5. Build a Campaign


Total Length: 5 hours 20 minutes

Team Work: Everybody’s a Strategist 20 minutes

Goals and Targets 15 minutes

Team Work: Goals and Targets 50 minutes

Team Work: Power-mapping 20 minutes

Tactics 15 minutes

Team Work: Tactics 45 minutes

Strategy 10 minutes

Team Work: Flip the Blanket 20 minutes

Plan an Action 15 minutes

Team Work: Event Planning 40 minutes

Recruitment 10 minutes

Engage Your Officials 15 minutes

Team Work: Grassroots Lobbying 45 minutes

Session Materials

Participant guide: .doc .pdf

Powerpoint: .ppt

Host Materials

Facilitator notes: .pdf

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”

– Mahatma Gandhi

Team Work: Everybody’s a Strategist


The purpose of this exercise is to identify experiences we have in achieving a particular goal and some of the factors that allowed us to succeed — both within our control and beyond.

Agenda Time
Total Time: 20 minutes
1. Gather in small groups, each person with paper and pen or pencil. Choose a timekeeper. 4 min
2. Individually think of a time in your life when you successfully worked to convince someone or some institution to get something you (or your team) wanted. It could be a past campaign, or a time when you needed to convince your parents or your boss to let you go on that trip – anything in between is fine. Draw or write the story (stick figures are great!) 6 min
3. Share your stories with the group – be sure to include your goal, and how you worked to achieve your goal. 5 min

4. Now answer the following questions as a group: 

  • What were the elements of your stories that were in your control that allowed you to succeed?
  • What were the external factors that allowed you to succeed?
5 min

You’ve just evaluated a campaign strategy on some scale – what are some of the factors you came up with as a group that will be important to take into account when building a campaign?

We’ve talked a bit about campaign strategy, and how we as citizens can organize towards a goal. Now, let’s take a minute to go into a little more depth about building a campaign.


So, what exactly is a campaign?

A working definition of campaign (n.) is an organized course of action to achieve a particular goal.

Now, not every organized course of action is a campaign. For example, while making yourself a grilled cheese sandwich may be an organized set of actions that reaches the goal of feeding a hungry climate activist, it’s missing a few critical pieces.

Let’s break down our definition into two key parts:

  1. An organized course of action
  2. A particular goal

It’s helpful to think about a campaign starting with what you want to achieve – the goal – and then moving backwards through the organized course of action.

Part of deciding a course of action is coming up with your Theory of Change. This is an ‘if/then” statement that describes your expected outcomes if you take a particular course of action (i.e. If I show my local leaders that I’m getting to work making my community climate-friendly, then they will take the initiative to do the same on a City- or Nation- wide scale.)

Questions to consider when developing your theory of change:

  1. What change do we want?
  2. Who has the resources to create that change we want?
  3. What do they want?
  4. What resources do we have that they want or need?

Here’s the theory of change we use at 350.org:

If people organize in their communities across the world, then over time we will generate the political will necessary to overpower our opposition, and pass strong international and national climate policies.

We run a lot of different projects, but they all lead to the common goal of a national and international climate policies commensurate with what science and justice demand. All of the actions we organize bring us closer to achieving that goal, and that’s why we’re all here today. This workshop will help us refine our organizing skills so that we can make our actions more powerful, and our longer-term campaigns successful throughout the world.

Goals, Targets and Tactics

While we may all have the same particular goal, the way we go about getting there may be different. It’s important that we all show a unified front, build people power behind the 350ppm target and climate solutions. However, each organizer will have to decide on national, regional or local goals that link to the international aim. In the past, climate activists have taken on a number of related issues, including:

local food and agriculture

clean water

human health

human rights

wildlife conservation

free speech

peace and security

fossil fuel development


sustainable development

indigenous rights

faith, religion and spirituality


womens’ and LGBTQ rights


oceans and water



social justice / minority rights

Pick a local issue that matters to your community, and research how it links to climate change and the 350ppm target. 350.org has fact-sheets on many of these, but it may be helpful to go to the library, talk to leaders, follow the newspapers, radio and TV shows and search on the internet to find a goal that is appropriate.

Make it SMART

Your campaign objective should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Ambitious, Realistic, and Time-bound. This means you should specify what exactly you want to achieve and (hopefully) by when. You should be able to clearly measure or envision your achievement. Although your objective should be ambitious, make sure that it is possible to achieve in the time that you have specified for it. In the case of 350.org, we’re pushing for national and international climate policies commensurate with what science and justice demand.

