Your Community Action Toolkit: How to Get Started Advocating for a Cause

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Everyone can dream of a better world, but creating it requires more than dreams. It calls for action. However, creating grassroots momentum for a cause can be intimidating. Where do you start, how do you get people on board, and can you really make a difference?

Whether you want to advocate for climate change, immigration reform, animal welfare, or another cause dear to your heart, you can make a change! This simple guide from The Catalysts for Change will help you get started on the path toward building a stronger, more just community.

Start with Yourself

Before you can take action in your community, you need to know what you stand for.

Community Tool Box notes that the first step in any community action campaign is assessment. Reflect on the causes you care about and examine the needs that exist in your community. Once you’ve identified a cause, evaluate the resources that currently exist to meet those needs and identify the gaps present in your local community. In addition to online research, this step may require speaking with experts in your community, such as political leaders, nonprofit professionals, and fellow grassroots activists.

After identifying your cause, start making changes in your own life. These may include:

  • Making personal changes to reflect your values, such as reducing your carbon footprint, registering to vote, or providing direct support to someone in need.
  • Donating to nonprofit organizations supporting the cause you care about. Donations don’t have to be large to be meaningful. However, as ProPublica points out, it’s important to vet organizations before donating.
  • Volunteering your time. If you can’t give money, give your time instead — or both! Volunteering is a powerful way to make change on the local level and connect with others who care about your cause.
  • Getting involved in local politics. Big changes start small, so start attending neighborhood and city council meetings, participate in committees, and consider running for an elected position.
  • Finishing your education. Being a change agent may require beefing up your skill set, and that can be done by going back to school to earn a degree. If you’re interested in going back to school for criminal justice, for example, you can take online classes through the University of Phoenix to get your bachelor of science.

Engage Others

One you’ve made changes in your life, it’s time to think bigger. The next step in community action is engaging others who care about the cause you believe in — even if they don’t know it yet.

Before taking this step, it’s important to prepare. Familiarize yourself with local laws regarding canvassing and public demonstrations, such as when a permit is required and where you’re allowed to demonstrate or distribute literature under free speech laws. You’ll also want to collect supplies; whether you’re gathering signatures or organizing a protest, you’re likely to need pens, paper, clipboards, and other office supplies. If you’re on a small budget, you can ask for donations to cover supply purchases or search for office supplies deals like coupons and promo codes when shopping online.

These are some ways you can engage fellow community members and garner support for your cause:

  • Organizing a community action event. Whether a public demonstration, expert panel, letter-writing event, or documentary screening, community events are a great way to educate, inspire, and increase awareness of your cause.
  • Canvassing. Big public events are powerful, but sometimes the best way to inspire change is via one-on-one conversations. Canvassers typically go door-to-door, but you may also choose to set up in a public space and engage passersby. No matter how you canvas, the important thing is providing community members with the information they need to get behind a cause.
  • Fundraising. If you prefer to act behind the scenes, fundraising is for you. Online fundraising platforms make raising money convenient, but it’s difficult to do effectively if your cause doesn’t have visibility. Consider partnering with local businesses, launching a pledge campaign, or hosting an event to generate awareness for fundraising efforts.

Once your cause has momentum, it’s important to sustain it. Capitalize on the motivation you’ve inspired through community engagement to generate sustained grassroots action in your community. After all, big changes don’t happen overnight — they require lasting efforts by empowered community members like you.

A special thank you to Dorothy Watson for providing this article. –

2 thoughts on “Your Community Action Toolkit: How to Get Started Advocating for a Cause

  1. ProPublica is a particularly good resource.
    Connecting with organizers in complementary areas is also a good idea, as is being part of an umbrella project, in order to support others on common ground. Education is crucial, but so is empathy.

    Best Regards,
    Shira, founder of Project Do Better

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