Thursday, July 2, 2015

Tips for music festival and concert outreach

Oxfam America had a successful outreach effort at Bonnaroo. Andrew, an Oxfam Action Corps organizer in Columbus, OH, helped collect petition signatures for food aid reform. He wrote the following account about his experiences, which has lots of great tips and tricks for outreach.


Submitted by Andrew Rodarme

When canvassing at a large event such as Bonnaroo, where over 90,000 people congregate, it is important to bear in mind that you will encounter numerous festival goers with wildly diverse backgrounds. Communicating with varying tactics based on any given individual’s knowledge of the subject and level of engagement in the conversation, can make all the difference in gaining their support. It is also a good idea to alter your pitch based on where you are speaking with them. Just by making some slight changes to your delivery based on these very basic concepts you can more easily gain their signatures, and leave a lasting and positive impression of Oxfam with them. 

Some individuals will see a petition, and will start signing it, without knowing the first thing about it. Instead of leaving it at that, I always found it to be very useful to still explain to them the importance of the bill, and of Oxfam’s work. These groups of people will often be the most excited about our work, and will often ask about volunteering. So never just collect their info on the petition, there is so much more to be gained from them.

The majority of our canvassing took place in long lines for food, restrooms, or other amenities. In these situations you must take note of how fast the line is moving. You can often start your pitch to people at the back of the line, and before you know it you can find yourself at the front of the line before you have even collected their signatures. If the pace of the line is slower, it provides you with much more flexibility in terms of how long you can speak and how detailed you can get. If you ever find yourself in a fast moving line, the best tactic is to give a very brief intro into Oxfam, and to quickly elucidate the main points of the Peace For Food reform act. Once people realize we can feed millions of more people, without adding anything to the budget, they almost immediately sign the petition.

There are of course the doubters. Unlike lobbying Congress, we did not hear concerns about labor. The main resistance came in the form of not buying food in the United States. In these cases, it is best to explain that the bill simply makes food aid more flexible, and that some food will still be bought in our country. It is also a good idea to point out that surpluses of certain commodities will still be purchased by other industries, such as corn for ethanol use. Another strategy, is to pull buttons and stickers out of your pocket in the presence of resisters. Of course you do not want to make it a quid pro quo exchange. You would be surprised at how many groups would change their tune with the mere prospect of free swag.

We also approached people who were sitting down under trees trying to avoid the torrid Tennessean sun. In these circumstances we often had five to ten minute discussions. This is where more in depth concepts like monetization can come up. Many people will also want to talk about themselves and the non-profits they either support or volunteer with. It is important to be respectful and to allow them to express those views. Often you can tie it back quite nicely to Oxfam by informing them that we are often looking for allies to work with. These were some of the more fun conversations, because you no longer had to repeat a quick pitch to keep up with a moving line. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

FUNdraising for Nepal!

On Thursday, May 21st, Oxfam Seattle's Action Corps witnessed the power of dedicated volunteers coming together to work towards a better world. That evening, we saw a high school student, Alex Cole, take time out of her busy schedule to hold a wildly successful fundraiser for the people of Nepal, people she will likely never meet. From contacting the Nepalese restaurant in Seattle, to negotiating profit sharing for Oxfam's relief efforts in Nepal, to day of set up, Alex focused, sacrificed her time, gathered friends and family, and with very little oversight, raised over $1,300 in just one night. Those in attendance, young and old (and two Seattle Action Corps Co-Leads) left the event inspired and hopeful about the future.
Alex Cole (second to the left) with event attendees.

And then there was Alison O'Neil, Oxfam Seattle's phenomenally talented Co-Lead, who on her birthday, chose to spend her evening supporting the fundraiser and Red Nose Day. Alison delivered a great speech towards the end of the event to catalyze the crowd into donating through her clear articulation of Oxfam's mission and programming.

This is the power of people. With enough compassion and energy, we can move mountains.
The event coincided with Red Nose Day-a national telethon to raise money to fight poverty.

Action Corps Organizers Ben Wiselogle and Melissa Watkinson show their support!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Another Successful Action Corps Training!

On the morning of Saturday, April 25, thirty-three of our newest initiates to the Oxfam Action Corps filed into a small conference room in Washington DC as news of the earthquake in Nepal was breaking.  The group of Oxfam supporters, including navy veterans, nurses, professors, development workers, high school coaches, facilities managers and other professions, had come to the 9th annual Action Corps training to lobby Congress for US food aid reform and to train for a year of leadership service to Oxfam in the 14 US cities they call home such as New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, and even Washington DC.  

As they took their seats and greeted one another, another matter became clear:  one of their members was awaiting devastating personal news from her home country, Nepal. Rallying to her support, by the second day of the training they were using their break time to mount a fundraising drive for Nepal, complete with a homemade video

On Tuesday, April 28, Action Corps members took to Capitol Hill to hold 54 meetings with Congress to urge reform of US food aid-5 of which were member level! In fact, one prominent Senator, Dick Durbin (D-IL), agreed to co-sponsor the very same day while others responded favorably and provided intel. The earthquake underscored the urgency of our call to modernize the program. Since the 1950s the US has shipped food aid slowly across the oceans, but the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2015, Senate bill 525, would permit US food aid to be purchased locally near the crisis and delivered faster and cheaper, thus reaching 12 million more people in need without additional cost to the US taxpayer.