It’s specific, because it calls for exactly what we need, and identifies the 350ppm target. It’s measurable, because we can measure CO2 in the atmosphere, and tell whether we’ve passed a global deal that gets us there. We know it’s ambitious because scientists say that if we take action now, we can avoid catastrophic climate change, but it’s going to take all the countries in the world working together to get there. It’s realistic because we’ve built movements and made global transitions before, and it has been successful. Finally, we know that we only have a few years to enact legislation for clean energy and climate before we pass the scientific tipping points, so we are time-bound.

When you decide on what local issue you want to link up with 350.org, make sure that your objectives are SMART. It’s good practice to write it down so that you can explain it clearly to people who join your activist group.


Now that you’ve learned about goals, let’s come back to the first part of the definition of campaign: an organized course of action. It’s not enough to know about a problem and complain about it. Your job as an organizer is to talk to as many people as possible, engage, inspire, and build people power such that it becomes impossible for the decision-makers to ignore us.

It’s important to know who those key decision-makers are and what their interests are in order to have the most impact. It wouldn’t make sense, for example, to stage a protest on the front step of the Finance Minister’s house if it’s the Environment Minister who decides on your country’s forest protection policy. If you’ve done enough research about who holds the power, what institutions make decisions, and are following recent developments, you will be able to tell where you may be able to have some influence. When deciding on a target, it’s best if you choose a person, rather than an institution, because it easier to understand what specifically might influence him or her.

Building power is hard work, but anybody can do it. One way to start is by identifying all of the stakeholders (groups, individuals, companies) related to your goal, and figuring out how much influence they have on it. Above is a simple diagram that shows what a typical community power structure might look like. Later on, we’ll show you how to create your own power map (don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it looks!)

One final, but important point: make sure that you stay focused on your targets while staying nimble. It’s easy to get sidelined barking up the wrong tree, and never realize that there were other opportunities to apply pressure in different ways. Targets can change throughout a campaign, but it should always be clear who/what they are.


Team Work: Goals and Targets

Now that you know how to choose goals and targets, take a few minutes to think about your own local goals, and how you will use locally relevant issues to mobilize people in your community around 350. Think through what the end result of your campaign might be – make sure it’s SMART!

Agenda Time
Total Time: 20 minutes
1. Gather in your team. Timekeeper begins keeping time. 4 min
2. Take time individually to think about 3 goals for your local group that you think could link 350.org to local issues. 6 min
3. Discuss with your team each of the goals, and review SMART for each goal. 5 min
4. As a team, build your power-map. 5 min

You’ve just evaluated a campaign strategy on some scale – what are some of the factors you came up with as a group that will be important to take into account when building a campaign?

We’ve talked a bit about campaign strategy, and how we as citizens can organize towards a goal. Now, let’s take a minute to go into a little more depth about building a campaign.

Write down 3 goals:




Choose your best goal, and use SMART to evaluate it:









Time bound




Activity: Power-Mapping

Power-mapping is one helpful activity for identifying targets and honing your strategy. The idea is to map out your potential targets, and the institutions and individuals who influence your target so you can begin to understand possible points of leverage. A power map can be a useful visual tool to help your team understand power, and see possibilities for campaigning.

Here’s an example of a power-mapping activity that you can use with your leadership team at home.

Step 1: Choose your target. It’s best if you choose a person, rather than an institution, as it easier to understand what specifically might influence him or her.

Step 2: Map the influences on your target. Now with your team, begin placing people and institutions in your community on the map. You’ll see that there are two axes on the map – one indicates how influential that person is to your target, and the other shows whether that person is for or against your position (or neutral).

Be sure to think really broadly about who is connected to your target – think work, political, family, religious, and neighborhood ties. For elected officials, be sure to look at their major donors and key constituencies.

Step 3: Take a step back. Discuss with your team – what do you notice? Where do you see opportunities to get to your target? Highlight the people or institutions on the map in one color with whom you have good relationships. Highlight in another color the people or institutions who you believe you could influence.

Step 4: Make a plan. What opportunities exist to influence your target? Discuss how your strategy could shift to take advantage of those opportunities.


There are many ways to influence decision-making on an issue. In this section, we will discuss some basic tactics that you can use to pressure targets to move toward your campaign objective. Think of each tactic as a tool in your toolbox to make change. You can pick and choose, combine them and create new ones depending on who your target is and what their interests may be. Note that a discussion on tactics should always come after deciding on campaign goals and making a power map. That way, you can be sure that your tactics serve the final goal of your campaign.

For example, it wouldn’t necessarily make sense to chain yourself to a tree if your goal is to secure sustainable development assistance for your village and your target is your finance minister. Unless he has some connection with trees—or that tree in particular—your tactic doesn’t match up with the goal or target.

