- Get a Committee together to help plan this. Two heads are better than one… and four or six make it easier to spread both the work and the enthusiasm. Then no one feels it’s too much for them alone. If your branch is small, or you are an at-large member on your own, join with someone else, another group or a friend who is also strong and feisty!
- Hold the event someplace FUN. Book the meeting room of the most popular Coffee Shop in town, or at a private room at a fun and fancy restaurant/bar or at the house of someone everyone enjoys being around, a local ‘celebrity’. Make it someplace accessible, popular, and maybe a new place in town. Better to have it be a little smaller and cozy than an enormous space with too few people.
- What if there is a cost? Try to find a place that does not charge for the space. But if necessary, consider charging a nominal admission price to cover the cost of the room. If possible, charge just a little more than the cost, so the event can contribute to your WILPF branch fund, or to gain enough seed money to START a new branch. Ask around. Where do other organizations meet when they want to celebrate but don’t have a lot of money?
- Food and Drinks? You can encourage guests to order off the menu at a restaurant and settle their own bills. Or if it’s not at a restaurant, you can make it a “Potluck” and have everyone bring something special. Your “sponsor” might be willing to help provide some food, paper plates, cups, etc. Offer wine and beer or ice tea and coffee. Have your members bring some homemade cookies or whatever they are known for! Scottish Pasties? Kielbossa and Pierogi? Spaghetti?
- Make it FUN! There are ways to make it gracious without spending a fortune. Ask a friend to prepare flower decorations. Ask a local musician to play the piano or harp or accordian. Ask someone to perform a poem or reading of one of Jane Addams’ speeches. Print out a life-size photo of Jane Addams from the RESOURCES page. You can offer to have folks get their photos snapped along side Jane! Be sure you have a way of getting them their photos!
You can also have a LIFESIZE PHOTO of someone else, more contemporary, but appropriate… perhaps the President, a popular State Legislator, a historic labor leader like Samuel Gompers, or Martin Luther King, Jr. Abraham Lincoln, Bella Abzug or some other famously feisty woman!
- Find a sponsor! If there is a prominent Progressive contributor in town, would they sponsor your event? Maybe pay for the room, printed materials and food? They may never have heard of WILPF, or they may not know about WILPF’s long history. This is a great way to let them know more. Even if they say “NO thanks” to sponsoring, maybe they’ll attend and bring some friends. Maybe the local Unitarian Church would be willing to sponsor!
- When to schedule it? Always a tough question. You know your community better than anyone. Not on Wednesday nights when folks go to church? Not on Saturdays during football season? Ask around to see if there are conflicts you can avoid. Then go for it! There is never going to be a perfect date for everyone! A lot depends on what kind of event it is. A lecture? A brunch? A Potluck Dinner? A Bagged Lunch Speaker? A library display?
- How Far Ahead Should You Plan It? If you begin planning 3 months ahead of time, and get your ducks in a row, you have extra time to spread the word about your event. Leave at least a month for open attendance meetings. Send invitations at least 3 weeks in advance and be clear if you want an RSVP.
- Who To Invite? Each of you knows more people than you think you do. Who do you go to church with? Who do you talk politics with? Who usually invites you to their fundraising or social events? Invite EVERYONE, and be prepared for just a small percentage to show up.
How to Invite folks?
Written invitations are wonderful and make it feel very special. If you type up an invitation and print them out, try to write personal notes at the top, signed by people who know the invitees. There are some nice invitation templates on our RESOURCES page.
If you choose to invite folks by phone, be sure you actually speak to them, instead of just leaving a message.
If you email, ask them to confirm that they got your E-Vite! Or phone them to make sure they noticed it in their inbox!
If you want to have an open invitation, be sure to advertise the meeting or event at least a month ahead in local bookshops, coffee shops, libraries, grocery stores, farmers markets or coops, anywhere people gather.
Ask churches to post this in their newsletters. Be aware of how much lead time they require to get your information in time!
Ask other progressives, ally organizations, family and friends to spread the word for you, and bring friends.
- Co-Sponsors? Chances are you have worked with partner organizations in town for years. You support them in so many ways. You show up for events, you donate, you serve on boards or committees, and you support them with membership fees. Now is a good time to ask them to return the favor.
Offer to let them set up a table at the back of the room if necessary.
But insist that Co-Sponsor responsibilities include a financial donation to the event, bringing a minimum number of people, advertising the event in their newsletters and meetings and emails, or buying a certain number of tickets.
- Pass The Hat! Even if you choose not to charge admission, consider passing the hat to offset your costs or to help fund your branch’s future efforts at recruitment or activism. You plan to do great work! Makes sense to ask folks to invest in your future!
- Order a Banner from our website RESOURCES page, or make one yourself from (felt or canvas) that makes the name Women’s International League For Peace & Freedom very visible. Maybe combine it with your Branch name… or a slogan you like. Consider “Empowering Strong Feisty Women for over 100 Years” or “Peace – Justice – Human Rights – The Environment”. You can use this for all sorts of actions and protests and rallies in the future, so they know WILPF was there!
- Ask for HELP! We can help. Contact us for advice or support. But look locally too for help.
- You might consider asking a local marketing company to donate some time to help you advertise the event.
- You could ask a young graphic designer to design a flyer for you and invitati
- You could ask a local media person to cover the event.
- You could ask the local librarian to recommend people to invite.
The more people you ask for help, the more the word spreads and your community gets invested in your event!
- Invite Local Celebrities — Invite the Mayor and City Council Members. Invite local legislators. Invite media representatives. Invite prominent business women. Invite leaders of the political parties. Invite local celebrities people respect and admire. Invite progressive donors – they need to learn more about WILPF! Invite pastors of local churches. Invite African American leaders and Native American leaders. Invite College Faculty members. Invite former office-holders. Invite former branch members and their families. Invite leaders of ally organizations – labor unions, environmental groups, farmer coops, alternative medicine representatives, chairs of the political parties and of political groups.
- Have a SIGN UP Form! VERY IMPORTANT! Capture the contact information for everyone who comes! Use it to send out thank you notes or membership applications for your branch. Keeping a good list of ‘community supporters’ is important to the continued life of your branch. And if you are an At-Large Member, you want to ask attendees if they are interested in STARTING a local WILPF branch!
- What other groups do you (and others) belong to? Ask them to participate or promote your event.
Groups like The League of Women Voters, the NAACP, the local Labor Unions, the local Women’s Shelter, the Library, Churches, the Unitarian Church, the Quakers, the National Lawyer’s Guild, the ACLU, Move to Amend, Environmental groups, Farmer Coops, Veterans for Peace, Code Pink, women’s groups, social justice groups.
Don’t assume they won’t help. ASK them HOW they will help!
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