It's March 1998. By now you've purchased your Sierra Club calendar, the four-
year planner, the Day Runner, Filofax -- all that comes with the New Year's
resolution to get organized. But calendars, Post-it Notes and file folders alone
will not a successful campaign make.
All effective action begins with being clear about your goals and developing a
good written plan. Planning helps achieve your goals and can result in a
stronger organization. Organization building and campaign planning are not
parallel tracks within an organization; they are links in a chain. This year's
campaign builds next year's organization. A stronger organization can
undertake a larger campaign. A larger campaign can build a still stronger
organization. Make sense?
As your chapter, group or committee sets about nailing down a work plan for
1998, we encourage you to use the Sierra Club's grassroots planning matrix.
This approach to planning has been adapted and modified from the Midwest
Academy's Direct Action Organizing Model by Club National Field Director Bob
Bingaman for use in organizing the Club's highly-effective Environmental Public
Education Campaign. It is now a core component of the Sierra Club Training
Academy curriculum. The matrix provides a step-by-step plan to help you set
concrete conservation and organizational goals for the coming year.
Remember: A campaign that breaks an organization -- wearing out volunteers
and staff and depleting its treasury so it's less vital at the end -- is a
We should always strive to come out of a campaign organizationally stronger
than when we went into it.
The process to develop a plan using the following matrix must involve decision-
makers and stakeholders essential to implementation of all aspects of the plan.
In a Sierra Club chapter setting, for example, the chapter chair, membership
chair, treasurer, political chair and conservation chair and the key activists
that are responsible for implementing the campaign need to be partners in the
Lastly, in addition to clipping this article, blowing it up and tacking it on the
bulletin board for your chapter meeting, post the following concepts that
define a strong, effective organization. It's critical that the goals, activities
and tactics you build into your plan integrate, enhance and build upon each
one of these concepts.
A strong, effective organization:
1. Is held together by values.
2. Is driven by a mission.
3. Is strengthened by asking, involving, informing and thanking its membership
over and over again.
4. Reaches out and recruits from beyond its traditional circles.
5. Communicates consistently.
6. Supports and nurtures, like a family.
7. Attracts resources -- people and money.
Now you're ready to dive in. Good luck. If you need advice or assistance in
making this planning matrix work for you, don't hesitate to contact us: Office
of Volunteer and Activist Services, firstname.lastname@example.org,
or (415) 977-
5597. You can also check out the May 1997 article "Creating
Demand, Taking Delivery."
Grassroots Campaign Planning Matrix
The M&Ms have been placed in the center of the table, and important players
in your Sierra Club chapter or group are seated and enthusiastic. You're ready
to get to work.
This step-by-step plan will take you through the process of defining your goals
and making them become reality.
The Heart of the Matter
1. Campaign Goals and Issue Focus
What issue do you want to focus on this year? Determine your conservation
goals around this issue. Remember, pick issues and goals that will help
strengthen your chapter.
"It's natural to want to work on everything," says EPEC organizer Terry Wold
the San Diego Chapter, "but the planning matrix helped us define and choose
one issue on which we could have a measurable impact, and that brought in
new activists and increased the visibility of the Sierra Club in our area."
The chapter designed a campaign around endangered species using library
presentations and street theater to educate young people. The campaign also
provided a direct link to the national Club's work on wildlife issues.
The Tale You'll Tell
What story will you tell to define your issue? The story should resonate with the
public. Define who are the villains, victims and heroes.
Atlantic Chapter activists planned their clean water campaign around a story
that the public already knew: the decades-long practice by General Electric of
polluting the Hudson River with PCBs. "The Hudson River is like a 'poster child'
for all threatened American rivers," says Marion Trieste, associate
representative in the Northeast Office. "We called attention to the villain and
victims in a way that grabbed media attention."
3. Message and theme
What is the key message you hope to deliver through your campaign? Which
themes will you use to reinforce this message? The theme backs up the message
by providing two to three arguments that provide clarification and substantive
backup to the overall message.
The central message of your campaign should fit on a bumperstrip or button.