Recognizing the creativity within ourselves and our organizing communities is just as critical as raising enough money to pull off something big. Effective actions are supposed to make people think outside the box, and so they need to be out of the ordinary. Our world is changing at a breakneck pace, and as activists, we need to keep developing new, innovative tactics to get out messages and flex grassroots muscle.

What makes a good tactic:

1. It has a built-in theory of change: If ___________________________then _________________________.

2. It fits within your strategy

3. It helps build leaders and leadership capacity.

4. It’s creative and fun!

Below is a list of common tactics that you can use in your community to affect change. This is by no means meant to limit you – use your imagination and you will come up with new, exciting ones.


One basic way to get your message heard is to have supporters sign a petition about a certain issue. If you’re working on getting the town council to put up a solar panel on your school, for example, it could be helpful to have all the students and teachers sign their names to a statement. Two key pieces of a petition are the target (make sure you have a very clear one) and the delivery. Running a petition without a public delivery is like climbing a mountain and deciding to turn around before you reach the top.

Make sure that you plan a public delivery, and that the local media covers you delivering the petition, so that everybody who signed it feels like their voice was heard, and all those who hadn’t heard about the petition learn about the issue.


A boycott is a very effective way of targeting companies or businesses that are blocking the way, either because they perpetrate injustice on people and the earth, or because they support groups or government agencies that do. Boycotts can take many forms, but involve avoiding purchasing goods or services from a business, and encouraging others to do the same. If a business leader does not feel the need to change his or her tune on an issue after being asked repeatedly, you can hit that business at it’s bottom line. Boycotts are typically sustained, public actions, and are most effective when widespread, and combined with other tactics.

Good Media, Bad Media

The news media, both online and offline, have enormous sway on stakeholders and the general public. You can use tactics like penning op-eds, running advertisements and Public Service Announcements (PSAs) on radio, TV, online and in print. You can use the media to publicly shame opponents or vaunt allies. We will talk more about using media effectively in the “Spreading the Word” session.

Using viral online and guerrilla media can get a simple symbol or slogan into stakeholders’ and the general public’s minds. Putting the number 350 in places where people don’t expect it, or spreading a ‘meme’ through online social networks are ways to influence decision-makers and the public in more subliminal ways.

Road tour/Bike Ride

Many of our friends and allies have used caravans or road tours to spread the word about climate action and garner press about solutions. While road tours are relatively resource-intensive, they can be very rewarding. In India, for example, a group of Indian youth climate activists drove two electric cars from village to village around the country, spreading the word about climate change, collecting stories of local climate solutions and building a network of dedicated supporters in strategic locations. You can run a road tour in cars, trucks, on bicycles or even on foot!


Music is a big part of our lives, and in the past it has provided a lot of the spirit for social change—it’s hard to imagine the civil rights movement without the freedom songs that helped give people courage and solidarity in the face of real brutality. But environmentalism has never been a particularly musical movement; it has tended to be highly rational, to make more use of statistics than perhaps it should, and less of guitars and drum kits. A concert will entertain your core audience, attract passersby, and get musicians involved. Often, three or four songs performed between speakers or activities are enough from any one act. And don’t forget to send thank-you notes to musicians after the event—they have (hopefully) given you for free what they’re used to being paid for.


This is our bread and butter. The team behind 350.org have organized and attended hundreds of rallies and marches. Why? Because they are fun, easy and often the most effective ways to get people involved from the smallest village to the largest metropolis. They can be celebratory and fun for the whole family, and still garner media and become moments of public pressure. Rallies and marches, if done right, can uncover a movement that may have previously been invisible at a local, national or international level. They can also provide the energy and morale boost your group needs to continue the hard work of solving climate change.


A huge part of your job as a climate organizer is to educate the public and your elected officials about climate change and how it connects to your community. Giving a presentation or putting together a teach-in can be a downright radical act in some places in the world. Facts are often our best friends in the fight to stop climate change, but make sure that you keep the language at the level of the people you’re talking to. Too cursory, and you won’t get your point across; too technical, and participants’ eyes will glaze over before you can say “350.”

Getting high-profile people to repeat your ask

Sometimes it takes the right messenger to put your issue on the plate of the decision-maker. That’s why so many advocacy organizations turn to people like Bono and Angelina Jolie to talk about their issue and the solutions they seek. You don’t have to get a movie or rock star, but having a few influential people in your community on board is a useful tactic to pursue, as people are more likely to listen to people they know and trust.


A sometimes daunting word, lobbying is nothing more than sitting down with an elected official and asking him or her to take your concerns into account. It’s fairly easy to set up a meeting with a politician or official. Make sure you’re brief, to the point, and have a solid, actionable ‘ask’ that he or she can move forward with. It’s good to go with a partner or a small group, but avoid making threats or being too angry. Stay positive, but be firm about what you’re asking for. (Check out our Engage Elected Officials session for more on this topic.)


