7 Tips for becoming a better anti-poverty advocate

The ONE Power Summit is always an intense time of information, revelation, and motivation for me as a volunteer activist from Missouri. The training that my fellow ONE campaigners and I receive is the fuel that powers us through the year. In the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease, the battle-weary come to DC for renewal and strength.

2014 has been no different, and the energy at this year’s summit has been particularly charged due to an opening motivational speaker who happens to be a rock star by trade. Here are a few takeaways from advocacy training, Day 1, for those who couldn’t be here.

1. Teamwork is vital to the health and growth of your district’s advocacy efforts. Build a core network of people and branch out from there. BOYO – Build Out Your Octopus. What does this mean, you ask? Leaders were asked to draw models that illustrate a teamwork structure where Congressional District Leaders assign specific tasks to VOLTs (Volunteer Leadership Teams). A few of the drawings resembled the shape of our 8-tentacled underwater allies.

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William Payne, a volunteer organizer from Kansas City, was able to take away a number of valuable tips for building his team.

“One thing that struck me was the importance of roles and accountability, as well as setting specific goals and attaching numbers to those goals. I think this will help me build a better group in the long run.”

Caption: ONE volunteer leaders work on mapping out the look of their team on paper.

2. Know your audience. Whether you’re recruiting new volunteers or persuading your member of Congress to support our programs, it is essential to know the details of their lives in order to connect. Go online and research their interests, history and involvement in the community (without stalking, of course). Find mutual friends. Identify strengths of potential new team members. You must build relationships and find areas where you may have common ground with those you’re trying to reach.

Vanessa Avila of Chicago agrees.

“I think relationship building is very important whether we’re talking about our elected officials or we’re talking about our volunteers. Connecting with them and understanding their interests enables us to build those relationships and I think that’s key in mobilizing them around campaigns.”

3. Set Goals. Once you ascertain the strengths and interests of your team, assign responsibilities with attainable goals. Most volunteers like accountability and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that goes along with accomplishing those tasks. Be sure to reward their efforts and let them know they’ve done a good job.

4. Spreadsheets Save Lives. Keep track of volunteer activities and their contact information. Tracking the numbers and measuring the effectiveness of your advocacy efforts will only make you a better team. Metrics help us to stay on track and on task. Refine your methods to maximize your time and manpower. (Check out the pic of Charlie with his “Spreadsheets save lives” poster above.

5. Plan Successful Events to meet goals and recruit volunteers. Find a great location that’s convenient, conducive, and fun. Find ways to publicize your event through social media, e-mail, phone calls, church services, op-eds, PSA’s, etc. Make sure the event is cool! Try a movie night or dodgeball tournament that connects to our message of advocacy. Tabling at concerts or political rallies is another way to gain momentum and get attention. Use clever turnout tactics by offering food and prizes, or bring in special guests or musicians that might draw a crowd.

6. Speak Confidently. Refine your public speaking skills to maximize your message. Start strong and gain the audience’s attention quickly. Know your meeting place and rehearse your message. Keep it simple and concise, and be sure to conclude with a clear ask.

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In the session I attended, ONE’s Europe Executive Director Adrian Lovett , talking to ONE members above, demonstrated how to effectively but briefly get your point across in a 90-second speech about his hometown of Portsmouth, England. The room learned in a minute and a half how Adrian found peace, love, and football (soccer) in this lovely seaside village.

7. Have Fun And Be Passionate. When your heart is in it, your audience can tell. They will forgive you for a misspoken word or a not-so-perfect presentation if your passion comes through.

In summary, day one of advocacy training was a power-packed adventure ride for the 175 organizing thrill-seekers who were in attendance. With renewed energy and a refined plan of attack, the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease just got stronger.

Got an advocacy tip you want to share? Tell us in a comment below!

Want to join us in Washington next year for the 2015 ONE Power Summit? Well, you’d better get involved in your local community! Sign up here and an organizer will contact you.