Mom Congress: Lesson Plan for Change
Find out how you can be a part of the education reform movement and improve local schools
STEP 2: CREATE YOUR COALITION AND SPREAD THE WORD
Now that you have your foundation and key players in place, it's time to inform -- and motivate -- the school community to join your cause. There are two main keys to success: Spread the word in as many ways as you can and give parents lots of different options for getting involved.
- Create a fact sheet that outlines the main points in your case. Use your elevator pitch as your guide. You can add in more specifics (like the research that shows how regular recess/exercise improves kids'grades) as well as how much it will cost. Most important: Keep it to one page. You'll lose 'em after that!
- Brand your message. Your job is to sell people on your cause, and when you have a snappy, memorable slogan, you stand a greater chance of getting the message to stick. Tap the artistic members on your strategy team and ask them to design a logo or icon that you'll be able to use on your Facebook page (see below), and on signs, flyers, etc.
- Start a Facebook page. Or a website. Or a Twitter account. Or all three! You'll want a central place where people can go to get all the detailed info about your project. Here's where you'll post not only your fact sheet, but all your supporting documents, details about events and fundraisers, updates on your progress you get the picture. You can invite people to download your logo to display on their own pages. As your fans grow, you'll be able to quickly inform the masses. Social media outreach also gives the parents who care -- but may not have the time or ability to help in a big way -- an opportunity to stay involved and up to date. They may not be able to attend a rally or a meeting, but they can sign an online petition (next!) and share their personal experiences with the group at large.
- Launch a petition drive. There's nothing like a long list of names to prove that people care about an issue. You'll want to collect them from all fronts, so along with posting a petition online, plan to hit the bricks, too. Set up a table (with permission) outside the local grocery store or coffee shop. Walk the pick-up line after school. Knock on some doors. You can't have too much support.
- Have coffee with the board. It's smart to reach out to the individual members of your school board, especially the ones who might be particularly passionate about or sympathetic to your project. You'll want to focus on the bottom line: how the kids, the community -- and the budget -- will benefit long-term.
- Loop in your PTA/PTO. Ask to give a brief presentation during one of the meetings. You'll have a captive, engaged audience, who will likely be eager to help you get the word out.
- Build local alliances. See a pattern? Building your coalition is all about the schmoozing. If you've got a project that will benefit the town at large (such as a playground, pool, or other new facility), set up meetings with local business owners as well as your local government officials. You never know how they may be able to lend support, whether it's with direct funding, construction supplies, free printing or design work, or event support.
- Contact local media. Designate a member of the team to handle public relations, and ask her to draw up a press release you can send to the local education reporters for your TV stations and newspaper. (Another place your fact sheet will come in handy.) Just as important: Be sure your outreach includes your local parent bloggers -- even if they're not in your district, chances are they have fans who are.
- Brainstorm fund raisers and research possible grants. You know you probably won't get the district to pony up all the cash you need, especially for an expensive project like a playground. So now's the time to figure out where and how you can start raising the cash. These details will be necessary when you present your case to the board.