Sometimes you have to spice things up to get attention, and you need to find new ways to get your message across to a broader audience. Stunts are all about getting attention- its about using theater or a direct action to catch people’s attention. The best stunts often use a bit of humor or a touch of the absurd: for example, using puppets, street theater, costumes, flash mobs, or props.

Some examples: 350.org and our partners recently used a massive street theatre presentation, complete with huge 20 ft puppets of politicians with bags of money, to draw attention to the dirty work of the US Chamber of Commerce; A union recently held a large scale flash mob on Capitol Hill where everyone sang about fair wages; Greenpeace’s broke into a coal-fired power plant, scaled the stacks, and painted “Quit Coal” on the side of an urban coal plant. These are all examples of stunts.

Direct Action and Civil Disobedience

Direct action is a way to take action outside normal social/political channels. Direct action should always be non-violent, and usually targets people, groups or property that characterize the issue. Civil disobedience is the active refusal to obey certain laws, demands and commands of a government, or of an occupying power, without resorting to physical violence.

When a climate activist drops a banner on the smokestack of a coal power plant or occupies a government building, that is direct action. When all other options have been exhausted, sometimes direct action can be used to directly pressure a stakeholder if he/she will not change his/her position after using other strategies.

Direct action and civil disobedience should always be non-violent, so as to show the opposition that we are willing to reconcile differences as soon as they realize that they are morally wrong. If your group is considering direct action, make sure that you have exhausted all other options, that you have evaluated what the results may be, and accepted the risk, and have planned logistics for any eventuality ahead of time. Direct action should not be taken lightly.

Direct action and civil disobedience are also often discussed as “escalated tactics” as they generally have more severe risks and consequences associated with them, but they are also often considered a strategy unto themselves. Particular acts of non-violence civil disobedience can be useful tactics in the context of a larger campaign, but in some cases that civil disobedience can be the essence of the campaign as well, embodying a full strategy of resistance against an injustice.

Creative Tactics

Don’t get stuck using the same tactics over and over – they will get boring for you, less exciting for participants and less effective politically. There are a whole host of creative tactics you can use, from arranging a flotilla down a local river, putting together an activist art installation, doing street theater, holding a vigil or prayer service, or any other publicly engaging action. Invent a new one yourself!


Team Work: Tactics


To understand the toolbox of tactics that is available to a campaigner, and when those tactics should be utilized.

Agenda Time
Total Time: 45 minutes
1. Gather in your team. Timekeeper begins keeping time. 5 min
2. Look over the three campaign situations provided. List and discuss what tactics might work in each case, and why. 20 min
3. Review the goals for your campaign, and write down some tactics that may work in your community. 10 min
4. Discuss with your team why the tactics you chose might work. 10 min

Below are three campaign situations that an organizer might run into. Think through and discuss the best option in terms of targets and tactics – it can be either one or a combination – that will work

1. You are trying to get your Mayor to agree to fund the installation of a solar panel on the primary school in your town. Despite repeated attempts to set up a meeting with the Mayor to discuss this opportunity, she does not respond to your requests, and avoids bumping into you and other prominent members of your climate action group while walking around town. What do you do?



2. You’ve been working with a local pickle-making factory to green their practices, since they dump hundreds of gallons of briny garlic water into a nearby estuary daily. They recently introduced recycling bins into their employee cafeteria and put bike racks outside the main office, and now market themselves as “the first green pickle producer in the province,” even though they are still dumping hundreds of gallons of waste water into a fragile marine ecosystem. What do you do?



3. You’re deep in the planning process for your next public event; You’ve gotten a group together and decided to focus your efforts on convincing your MP or Senator to vote for an upcoming bill that will regulate carbon dioxide emissions from all power plants and factories. A group of private power plant operators in your district have hired professional lobbyists to oppose the bill. How can you effectively use your event to put pressure on your representative to do the right thing? What combination of targets/tactics might work?



Now, review what the goals and targets are for your local/regional/national campaign, and think about what combination of tactics may work. Remember that the order and timing in which you apply each tactic matters – sometimes it helps to think of campaigning as a game of chess, and try to anticipate a few moves ahead of where you are.

Write down how you might apply tactics to your campaign here:









What is strategy?

Strategy is your overall plan to turn the resources you have into the power you need to win the change you want.

Some like to think of it this way – if tactics are the tools, targets the nails, and goals the finished building, then strategy is carpentry.

