Make sure you have all the supplies you need to pull off a proper gathering. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind:
- Sign in sheets
- Fact sheets
- Letter writing templates
- Legislative bill information
Step 2, Establish your goal(s)
Brainstorm with a committee of your peers, "what is the goal of this event?" Is it to provide information, motivate people for a specific action, increase membership, raise awareness of the ACLU in your community or to celebrate a victory?
Step 3, Pick a well-known location
Choosing the right location for your event depends on whom you’d like to attend and the particular environment you want to create. Find a home that is big enough for your guests to be comfortable, but not so large that it is difficult for people to participate in a group discussion. Other factors to consider when selecting a space include parking, access to public transportation and the distance your guests must travel to get there. Make sure the space you select is accessible to everyone.
Step 4, Promote the event
Getting people to your event is just as important as planning the program. Your event cannot be successful if people don't know it is happening. When hosting a small event for a group of friends and neighbors, send personal e-mails and make phone calls. When applicable, you may also make a private or public Facebook event to bring in folks you might not be as familiar with, or use it as a way to inspire others to follow suit.
Step 5, Confirm essential details
- Date, Time, and Location
- Describe the Event: A basic, brief description, as simple as “Letter Writing Party” or "Debate Watch Party."
- Connect with your attendees. Make sure to list e-mail and phone number of the organizer. That way any guests know whom to contact if they have any questions.
At the event
Careful preparation on the day of your house party will result in a smooth-running event. Between the time your guests arrive and when the formal proceedings begin, you should set the stage for the remainder of the event.
Be sure to keep track of who attends your event so that you can contact them again for future activities. The simplest way to do this is to have a sign-up sheet with space for the most important information: name, address, phone number and e-mail. Have a couple of pens or pencils on hand. It’s a good idea to designate a volunteer to personally ask each attendee if they have had a chance to sign in.
If your guests won’t know each other, encourage them to wear name tags. Make them beforehand if you know who is attending, or put out blank name badges or stickers along with a few markers and ask guests to create their own. Name tags will make it easier for guests to learn each other’s names and will allow you to call on people during the group discussion.
While not absolutely necessary, guests always appreciate refreshments. You can keep it as simple as coffee and sodas, with store-bought cookies or pastries. If you hold your event at a local coffee shop or restaurant, ask the owners to donate some drinks and snacks.
As your guests get settled, before the presentation begins, take the opportunity to welcome them. Introduce yourself. If the group is small enough, you might go around the room and invite each person to say their name and what brings them to the event.
Have current ACLU materials, including brochures and toolkits available. You might also pass them out after the event ends or place them on a table near the exit.
- Have a few pre-planned topics or questions. If everyone in the room seems to have something to contribute, you can scale back their ambitions to focus on a few central points and one or two urgent actions. On the other hand, you can use a question or idea as a way to elicit a response. If you need any ideas regarding what questions or topics to discuss, contact us and we will help.
- Call on people. Give each person a chance to speak and graciously limit the length of their comments.
- Stick to a time limit. If you hit your time limit and the group is still talking, ask for one last question. If people wish to continue the discussion, they can do so outside or after other people have the chance to leave.
The ACLU of Wyoming's website has detailed information about numerous civil liberties issues that can help prepare you to lead the discussion. You can share key pieces of information and breaking news and be better prepared to answer questions. If someone asks a question and you don’t know the answer, it’s OK to say you don’t know. Simply offer to find out the information and get back to them later.
- Thank guests for attending: Send out thank you cards or make a phone call to thank your attendees for taking the time to defend civil liberties.
- Answer questions left unanswered: Make sure that any unanswered questions get answered. Feel free to contact us if you need help answering these questions.
- Remind attendees to join the ACLU of Wyoming's Membership: Let attendees know that it is important to follow up on the issues that were discussed at the party and the best way to do that is to keep informed and become a card carrying member of the ACLU of Wyoming.