not care what the left says or does about it.
But before you choose a meeting location on private property, you need to make sure the host understands the risks and is willing to take them.
In the non-winter seasons, a park may suffice as a meeting location. You can probably use a pavilion without a reservation, as very few people are using them these days anyway.
Finally, you might have a meeting at someone’s home, if it meets all the proper considerations. First, it must have enough space. Second, the host must be comfortable with bringing in strangers. Some people have enough space and amenities to host a meeting in the garage or pole barn
Whatever you come up with, it has to be something, and you may have to settle for the best option among those with shortcomings.
But find a meeting place, you must.
Time and Format
Next you must set a date and time. I recommend a weeknight, 2 to 3 weeks in the future. You need to give yourself time to invite people.
As I will discuss in the next column, regular meetings should be only one hour in duration. But the first meeting may need to be a little longer.
Your first meeting is going to be mostly about people getting to know each other a little. You’ll want to allow everyone a few minutes to introduce themselves. Your first meeting might go 90 minutes, or even two hours. But it shouldn’t be longer than that.
Any weeknight is fine, even Fridays, since people aren’t going out these days. Start sometime between 6:30 and 8:00pm.
Preparing For The Meeting
Once you have a time and location, begin to invite people.
Don’t just kick out an email. Call people to follow up. Get their commitment to attend.
Make sure you create a sign-in sheet. I recommend making a sheet in “landscape” orientation (11 inches wide on the page) with little gray squares instead of blank lines to encourage people to write neatly. Include fields for name, email, phone number, and zip code.
You’ll want a clipboard and pens for the sign-in sheet. Make sure the host puts out chairs. I don’t recommend serving food, because it is distracting, but offering water or coffee is a nice touch.
Now you have everything you need to organize your first meeting.
What are you going to do at your meeting? Stay tuned for my next column.