Strategy is:

  • Dependent on the resources and opportunities you have
  • Creative
  • Always changing, as the political and movement landscape changes (we like to say “Strategy is a verb”)


Leverage is our potential capacity to build power and influence our targets’ decision-making to get what we want. Leverage can come in the form of votes, money, or even reputation.   [from MoveOn, paraphrased]

Why story is an important part of strategy

In other sessions of the 350 workshops curriculum, we cover how to tell your individual and community story in order to motivate people to action. Storytelling is also an important part of strategy – telling your own story of change, instead of your opponent’s story or the dominant story, can be very powerful. By getting your story out through the media, spokespeople, social media, campaign materials and your actions, you can work to shift the assumptions that make up the dominant story about the issue you’re working on.

Questions to ask when developing a strategy

Sometimes when we develop a strategy, it’s easy to zoom in too close on the goals, targets, and tactics, and forget to look at the big picture. By zooming out and thinking about the strategy, we can remember to ask ourselves some critical (and often common sense) questions before committing ourselves to a line of action that might not be strategic. Here are a few to ask your group as you begin to focus in on your strategy:

  • What are our opportunities (upcoming events, elections)?
  • What are our limitations (financial, time, etc.)?
  • What resources do we have (time, energy, creativity, etc.!)?
  • Do we believe the tactics we are employing have the potential to influence our target/reach our goal? Why, how?


Team Work: Flip the Blanket


To understand the toolbox of tactics that is available to a campaigner, and when those tactics should be utilized.

Agenda Time
Total Time: 20 minutes
1. Gather in your team with one blanket per team. 3 min
2. Turn the blanket over (flip it over) without anyone stepping off the blanket. (So no leaving the blanket, leaning on walls, etc.) If anyone the group steps off the blanket, or someone steps on the ground, start over again. 10 min
3. Reflect on what the goal was, what strategy was planned, and what tactics were used, and share your reflections with the larger group. 7 min

[Activity designed by Nadine Block and published by Training for Change]

Plan an action

One of the best ways to get the attention of your target/audience is through concrete events: whether you are planning a festival, a rally, a bike ride, or street theater, there are a few key essentials to lay out before your event. This section will cover different types of events, logistics of event planning, and how to set up your program or stunts for the day of.


Remind yourself of the basics

As usual, your first step will always be to assess your goals, targets, tactics, strategy and theory of change before you plan your event specifics. Involve your core team in discussing and deciding event-specific goals to make sure everyone is bought-in (feels a sense of ownership or commitments towards the idea based on real shared vision or belief in the plan).


Event Goals: examples of specific achievable goals for your event

  • Build power for your local team
  • Sign up 1000 new supporters in your area (to your email or mailing list).
  • Get 25 people to visit the office of a government official to talk about climate change.
  • Sign up 50 people to write a letter to the editor for a local newspaper.
  • Get coverage for your issue in specific local newspapers or blogs.
  • Pressure your MP or Member of Congress to vote your way on a specific bill.
  • Pressure your city council to act on a local issue.
  • Sign up 100 volunteers for a specific local environmental non-profit.

Event audience: examples of potential targets and audiences for your specific event:

  • Local government officials.
  • MP or Member of Congress.
  • Local media or blogs (do you want to build a better relationship with local media?)
  • Local residents who are not yet informed about your issue.
  • Local residents passionate about your issue who are not yet involved.

Recruit your Team, Generate Buy-in

Ever get half way into your event planning, and realize that you seem to be the only one making decisions? The first step to having a good event is having a good team. Here are some tips for getting folks to buy in:

  • Involve them in decision making
  • Give each team member a specific role
  • Make sure everyone leaves meetings with at least one action item
  • Figure out what skills and passions people have, and use them
  • Make specific asks
  • Only ask people to do what you would do yourself, never pass off the hardest jobs
  • Explain your goals, and make sure everyone knows what is needed to achieve them
  • Make sure volunteers know how their task is essential to achieving overall goals

Once you have buy-in from everyone at the table, be honest about what skills are missing from your group. Next, brainstorm who you know with those skills, and ask them to help.

Remember: You rarely get more than you ask for, and people don’t know what you need until you ask! Making explicit asks to team members and potential volunteers is key to putting on a good event.

Setting the Program and Lining up Speakers

Once you have a clear idea of your goals, audience, group and event, you have to nail down your program and speakers.

The program for your event should be designed to further your event goals. Whether you are inviting speakers or performing a stunt, the key is to lay out, far in advance, how to best deliver your message.

Make sure to look at the media section of this guide to find information on identifying the right speakers/ spokespeople for your event, in this section we will only be covering logistics.

Logistics and Timelines

Once you have an idea of what your goals are, make sure you have a timeline and checklist for achieving them. The timeline/checklist is also a good opportunity to test whether your goals are achievable with the people power and time you have available. Readjusting goals after completing your timeline and checklist is never a bad idea.

