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Deadline for Democracy Event Toolkit

Every day, we’re getting closer to a very real deadline for Democrats to take action to pass the For the People Act: a Deadline for Democracy.

We have been showing up to demand our elected representatives respond to Republican state-level attacks on voting rights since the start of this new Congress by passing real, comprehensive structural democracy reform (the For the People Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, and D.C. statehood) urgently without letting the filibuster get in the way.

Why is it so important that Congress get this done before the end of July?

The For the People Act includes a ton of critically important democracy reforms, including new voter protections and election security provisions that states will need some time to implement prior to the 2022 midterm elections. In addition, the For the People Act includes a provision that bans partisan gerrymandering and requires states to establish independent redistricting commissions to draw fair Congressional maps -- in some states, those maps must be drawn and finalized by February 2022.

We (literally) don’t have any time to waste.

That’s why Indivisible. Declaration for American Democracy Coalition, Stand Up America, End Citizens United, and other organizations are coming together for a major recess escalation. We’re calling it Deadline for Democracy and asking you to join us by planning visible, public, press-worthy events (think rallies and signs outside of your senator’s office) to tell Senators - Democrats and Republicans alike - that the American people are showing up to demand a democracy for the people and we need them to act urgently now, no excuses.

What we’ve heard from congressional allies is that this moment is critical to show massive grassroots support of the For the People Act and for getting it done now without letting the filibuster get in the way. From now until the August deadline, we need to stiffen Democrats’ spines, up the sense of urgency across the country, and continue to call out Republicans’ efforts to destroy our democracy. And we’ve got to make this July recess count.

A note about timing: Sen. Schumer scheduled a vote on the For the People Act for the week of 6/21. Our best intel says that this vote will fail because of the filibuster. If this happens, then it is even more important that we show up over recess and tell our Senators to pass real, inclusive democracy reform. No excuses. If (somehow, someway) we defeat the filibuster and the For the People Act passes before recess, then great! High-five! We turn these events into public celebrations. 

Priority Senators

Here is the thing. In order to build the urgency we need to pass this legislation, we need events in every single state. All 100 Senators are our priority.

If you have a Democratic Senator who is already cosponsoring the For the People Act, we need to back them with urgency. You can consider inviting them to speak at your event or generally using messages around urgency and not letting the filibuster get in the way.

Republican Senators need to hear from us too. We said it before and we will say it again, we need to continue to call out Republicans' efforts to destroy our democracy. They are not going to listen to us, but these events will help us build the national narrative we need to get this legislation over the finish line. 

 

Recess Tactics

We know what the goal is: we need to increase the urgency and tell our Senators to pass real, inclusive Democracy Reform now. No excuses. We will do that by hosting splashy, press-worthy events all over the country. In this toolkit, we will go through everything you need to know to organize an event.m

But every time we have put the call out for events, you have blown us away with your creativity. And the result is so much better and brighter than we could have dreamed. So this toolkit is a starting point. You can take one of these ideas directly, make it your own, or do something totally new that could only come from your group and your exact combination of brains. 

  • Invite your Senator. If your Senator is already a co-sponsor of the For the People Act, invite them to speak at your event. You know your Senator best so you use your judgement but giving them this opportunity could be the back-up then need to push this legislation over the finish line. Need help getting in touch with your Senator? Reach out to your Indivisible organizer or supportteam@indivisible.org. We may be able to help!
  • How about a visit-a-thon? Folks can sign up for specific slots to visit their Senate offices and deliver signs, campaign buttons, ballots, democracy-themed baked goods, etc. Hold a press conference outside your Senator’s office in advance and see how long you can keep it going. 
  • Or farewell letters to democracy? Show your Senators what is at stake by writing farewell letters. You can invite the media and read the letters outside your Senator’s office before heading in to deliver them in person. 
  • You could tell your Senator not to trash democracy. If you are in the mood for a bit of political theater, drag a garbage can in front of your Senators office and “throw away” symbols of democracy like campaign signs, “I Voted” stickers, etc. Or take it up a notch and throw away symbols of all the transformative legislation we won’t be able to pass without building a truly inclusive democracy and getting rid of the filibuster like addressing climate change, Medicare for All, etc. As always, invite the press.
  • Or hold a good-ole honk and wave. Grab your signs and a public street corner (maybe close by your Senator’s office), let the local media know, and hold a small rally. Last year, groups across Colorado exponentially increased the impact of this tactic by hosting simultaneous events on over 40 different corners across the state. 
  • Or take a page from AZ and WV and rally after dark. Earlier this year, Arizonans used a light projector to send a message to Sen. Sinema. And just this month, West Virginians hosted light brigades around their state to get Sen. Manchin’s attention. Remember, press, press, press.  
  • Is your Senator heading to a 4th of July parade? You could meet them there with signs showing your support for the For the People Act. 

