Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr was, without argument, the expert on creating a grassroots movement for social change. About his movement, he said, “We know from painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.” This need to demand change caused him to, among other things, organize highly effective rallies across the country. This heritage of using rallies for social change continues to this day. The experienced people at NGP VAN have been helping Democratic campaigns and nonprofits make a difference for well over ten years. They recently offered advice on their blog for forming the best rally for your organization.
Getting The Timing Right
According to Gabby at NGP VAN, rallies are a powerful way to mobilize grassroots support, but timing is of the essence since the fires they ignite in voters tend to cool with time. Other than announcement rallies, NGP VAN suggests limiting your rallies to the days before an important election or policy vote.
Managing the Details
The people at NGP VAN are activists themselves, and they understand all of the frustrating details that go into planning a successful rally. In their blog post, they mention some often-overlooked elements in planning a rally that will make a difference:
- Location- The size and type of location in which you hold your rally can make a huge difference in your turnout. Also, the shape of the venue, whether it’s outdoor or indoor, and other factors will affect whether you can draw in all of your supporters, as well as passers-by.
- Sound System- NGP VAN mentions that it is common for rally organizers to forget to consider the impact of surrounding noise when sizing the sound systems they buy or rent.
- Visuals- Be sure to have signs ready to go, and to arrange supporters with signs behind the speaker. This layout ensures that photographs taken of the speaker show a strong, active group behind them.
- Speaking Program- Pay attention while writing your speeches to avoid data and analysis that may bog down listeners. Keep comments short, sweet, and easy to understand.
- Advertising- Take advantage of various advertising methods in the days and weeks leading up to your rally. Include press releases for major and minor newspapers, and integrate social media into your plan.
Dr. King pointed out that the greatness of America came from our right to protest. By continuing in this heritage of social change, we make our future bright. Careful planning can keep your message from getting bogged down in the details. To see more of this important article by NGP VAN, click here.