Team Work: Mapping your path to a successful event


To practice using the event-planning skills you’ve just learned.

Agenda Time
Total Time: 40 minutes
1. Gather in your team and read the scenario below. 10 min
2. Create a checklist for completing the necessary tasks for this event, including inviting and confirming speakers and spokespeople, and a timeline for completing each task on the checklist. 15 min
3. Assign tasks/roles to everyone in the group. 5 min
4. Choose one person on your team to report back to the larger group. 10 min

Scenario: Your team has decided on a 5 mile bike ride to your state/regional capitol for an event to call on your [government official] to protect the regulate coal-fired power plants, chemical plants, and refineries. Your plan is to have 2,000 people ride their bikes from a local university campus to the lawn in front of the state capitol. Your team is planning to invite another supportive local government official who is a powerful local religious leader to speak, and a hip new band in town that appeals to students to play. You are hoping to have one local grassroots activist introducing the event to invite more people to join the cause. You will need a stage, a sound system or mega-phone, a permit for the space, volunteers to set up, shut down, and do crowd control, someone to coordinate speakers, and someone to liaise with police. On top of all that, you will likely want as many partner organizations on board as possible, especially student groups.

Key questions to consider:

  • How far in advance will we need to invite speakers to confirm they can come and get alternates if they can’t?
  • When should we secure a permit?
  • How many volunteers will we need to sign up 2,000 people and coordinate their travel across 5 miles?
  • How many people will we need for crowd control at the event?
  • How do we make sure not to miss details? Did we appoint one person to coordinate between different tasks and roles?
  • Will we need funds for any of these tasks? If so, when should we start fundraising?
  • What roles are needed to make this event run smoothly the day of, and what roles will we need in the leadup to the action?

Other resources:

Moving Planet organizing guide: http://www.moving-planet.org/resources

10/10/10 organizing guide: http://www.350.org/10steps

24 September 2011 guide: http://www.moving-planet.org/plan

Mass action recruitment

It’s not always the case, but it’s very often true that bigger numbers of people means greater impact. But getting lots of people active on climate change isn’t always easy, so now we’ll look in more detail at some strategies for recruitment alone.


What is recruitment?

Recruitment simply means bringing more people into your local movement to be able to build power. There are many ways to reach new people–in some cases, you will be recruit people to show up to an event, while in other cases you will recruit more volunteers to join your organizing team.


Why should we recruit?

There are lots of reasons you’ll want to bring more people into your organizing – here are just a few:

  • Creates visibility for your initiative
  • Builds numbers and therefore your power to make change
  • You can tackle larger campaigns with more people
  • Keeps us in touch with what people are thinking
  • Brings in new ideas
  • Builds a sense of team/community


How should we recruit?

With our hearts. People will be most likely to join in when your story and message resonates with them. It’s critical to empower all of your fellow organizers and volunteers to really connect with the people they’re asking to join you, and to spread the word about the work in a way that demonstrates their passion. That’s why its critical to spend time with your team of volunteers, staff, or friends that are helping with recruitment to make sure they really understand the strategy, vision, and inspiration behind the campaign or event you’re planning together – if they aren’t bought in, it’s hard for them to convince others!

With our heads. Time to set a numerical goal! Here’s what often happens when people organize events: they spend all their energy getting the permits, setting up the logistics, and confirming speakers that they leave recruitment at sending a few emails, updating their facebook status and posting up some fliers at the local coffee shop. We assume that since all our energy has gone into organizing this event, that everyone must know about it and be planning to show up! Unfortunately it’s not usually that easy.

That’s why it’s helpful to start out your event organizing by setting a goal for recruitment. Your goal could be informed by a few different things, such as aiming for an increase over the number of people who attended your last event, or trying to estimate the number of people needed for the newspapers and local government to take notice. Sometimes it can be helpful to see how big other events have been in your town that have attracted media coverage as a guideline. It may feel difficult or like guesswork to pick a number. That’s ok–do your best to pick a reasonable goal, but don’t worry too much. The important thing is to have a goal to work with. Be sure to discuss your goal with your team so everyone is bought into it!


Reaching your goal

Now you need to reach your goal. Contrary to popular belief, if you reach out to 1,000 people over email, phone, or in person, 1,000 people will not show up to your event. The numbers are actually typically far lower. There are two important things to remember:

  1. Always reach out to more people than you want to actually show up.
  2. You may need to reach people several times for them to actually show up–political campaigners estimate you need to contact someone 3-5 times to get them out to vote, for example.