As more and more folks are getting vaccinated, in-person actions are more accessible again. As always, please follow CDC and any local guidelines. 

Resources for Groups

Whether you are hosting a rally, organizing a visit-a-thon, or fili-busting the filibuster, we are here to support you. Here are a few of the resources that are available to Indivisible groups. As always, if you have ideas for other ways that we can help make your events as powerful as they can be, please reach out to your Indivisible organizer or supportteam@indivisible.org

  • Community Planning Spaces: Planning a Deadline for Democracy Congressional Recess event and looking for a place to share ideas and get some work done? Join other Indivisible activists and leaders in a community planning session where we’ll be going over the major parts of action planning and workshopping ideas and plans together in small groups. We’ll be exchanging ideas, talking about where the mindset of your people are, how to recruit others to your event, how to get media there, and more. 
  • Swag! We are putting together AMAZING swag packs for Indivisible groups. In the meantime, make sure you order your 51-star flag postcards by June 4th! You can deliver them to your Senators over recess. Here are some sample messages.   
  • GROW Grants and Direct Support: We have resources available to directly support Indivisible groups and their events for this recess. Need to get a banner printed? Or buy a megaphone for your rally? Or buy pizza for the folks fili-busting the filibuster? We can help with that! Or maybe you are planning something bigger like a mobile billboard traveling the state? We can help with that too. 
  • Distributed Fundraising: If you're a part of the distributed fundraising program, you can use the funds you've raised to pay for costs for your Deadline for Democracy events. If you have any questions about spending through the distributed fundraising program, reach out to fundraising@indivisible.org. Allowed expenses through the program:
    • Expenses associated with lobbying your representative, such as funds for gas or printed materials.
    • Any costs associated with a pro-democracy press conference or rally such as printing, sound equipment, props, masks, etc .
    • Projector to convey a message to your Congressperson. 
    • Zoom account for any online events or meetings.
    • Small gifts thanking your Congressperson for taking a pro-democracy position (Note: Congressional ethics rules really limit what Members of Congress and their staff can accept from members of the public, so we recommend spending no more than $25 per Congressional office on any gift). 
  • Media Support: If you are having trouble getting media to cover your events, or are just not sure where to start, our press team might be able to help. A member of our press team can meet with you or your group and exchange press contacts, review your plan, and give feedback. Reach out to your Indivisible organizer or supportteam@indivisible.org to schedule. 

All Things Media

This section will guide you step by step on engaging the press and generating earned media for your recess (and other) events. While getting press to show up and cover your event is never a sure thing, these are best practices that will increase your chances. It’ll also help you build a relationship with local media for the long term - you can use these steps for other events too!

Why is media coverage so important for this campaign?

Put simply: urgency. This summer is our best chance to pass the For the People Act (S1), and we know from the first Indivisible Guide and the new Guide for Fixing Our Democracy that Members of Congress pay attention to national and local media - it’s critical in pressuring them to be bold and act quickly. Once the summer passes, our chances of passing S1 go down, and states won’t have enough time to implement the voting changes before the midterms.

Whether your Senator is a co-sponsor or a Trump crony Republican, it’s important that people from every state make noise for democracy reform. This isn’t an issue that will affect people from blue states or red states -- it will change democracy for all of us. We need to illustrate that demand through action and by amplifying our message as much as possible in traditional and social media. In states with Democratic Senators, we need to pressure them to pass this bill quickly. In states with Republican Senators, we need to show them they are not representing the interests of their constituents.

So here’s how to maximize your chances of having your recess event covered, and start building good relationships with press for the long term.

How do I get press for my event?

You can never guarantee that the press will show up or cover your event, but there are best practices. During the pandemic, we’ve learned that it’s harder to get coverage for virtual events than in-person events, even small ones. Of course you and your group should make the best decisions for your circumstances, comfort, and accessibility of your attendees. If you do a virtual event, you should still tell the press about it! You can also use signs, posters, t-shirts, and other visuals to “brand” your event, and make sure to take screengrabs!

