2/Building Your Group

Talk with potential supporters and organize regular meetings to begin planning. Set up an official committee to guide the campaign and start building a network of volunteers and contributors.

The Trust for Public Land’s Action Fund Checklist can help you get organized.

Create a Committee

Effective committees are generally run by a core of 5-12 individuals. You want a working committee that is small enough to be functional and nimble, yet big enough to be representative of your broader community. To show extensive representation you can always have a larger steering committee that meets less frequently.

The core working group should be supported by a number of other volunteers willing to do smaller or one-time tasks like handing out fliers or making phone calls. Regular, weekly meetings keep the momentum going and create the camaraderie that keeps volunteers active and engaged.

Designate Committee Leadership

Appoint specific leadership positions in order to divide tasks and make the best use of each individual’s talents. For all campaigns, large or small, a chair and a treasurer are required. The chair serves as the public face of the campaign. The treasurer is responsible for campaign finance reporting and tracking funds raised and spent by the committee.

Other potential volunteer roles can include a fundraising chair, who is responsible for raising the money to cover the campaign budget. He or she typically makes a leadership campaign gift and solicits others to do the same. In a grassroots campaign, a volunteer coordinator is in charge of organizing all volunteer efforts and scheduling people to attend events, phone banks, canvasses, and other activities. He or she also trains new volunteers.

Build a Coalition

Campaigns typically enlist the support of local organizations to build public support, raise money, and expand their volunteer base. Broad outreach from the start of your campaign can help avoid any unanticipated opposition.

In San Francisco’s 2008 “Fix Our Parks” campaign, one large environmental organization at first opposed the measure, deeming it insufficient. But the committee reached out to that group’s leaders and eventually convinced them that the ballot measure fit the goals of their group. Campaign members also targeted the community’s civic leaders and opinion-makers and got them on board.

Reach Out to Non-Traditional Partners

Because parks, recreation, and open space are important to a community’s quality of life, many different types of groups may support measures to finance land conservation. Members of the business and the real estate communities can be especially valuable allies, lending credibility and political clout. In recent ballot measure campaigns, support has come from senior citizens, police and firefighters, hunters and fishermen, farmers and ranchers, ethnic groups, churches, educational organizations, tourism boards, and groups advocating civil rights or affordable housing.

Recruit Volunteers and Supporters

Volunteers are the lifeblood of grassroots campaigns. While some campaigns do hire paid staff to help coordinate activity, it is essential to have a group of dedicated volunteers and spokespeople. Start early to build a big enough team to share the workload. In addition to volunteering time, supporters can volunteer goods and services, although these must be reported as in-kind donations if they are goods and services for which the individual is ordinarily paid. Many campaigns save hundreds or thousands of dollars by asking printing companies, design firms, and other companies to donate or reduce their fee for the campaign. Be sure to keep track of any such in-kind contributions for campaign finance reporting.

The San Francisco “Fix our Parks” campaign held a nightly phone bank, where volunteers would come to the campaign office and make phone calls to voters. This time donated is not an in-kind contribution, because volunteers are not paid by a company or organization to make the calls.

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