Engage your officials

While single actions and individual campaigns are great for recruitment, building a strong movement able to move targets to support science-based climate action will take years of sustained organizing – enough to build a distinct constituency with real political power. It will take multiple campaigns, multiple actions, across multiple election cycles. The climate movement is a growing political force, but we are up against powerful entrenched opposition with decades more experience than us.

Fossil fuel companies form reliable opposition to climate action at the local and national level. To rebut their influence our support for climate action needs to be equally reliable.

We need politicians to trust and fear us. We need to cultivate clear champions for our cause at all levels of government (and make sure to show them support), as well as stiff opposition for our political foes.

Our movement is fired up, and we’re just getting started. To firmly shift the balance of power into our hands, elected officials need to know and respect our power. The bottom line is that to stay on their radar we need to interact with politicians on a regular basis. Sustained organizing in your community and sustained contact with their staff is the best way to build and leverage our power over time.

Relationships with elected officials and their staff

It’s important to keep in touch with your officials and their staff after each meeting or event. Ask if there are other staff you should be in touch with. Share your relationships with other members of your team, and be sure to “pass on” a relationship if you don’t have time to maintain it. Here are a few ways to stay in touch effectively:

Email: Short email updates about your organizing efforts are great ways to remind officials of our growing power. Photos, videos, press clips, blogs, or quick memorable stories are all great to send to your contacts. Quick reactions  to good/bad actions on behalf of your target are great to share rapidly. “I heard your boss talking about climate impacts on the news last night. Thanks!”

Meetings: Meeting in regular intervals is a great way to show an elected official that you want to stay engaged. Bring new people into the room with you to show the breadth of your organizing.

Invitations to speak at events: Provide a supportive venue for your target to “step it up” on your issue.

Bird Dogging: Attend a public event with Q&A and ask your elected official a question. “Softball” questions give them a chance to show off how much of a champ they are (i.e. “You voted for a great bill that will fight climate change ans help fix for the economy, but it didn’t pass because of opposition from oil and coal. Do you plan to keep fighting for a clean energy economy despite powerful opposition from fossil fuel companies?”)

“Hardball” questions that will make them squirm: “Why did you vote to give tax breaks to oil companies making billions in profits?”

Why should we lobby?

Lobbying is simply holding a meeting with an elected official, and talking to him or her about the issues that you care about. Here are a few reasons we might lobby:

  • To clearly communicate our asks: “support x Bill, make a public statement against X coal plant at our event.”
  • To convey our growing power: “We have a central group of 10 meeting once a week and we had an event with 50 people last month, here’s some media from our event.”
  • To hold elected officials accountable: “why didn’t you support X?”
  • To gather information: What motivates our target? What excuses are they giving for inaction? What can we do to get you to support our cause?
  • To keep us on their radar: we want to make sure elected officials factor us into their political calculus when they make decisions about climate and energy policy.

Our Targets

In the previous section of this workshop, we talked about picking a target. Because of their decision-making power, elected officials often end up as targets of our campaigns. They can include:

  • Legislators (senators, representatives, members of parliament)
  • Heads of State (President, Prime Minister)
  • Mayors (local officials)
  • Governors (state/regional officials)
  • Appointees (Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Minister of Foreign Affaris, Energy Minister, etc. oftyen unelected)

What do our targets care about?

Most politicians care about one thing more than anything else: ELECTIONS. We have more power over elected officials than over political appointees, and we have the most power over elected officials in the year/months leading up to elections. If our targets aren’t elected (i.e. they’ve been appointed, or hired to lead an agency), they may care about maintaining legitimacy, credibility and public support. Finally, everybody in public office wants to feel like they’re doing the right thing (even if they aren’t). Every target is vulnerable to public praise or criticism.

Communicating Our Power

Here are a few examples of how to communicate our power:

  • Community Ties: I am a (mom, student, business owner, doctor, young professional, etc), and I have lived in (town)_____ for _____ years. I’m active in my community through (group, group, group). Make it clear that you interact with other networks on a regular basis.
  • Commitment to Organizing: Recently I organized/wrote/built ___ with ___ other people.  I raised $___ for ____ initiative from ___ donors.  Every election season I get involved by doing ____.
  • People Power: Make it clear that you represent hundreds (thousands? millions?) of like-minded people in your community.
  • Your Story: What motivated you personally to get active on climate change? What keeps you going? Share your passion with decision makers directly.
  • Ready for More: I’m going to stay engaged and organize around climate change in my community for years to come.
  • A Diverse Movement: highlight the diversity amongst your group – and the broader movement. Talk about the other groups/individuals you work with, especially if they overlap with more conventional political “constituencies” like: people of faith, seniors, hunters, or students. Let them know you are inspired by fellow activists all over the world who are part of a growing climate movement.