If you’re not yet familiar with the Oxfam Action Corps, they are dedicated Oxfam supporters from a variety of professional backgrounds and ages in 14 US cities. They volunteer to build 
our US constituency and voice before Congressional and corporate targets. In its first 8 years the Action Corps held more than 600 lobby visits (half in-district, half in DC), gathered more than 65,000 petition signatures, hosted or presented at 1,650 public events and collaborated with more than 500 local allies.  

On behalf of the Action Corps team of Community & Engagement, including Brian Rawson, Clara Herrero, Bob Ferguson, Nancy Delaney, Alexandria McMahon and Anoushka Barpujari, we would like to thank all our new Organizers for dedicating themselves to this project, and our Peer Advisors for their support (see our prior blog post for their profiles).  We would also like to thank the Oxfam staff who gave their time to help make our training a success, and to all those who provide support to the Oxfam Action Corps throughout the year in their home cities.  THANK YOU!

Announcing the first US Red Nose Day comedy telethon, May 21 on NBC, with proceeds to go to Oxfam America and several other organizations

Monday, April 13, 2015

Please welcome the 2015-2016 Peer Advisors and 
Oxfam Action Corps Organizers!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Community building is important to Action Corps success

Many of you have been participating in online training sessions to prepare for volunteering in your city's Oxfam Action Corp. And some are gearing up for additional training and a lobby experience in Washington DC.  A common challenge for Action Corps is to establish a local presence and build a team of core volunteers. This post written by Yoshiko is a wonderful account of her experience building community as an organizer. 

Building Community in a Population of 7.4 Million

Submitted by Yoshiko Hill

The San Francisco Bay Area has quite the reputation; one of flowering natural vistas, pronounced diversity, technology driven innovation and social activism, but advocating for hunger, poverty and social justice inequality is no easy task even within an activism incubator like the Bay Area. Bearing this in mind, how does one build relevance and elevate above the clutter of bustling lifestyles and boundless priorities to become a force for change in the local advocacy landscape of the Bay Area's 101 cities?

For Oxfam America's California based grassroots arm, the Bay Area Oxfam Action Corps (OAC), the answer lies in community building and a microscopic focus on relationships to connect advocates, volunteers, local leaders and politicians alike in an area with a population of 7.4 million.

As an OAC Organizer, I worked to make community building center stage and created relationships based on the shared vision of a world without hunger and poverty by prioritizing one-on-one communication, managing diverse and engaging local events and shaping a social atmosphere.

While leading Oxfam America's local grassroots efforts, I helped foster an active passion for social justice advocacy within members of the Bay Area Oxfam community by establishing partnerships with leading nonprofits, opening dialogue with local elected officials and of course encouraging fresh-faced volunteers to step out of their comfort zones and flex their outreach muscles.

Of my diverse functions as an Organizer, one of the most rewarding was my role as a catalyst through which I was able to empower our more introverted volunteers to lead and take ownership of local outreach efforts by directly engaging the public and building confidence as a social activist.

Many of our volunteers are new to advocacy and have never taken on such an active outreach role in their professional or personal lives. For these folks, the OAC offers a unique opportunity for self-discovery and genuine personal growth. One such volunteer was a longtime Oxfam supporter, but new to active engagement with the organization. He dived right in by volunteering with our rockstar team at a local farmer’s market and was openly nervous about initiating one-on-one conversations. After an hour with the team, he found his own communication style and was engaging in thoughtful conversations around the importance of local farmers, food justice and worker’s rights like a professional. Playing off of the group’s fun, casual and welcoming dynamics, and after a bit of positive encouragement, he discovered his inner activist.

Effecting these tiny sparks helped create countless memories that I will not soon forget and allowed me to master the dynamic relationship and community building skills invaluable to any career path and essential to promoting social awareness anyplace whether San Francisco or Indianapolis.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Happy International Women's Day!

I am looking forward to hearing about the many International Women's Day events held by Oxfam Action Corps cities across the country. If you have photos from your event, please feel free to share them with me on Facebook, where I just posted a request in the OAC Organizers Group.

In the meantime, in honor of International Women's Day, I'd like to share Oxfam America's "Six women who will make you believe we can end hunger". It's an inspiring overview of six women with links to full-length stories.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Celebrity chefs support food aid reform

Recently just under a dozen celebrity chefs from across the country flew to Washington DC to voice their support of food aid reform to Congress. The lobby visits by these chefs on behalf of Oxfam America was featured in Heard on the Hill

So, you may ask, what's the connect to the Oxfam Action Corps? First, our very own Clara helped organize this very successful chef summit. And, second, food aid reform remains an important issue for the Action Corps. For those of you who are incoming organizers, the upcoming training in Washington DC next month will have some similarities to this recent chef summit. Among many issues addressed during the training, you can expect to learn about food aid reform. And, of course, you get your own chance to lobby to your Senators and Representative. Just in case you missed it, check out a first-hand account of lobbying with the Action Corps in a post from last month.