For example, in New Mexico, Club EPEC organizer Deb Hibbard coined the
slogan "Save It, Don't Pave It" to draw attention to the campaign to save
Petroglyph National Monument. The slogan was placed on billboards, balloons
and flyers to bring high visibility to the campaign. "People care about saving
the national monument," says Hibbard, "and this was a concise phrase that
people responded to and remembered. It also drew the attention of the
Take a Good Look at Yourself
4. Strengths and weaknesses
What are the current group or chapter strengths and weaknesses that will
impact the campaign? How will this project strengthen the Club?
"Our greatest strength was the enthusiasm of our volunteers and the ability of
Judy Morgan, our clean air campaign coordinator, to break down the bigger
projects into manageable tasks," says Bill Green, New Jersey Chapter vice
chair. "We offered time-limited volunteer opportunities such as placing phone
calls to local newspapers prior to an event," says Morgan. "We drew a lot of
volunteers to the Club this way."
"Our greatest weakness was a lack of people willing to take on leadership
roles," says David Ellenberger, New Hampshire Chapter staffer. "But a direct
result of our campaign to preserve the White Mountain National Forest has
been increased activism. The Club has received an incredible amount of media
attention, and now people are calling us to ask how they can get involved. We
recently held our chapter elections and had more candidates on the ballot than
at any other time."
5. Primary public audiences
Who are the main audiences outside of the Club membership you want to
The clean-air campaign in Colorado drew public support for the Environmental
Protection Agency's proposed air-quality standards by reaching out to groups of
people who care for those most vulnerable to air pollution -- children and the
elderly. "Our primary audience was women in their 20s, 30s and 40s," says
Brian Mohr, state EPEC organizer. "Our message and tactics focused on
women's concern for the health of their children and aging parents. One of our
most successful events brought media attention when five kids with asthma
delivered our clean-air postcards in red wagons to the Colorado Association of
Commerce and Industry, the representative of polluting industries in the state.
Many of the volunteers we recruited to work on the clean-air campaign have
become activists on our urban sprawl and voter education campaigns."
Which Side Are You On?
6. Allies and opponents
Who are your main allies and opponents in your campaign?
In Idaho, where the Club fought to halt the U.S. Air Force from building a
bombing range that would destroy wildlife habitat and end recreation
opportunities over several million acres, the campaign provided an opportunity
to reach out to hunter and angler groups in the state and forge strong alliances.
"We were able to extend our radio ad campaign because a hunter/angler group
we were working with offered to fund the ads," says Roger Singer, Northern
Rockies Chapter staffer. "These new alliances really invigorated Club activists
in the state."
What person or group of people have the power to grant your demands? What
power do the Club and other organizations have over your target? What
motivates or interests your target?
The '97 public education campaign in Michigan targeted Gov. John Engler for
working with big business to roll back environmental regulations. "We
sharpened our focus onto one important target -- John Engler --
and kept our
eye on that target all year," says Mackinac Chapter Director Alison Horton.
What, When and How?
8. Tactics and timelines
What actions will you take to make your power felt by your targets and get
your campaign story heard? What is your timeline?
Your tactics should always be aimed at your targets, so that your targets will
take the necessary actions to grant you your demands. In the Midwest, the
"Protecting Missouri's Rivers and Streams" campaign called attention to
threatened waterways in the state. The highlight of the campaign was a 5-day,
high-visibility canoe trip down the Missouri River to raise public awareness
about problems caused by the Army Corps of Engineers.
"Careful planning of this event by using a timeline was the key to our
says Ken Midkiff, Ozark Chapter staff. EPEC coordinator Rachel Locke and Teri
Folsom, Ozark Chapter staff, along with Midkiff, spent many hours arranging
campsites, meetings with local officials, press coverage, canoe rentals and
transportation to and from the sites. "Our tactics really grabbed the attention
of the media throughout the state," says Midkiff. "Day after day, we made the
front page of local and statewide newspapers and drew TV and radio news
The Power of Connection
9. Tie-in to national campaigns
How does your campaign relate to the Club's national conservation priorities?
Our organization is most effective when we pool our resources and work
together for the environment. The above campaigns brought together
volunteers and staff from the local, regional and national levels. If your local
campaign is connected to the Club's national efforts, the results can be
The M&Ms are gone and you have mapped out a campaign plan for the coming
year. Make sure you write it down. A written campaign plan is to the organizer
what a trail map is to the hiker. It's the guide to getting where you want to go
without getting lost.
It's time to congratulate yourselves and take a five-minute break. Now the fun