Some stock questions that staffers or elected officials might ask at a lobby meeting:

  • How do you think your constituents feel about this issue? Do you hear about this regularly?
  • What else are you hearing from on this issue? From who?
  • What can we do to help make it easier for you to stand with us?

Team Work: Grassroots Lobbying


To practice talking directly with government officials with a team.

Agenda Time
Total Time: 40 minutes
1. Gather in your team and read the scenario below. 10 min
2. Create a checklist for completing the necessary tasks for this event, including inviting and confirming speakers and spokespeople, and a timeline for completing each task on the checklist. 15 min
3. Assign tasks/roles to everyone in the group. 5 min
4. Choose one person on your team to report back to the larger group. 10 min

Scenario: Thanks to years of climate organizing, our champions in the government have introduced a “350 bill” that will cut carbon, invest in renewable energy, and improve chances for a strong global climate deal. During each lobby meeting, you will explain who you are, tell them a bit about the our organizing work, and urge them to support our top priority: Support on the proposed 350 Bill

You do not need to know the official’s position on issues to do this exercise, but information on your their voting record is always helpful to gather before lobbying.


  • Clearly state your connection to your community, including your personal story.
  • Make a clear, concise ask.
  • Convey the strength of the broader movement beyond your group.
  • Understand where your target stands and know how to respond.
  • Prepare for difficult questions so you feel prepped and ready.
  • Begin to build a long-term relationship with your target and their staff

Sample Lobby Roles for Groups

The Leader: Initiate the meeting, the story of the group, and keep everything on track.

The Pitcher: Makes the hard ask and is prepared to respond.

The Closer: Hand over materials, wrap it up, thank them for their time. Say “I’ll email you shortly to follow up,” and send a follow-up email to the staff and group within the next few days.

The Chorus Line: Demonstrate the power of your group, and be prepared to

support as needed with organizing anecdotes, personal stories, or responses to questions.

Sample Meeting Agenda (10 minute mtg)

  • Introductions (1 min) – Keep it short –  Names and hometown/job/org
  • Statement of Purpose (1 min) – Why are you here?
  • Tell Your Story (3 min) – Who you are and what you’re doing back home.
  • Make the “Ask” (2 min) – Clear statement of our priorities, direct request for support.
  • Listen and respond (2 min) – Engage and follow-up.  How can you move them forward?
  • Closing (1 min) – Thank you, wrap up, leave behind materials.

Lobby Day Tips

  • Practice your roles. Be confident in your roles before the meeting so you can focus on content. Who is going to lead? Tell a story? Take notes? Follow up?
  • Know the message. Practice your core message before you go into a meeting so that you feel comfortable.
  • Demonstrate your power. You represent a strong and growing movement. Use examples from your home town/state to convey the power of everyone you represent who isn’t in the room – locally and globally
  • Connect. Try to make a personal connection during the meeting. Tell your stories, but remember to listen and respond to their comments as well.
  • Make a strong ask. Practice asking a direct question before you go into the meeting. “Can we count on you to support our priorities?” Yes or no.
  • Stay on topic. Politely steer the conversation back to your key points.
  • Be respectful. Even when you disagree, you can be critical and firm, while being respectful. Remember, your ultimate goal is to win them over.
  • Tell the truth. If you don’t know the answer, tell them you will get that information later, or refer them to 350.org headquarters: organizers[at]350.org

Guide to playing a legislative staffer

During this workshop, your role is to facilitate your team members practicing an effective visit and learning from their experience. Keep it simple, be respectful, and help them get the best practice they can. Here are a few tips:

  • Stay positive and responsive. This isn’t theatre, but is meant to encourage your fellow riders to be confident in their experiences.
  • Allow the group to make its presentation without interrupting.
  • Don’t give away your position until they ask.
  • Ask questions when appropriate, but don’t overdo it.
  • Make sure they finish in 8 minutes or less. (You might want someone else to be the timekeeper.) After that amount of time, thank them for coming and tell them you have to go back to an important hearing.
  • Not sure what to say? Try this: “Thank you for your input. This is a complicated issue but I’ll take your ideas seriously.”
  • Playing the Part (play each of these roles once):
  • If you’re being supportive staffer, assume you support whatever pitch they make, but wait for them to ask. Support positions, but don’t initiate ideas. The goal is to urge to them take the initiative. It’s OK to ask a question or share an idea slightly off track (i.e. your love for trout or white roofs).
  • If you’re playing an ambivalent staffer, it’s OK to be slightly cynical, but don’t beat up on them! Mostly avoid making commitments and offer limited responses.


Continue to Step 6. Media: Online and Offline…or go back to Step 4. Build a Movement