Dance Advocacy: Tips for Organizing People

If your advocacy campaign involves organizing a group of people, you’ll need to consider what makes a good experience for a volunteer. If your advocacy campaign involves organizing a group of people, you’ll need to consider what makes a good experience for a volunteer. On the Presidential campaign, I was responsible for organizing and deploying about 2,000 volunteers. Many of them volunteered over and over. I asked them why, and here is what I learned:

• Respond quickly: Volunteers contact you when they have time. If you don’t respond right away, you may miss your window.
• Be a reliable leader: Your volunteers need to trust that you are well organized, you will use their time wisely, and you will take good care of them.
 Give volunteers meaningful work: Calling a legislator is easy, but that’s not necessarily a virtue. People want to feel they are making an impact. More meaningful work is often harder and more time-consuming, but it’s ultimately more satisfying.
• Give clear instructions: Volunteers want to show up and be given the direction they need to succeed. If you can anticipate the questions they will have and address them, they’ll feel their time is being well used.
• Create community: Most people have a better experience if they are able to connect with other volunteers while doing their work. The sense of participating in something larger than themselves, together with relationships formed, is often important to volunteers.
 Give feedback: Volunteers should get a thank-you email from you with a summary of what they, together with other volunteers, accomplished. Send the thank you immediately, while they’re still feeling good. If numbers of signatures gathered or doors knocked on needs to come later, that’s another opportunity to thank people.
• Keep people in the loop: Keep participants updated on the progress of the message or action they participated in. Make sure they know about additional opportunities to get involved.

Want to learn more about dance advocacy? Click here for: Three Ways To Get Started Right Now

Jen Abrams is a choreographer, arts administrator, and 11-year member of WOW Café Theater, a collectively run all-women and -trans theater space in New York. Her work has been produced at LaMama, Dixon Place, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, DancenOw, and HERE. She is the former managing director of Risa Jaroslow & Dancers, Poetry in the Branches coordinator at Poets House, and administrative manager of Guild Complex. She is currently devoted to launching OurGoods, an online barter network for artists. OurGoods offers an environment in which artists can get their work done regardless of the economic climate. We posit an alternative to the competitive funding model — on OurGoods, the more resources each artist gets, the more resources are available for all participants.

Return to From the Green Room throughout this week for more tips and advice on advocacy from Jen Abrams.

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