Just because we understand the concepts of conservativeness, freedom and liberty and we see areas where our government is abusing its citizens and exceeding its constitutional authority, may not mean we know squat about what to do next. When I formed NWPOA (North West Property Owners Alliance) I had little more than an idea and not much of a clue about how to mobilize property owners. I learned there is no “magic dust” that makes people flock to a cause especially when the local media purposefully ignores you. Frankly my early days of building an organization was filled with periods of uncertainty.
Anyone seeking to build momentum over a conservative cause is going to be asking themselves many questions and if you’re like me, you’ll have many more questions than you have answers. Honestly, I had some questions that I never figured out.
Being a little overwhelmed, I considered one question after many others; “Was there already some group or organization already doing what I was thinking of doing?” If so, I could help them and skip all the frustration and labor involved with building something from scratch. In our situation there was none, so I formed NWPOA.ORG. (Note: To get more of my personal life back, 2-years ago I resigned from leading NWPOA, I am however still very much involved with and supportive of NWPOA and its mission.)
After a period of time of trial and error, I learned about various tools that helped make building an organization and movement easier than it would otherwise be. Much of building an organization boils down to; marketing, relationships and raising money to fund new marketing activities.
Below are a few tools that I found useful in building a conservative movement of like-minded property owners and a few I have observed others using.
- Web presence – This includes not only a website, but other online social media like Facebook. Your online presence is where people will come to learn more. Pretty much everything your movement is about should be online. And make your online presence as professional and up to date as you can. Millions of people use free starter websites with companies like Weebly and progress to WordPress and then to more professional online marketing and services. (Although widely used because of being “free”, I do not use or recommend using Google anything.) FYI, if you ignore regularly updating your website, you will see a direct correlation to falling public interest. If you can afford it, hiring an experienced website guru to initially launch and then teach you the ropes will be worthwhile.
- Email list – This is how we connect with followers. While there are many “for pay” services like Constant contact, there are for free services like MailChimp. The emails should be regular, (once p/month?) contain truly useful and informative information that members can share. (I get many emails from many organizations I never read, bla, bla, bla …)
- Presentations – When you get in front of a group, you will be much more effective if you can provide visual content to go with your words. By providing visual examples everyone can more truly understand why they should be involved. Your presentation (like PowerPoint) should be on a screen large enough for everyone to see. Do not pack slides with text that you merely repeat.
- Good graphics-pictures – are very important to getting your message across. It might take 10 minutes to read 1,000 words about a budget, but it takes less than 1 minute to comprehend a good graphic showing the budget, hence the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” So by providing good graphics you shorten the time you need to convey your message and actually make it easier for others to comprehend.
- Town halls – work very well when initiated by others who will get the word out for you. Town halls are a great way to engage people one community at a time. Make sure you make the best of each town hall. If you do, it will feed and propagate other town halls. And know your material, you can expect just about any kind of question at a town hall.
- Printed material – Business cards, pass around info cards, pamphlets, etc., are all marketing tools that allow people who are interested in growing your movement to easily share information with others. In our first year at the KC Fair, I think we distributed over 6,000 pass around cards that allowed neighbor to share with neighbor what NWPOA was about. MS Publisher is a great program for creating printed materials.
- Phone message line –Providing citizens with a way to contact you (and you must get back to them) is very important to building relationships with people, yet many of us are reluctant to give our home phone or cell phone numbers out to hundreds of people. For roughly $40 annually, anyone can get a dedicated magicJack internet based phone number that will email you an audio file of every phone message you receive. One of NWPOA’s biggest supporters came from a frustrated citizen who left a phone message. Always have a phone line for people to contact you.
- Online video – While I never implemented on-line video clips to educate people, I’ve personally used them a lot. Focused short content educational “on demand” videos are very useful in spreading your message and to reach people when it’s more convenient for them to learn more. Many people upload to YouTube. (a Google company)
- Speaking to other groups – I’ve been invited to speak in front of many local groups over the last several years. Sharing with other groups is a great way to reach other people who by their participation in one group indicate they care about political/social matters.
- Annual members meeting – This can be a fundraiser, dinner and/or overall update and encouragement of progress of the organization. Our annual NWPOA dinner and auction is our major fundraiser and a good time is had by all who attend. We usually have one or more guest speakers and it is something members and political figures look forward to attending.
- Talk radio – I never used this, but was asked on several occasions to participate. Some people are faithful followers of various talk radio shows.
- Monthly group luncheon meetings – practiced by several groups locally, these don’t often attract a big crowd, rather a loyal crowd. You can have guest speakers and otherwise talk about important topics. These meetings give members a way to regularly be part of the discussion and activity.
- Cyber security – The thing about technology is it will abuse, harm and potentially destroy you if you do not manage it. Today is the wild, Wild West regarding technology and spyware is prevalent and nearly everyone is involved. Anyone using technology MUST be aware of the dangers and be doing their best not to be an easy target. Consider that you are the only one who cares to protect yourself and if you don’t care, then do not be surprised that your Smartphone and PC are actually owned (being monitored) by others who are opposed to you.
- Devotional time and prayer – While I have this last, it is by no means the least tool. For a person of the Christian faith, there not much more important than staying connected to and in relationship with, our Heavenly Father. His guidance, correction, encouragement and love are sustaining in everything we do. The fact is, many people are up to no good and some people will vengefully hate what we stand up for, so we need to stay close to God. I trust God to look out after His sheep.
It takes years to build a solid and credible movement, yet it can be brought down in a few hours. Established guardrails and diligence is required. I can think of two groups that severely hindered their effectiveness by venturing outside of proper boundaries. One group basically sold political endorsements for a price, the other has become known more for emotional rhetoric and voicing part truth and/or inaccurate information. Reestablishing credibility will take years for both.
Do not be afraid to build bridges to those perceived to be outside of your camp. Many times people will gravitate to whomever shows an interest in them. We will not win over moderates or liberals (and we need to reach them) unless we reach across and develop relationships with them. Many times we read in the scriptures that Christ “reasoned” in the synagogues and with many others He met along the way. Christ never wavered in His principles, but He did engage people not in His camp.
In this 7-part series of articles, my goal is to stimulate our thoughts and to provide clarity for what being conservative might really mean and more importantly how we can be a better example of it. The take away should inspire all of us to be better at being a true conservative.
Part 7 is “Assessing our Current Situation.”