A Guide to Protecting our Schools and
Communities from Shale Gas Development
Staying Connected with Supporters
There are a few easy ways to stay connected with your group of supporters. A simple way to coordinate communications between your group is to create an email or Google Group listserv. If you have more time dedicated to this work, then you can use an email newsletter platform like Mailchimp, which is a very user-friendly way to build a contact list of members and supporters and stay connected. The free version of Mailchimp provides you with templates to email up to 2,000 subscribers while automatically managing your contact list. Additionally, Mailchimp provides you with valuable data on who is reading your emails, who clicks on your links, and when people are opening and reading your communications. Staying connected with supporters is an essential way to keep the issue and important updates at the forefront of their minds. Consider sending a monthly or bi-monthly newsletter to keep your supporters informed about information such as local meeting schedules, actions or events, educational meetings or fundraisers, updates about new related studies, stories of other communities dealing with similar issues, or anything else to keep your audience engaged.
There are countless strategies and resources available for raising the level of participation in your group. To help you select the best strategy for your community, ask yourself: who is my target audience that would support the group’s mission? It could be parents in your school district, residents living closest to natural gas development, or people concerned about a special community asset or resource that deserves protection.
When using the strategies listed below, try to determine what works most effectively for your community, recognizing that your approach should be tailored to your anticipated audience and your group’s strengths and resources. Set realistic expectations for the goals of your outreach and then keep track of what worked and what didn’t. See Clean Air Council’s Community Organizing on Shale Gas Guide for more in-depth information on how to do outreach around natural gas operations.
There are two useful types of mailings that can be used to contact residents in your area: bulk mail and Every Door Direct Mail. Nonprofits can obtain a bulk mailing permit to receive lower postage rates. This type of mailing requires you to obtain a list of addresses from the county tax assessment office. The Every Door Direct program is available through the United States Postal Service to send flyers to specific zip code routes. This program sets postage costs at a reduced rate for because it is typically used by small businesses; however, individuals and groups may also use this program for mailing flyers. Bulk mailings generally have a 1% response rate, so this method is not ideal for turning out large numbers of people to an event, but still may be useful for getting important information out to a large number of people or making that one valuable connection with motivated individuals that could eventually turn into volunteers for your group.
Phone banking is when a group of volunteers work together during a short time period to call a large number of people to recruit them to an event or public meeting. This tactic is useful for turning people out to an event or making initial contact with residents to educate them about proposed infrastructure and your group’s goals. If you did not send an email reminder early enough about a meeting, phone banking is an effective way to turn people out to an event on short notice or to remind people of an important event when their presence and/or support is crucial. It is preferable to plan a script and be prepared to leave messages. Always track those individuals who indicate “do not call.” When you meet new people during outreach, make sure that you ask for a phone number. Be strategic about how frequently you use phone banking because it can require a lot of volunteer time and it could potentially bother people on your list if you call them too often.
Yard signs can be used to educate the public about proposed shale gas infrastructure. Consider implementing a yard sign campaign during the warmer summer months and be strategic about placement. You can get better rates for signs if you buy them in bulk and then ask for donations for the yard signs from supporters or members to cover the costs of printing. Try to use bold, easy to read fonts while limiting wordiness. Always try to include a website or contact information so that interested individuals can easily get involved in your campaign.
Newspaper ads and local community message boards are an effective way to spread the word about your group locally. Keep your messaging clear and concise. Advertising can be costly, so it is important to be strategic about timing and placement in using this method. Putting up a flyer on a message board at public places like coffee shops, churches, gas stations, restaurants, and other places where people congregate does not require a large investment of time and has the potential to yield new contacts. You can even prepare a flyer with tear off tabs containing your website, Facebook or email so people can take something home and contact you later.
You can use an educational event or training as a reason to get people together to start thinking about the different issues around shale gas development. Also, when people are educated about the issues, they find it easier to speak out about things they find wrong in their community. Some examples of trainings offered to community members include, but are not limited to, air quality and health impacts of shale gas infrastructure, campaign planning, media strategies, organizational skills, permit tracking, preparing public comments, and right to know laws. Click here for a list of trainings offered by our organizational members. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to request a training and we will make to connect you with the right people.
Canvassing is when volunteers go door to door to raise awareness about an issue, recruit neighbors to your organization, or ask residents to take a specific action such as signing a petition. This outreach strategy is one of the most effective because of the one-on-one interaction with neighboring community members and is a good way to engage people who are new to your cause. This method works best when working in teams that divide up a route or neighborhood to canvass. Prepare printed materials to leave with the people you talk to and extra copies for them to share with their neighbors. Create talking points and have a specific action to ask people to take. Be prepared to deal with those with differing opinions with respect while still effectively communicating the facts. Keep your audience in mind to determine when they are most likely to be home or if there are other opportunities to reach them such as at local community events, churches, sporting events, or at school. If you are trying to reach a larger amount of people in a specific geographic area, consider using phone banking before attempting canvassing since canvassing can be resource and time-intensive.
F: Conduct Outreach
Sometimes the only way people learn about what is going on in their community is by talking to their neighbors. Outreach simply means contacting other people to share information with them or invite them to something.There are several ways you can connect with others and build support for your group. Some best practices detailed in this section include staying connected with your group, connecting with other groups, outreach strategies, and trainings.