(Or: Becoming an Activist For Your Cause)
By: Stuart Bechman
Last Updated July 16, 1997
People often come across issues which are of importance to them, which they want to take a stand on one side or the other. This is encouraged in our democratic society – it is often how progress is made in our society. But people then often ask the question, ‘How Can I Help?’ It’s asked cautiously, because people have to balance their support of an issue with all of the other aspects of their lives as well as with their own skills and resources. Many don’t even ask the prior question because they are afraid by doing so, they’ll commit themselves to something far beyond what they’re willing or able to do. When you’re around passionate people who are struggling to make a difference and you express your tacit support, you can often feel their strong desire to pull you into their cause to the greatest extent possible.
It is a sad fact that the more impact you wish to make, the more effort it will take. This is the tradeoff that most would-be supporters face in deciding to support a cause. But the good news is that no effort is wasted or pointless – many, many causes have been significantly furthered by just a few people spending a few minutes a day letting others know of their support for these causes. The single largest factor in a cause being realized is the number of people who are willing to stand up and make their voice known, over and beyond any other activity or effort.
This list is an answer to those who ask ‘How Can I Help?’, ranked from the least visible impact & effort to the most visible impact & effort. Again, even though some of these efforts seem quite small, every one of these efforts can make a contribution and provide some impact for your cause.
- Talk with those who agree with your viewpoint and offer a sounding-board for each other, reinforcing and strengthening your viewpoints.
- Talk to others who may not be aware of your viewpoint. Let them know of your viewpoint and of others who share it, what they’re doing.
- Talk to others who you know disagree with your viewpoint. Engage in persuasive (but not confrontational) conversation to test your and their views against the other. See how well your viewpoint stands against theirs.
- Read/Listen to the media on a regular basis to learn about recent developments regarding the causes you support.
- Do research to discover organizations which support your viewpoint or cause, using the public library, an Internet Browser, or following up on authors and media sources who have written articles which support your viewpoint. Educate yourself by learning what these organizations know and have done about your cause.
- Provide a one-time contribution to any of these organizations which advocate your viewpoint.
- Prepare a database / card file of all organizations you discover that support your cause, including contact person, address and phone numbers, and any other related information such as clippings of their advocacy efforts. Use such acquired information to strengthen your viewpoint.
- Prepare a database / card file of all organizations you discover that oppose your cause, including contact person, address and phone numbers, and any other related information such as clippings of their advocacy efforts. Use such acquired information to test your viewpoint.
- Read/Listen to the media on a regular basis to study its presentation of the causes you support. Write a response to any articles or shows which seem to disagree with your viewpoint. Set a periodic personal goal to reach, say, two letters/month.
- Listen to talk shows which touch on issues of concern to you. Participate on a call-in basis to share your viewpoint. Set a periodic personal goal to reach, say, two call-in shows/month.
- Regularly support organizations which advocate your viewpoint. Become a member if you can afford it; or contribute money, time, or other resources you may have to offer.
- Pay attention to local political efforts that appear opposed to your viewpoint. Make your opposing viewpoint known in these efforts to any/all government officials privy to these efforts through a letter, a phone call, or personal appearance.
- Purchase ‘Gift’ memberships to the organizations that you support for local libraries and/or government officials so that they are kept apprised of the efforts and information being promulgated by the organizations you support.
- Participate regularly in local discussion groups that support your viewpoint. Contribute your ideas and opinions to these groups as often as you can.
- Support political candidates who strongly identify with your viewpoint, through money, time, or other resources.
- Write an article advocating your cause and submit it to a publication which supports that cause.
- Write an article advocating your cause and submit it to a publication which is neutral to that cause.
- Make a public commitment to regularly contribute in some way to an organization which supports your cause.
- Propose a project which you believe will further your cause and present it to others who may support your project.
- Take an advisory role in one of the organizations that supports your cause.
- Recruit another to join and support one of the organizations that supports your cause.
- Participate in a project sponsored by another.
- Offer to lead your (or someone else’s) project to bring it to fruition.
- Find a friendly public forum which is interested in and supportive of your viewpoint. Speak on behalf of your cause in this forum.
- Find a neutral public forum which will allow you to voice your viewpoint. Speak on behalf of your cause in this forum.
- Lobby/campaign for money and/or resources for an organization that supports your viewpoint.
- Take a leadership role in one of the organizations that supports your cause.