Whatever you decide to do for your event, the steps below will walk you through maximizing your chances of getting coverage. And if the press doesn’t come, that’s okay! Take pictures, videos, etc and put them up online to amplify your message.

Step 1: Build a media list

A media list is exactly what it sounds like; a list of reporters and media outlets in your area that you want to tell about your event. The best format is usually a spreadsheet where you can include any individual names of reporters, media outlets, and contact information. If you have anyone in your group who has worked with press before or who enjoys digging around on Google, this is a perfect job for them! To get started:

  • List all the newspapers, radio, and TV news stations you already know of, and then look on their websites for contact information. You’re usually looking for a “newsroom” email and phone number, often listed in the “contact us” menu on their website.
  • Then you can look for recent news stories about your Senator, which you can search for via google.com/news. Look at the bylines and see which reporters cover your Senator. From there, you can read the reporters’ stories to learn about them. You can usually find their contact information on the website for their outlet, or on their social media accounts.
  • TV stations work a little differently with reporters working in shifts. They will still often have “contact us” sections with email addresses. Another great way to introduce yourself is to call the station (or newspaper, radio station) and ask to speak to the assignment desk. Then you can let them know about your event and ask the best reporter or email address to send an advisory. This will get you on their radar.
  • Pro-tip: Our press team can send you a list of reporters in your area to help you get started. Reach out to your Indivisible organizer or supportteam@indivisible.org for more information. 

Step 2: Introduce yourself to reporters 

Giving reporters a heads up about your event early before you send an advisory is an effective way to start building a relationship with them and get more media out to your events and to cover your group’s work. These emails are short and simple with fewer details than advisories. If you’re a few days out from your event or closer, skip this step and focus on sending your advisories. You can find a template introductory email here in our General Media Toolkit.

Step 3: Advise your event

The next step is to let the media know about your event! Advisories are emails you send to reporters and outlets on your media list with details about the event. The format generally breaks down what the event is about, the date, time, and location and who the spokespeople are. You can find a template advisory to plug your event details into in our template here in the General Media Toolkit.

Step 4: Prep your speakers

When the press attends an event, they’ll likely want to speak one-on-one with people there. So first, identify 1-3 people who will be ready to speak with reporters and help them prepare what they want to say. They should be ready to talk about your group, the event, and why they support democracy reform. The best practice is to stay close to your overall message, keep it concise, and have a few quotes ready to go (which you can also use in your press release). Most of the time, the reporter will ask easy questions. If you want some help prepping your speakers, just reach out to your organizer (or supportteam@indivisible.org) and we’ll help!

Step 5: Run a great event

Once the event has started, focus on running the best event you can! If reporters come, connect them with one of your prepped spokespeople. And remember, don’t stress if they don’t show up! You can still put your pictures and videos on social media. Click here for our full social media toolkit including hashtags and graphics.

Step 6: Send out a press release

A press release is a communication, usually via email and no longer than about one page, that gives a reporter some of the basics they’d need to write a story about something: background about what’s happening, quotes from relevant people, and contact information they can use to find out more. The best practice is to send these as soon after your event as possible. You can find a general template press release here.

Step 7: Send out an ICYMI email to reporters

“In case you missed it” emails are a common practice that provides one last chance to get your event covered and stay on reporters’ radar. There are a couple of differences between these emails and press releases; ICYMI emails are sent after releases (which ideally are sent right after your event) and are usually less formal. There’s no special format, other than putting “ICYMI” in the subject but they should be pretty short.

Send an ICYMI email to reporters 1-2 days after your event and include any news clips, social media discussions, photos, quotes, etc. You can find a template ICYMI email in our General Media Toolkit here.

Other Resources

If you want to learn more about engaging with the media, here are some other great resources to check out.

Planning Your Event

This is our Deadline for Democracy! We know that the window to pass real, inclusive democracy reform is closing and this July is our best chance to pass the transformative legislation we need. We know that by now, Indivisible group leaders are experts at hosting events and as experts, you know that it is always important to plan ahead. 

Choose a date and time

July recess runs from Monday, June 28- Saturday, July 10. With the July 4th holiday right smack in the middle, you may have group members and reliable activists away on vacation or visiting family and friends. Check with your group and top leaders first before finalizing a time. The very beginning or very end of recess might make the most sense for the most groups. If you as a group leader are planning to be away for the whole period, this is a great opportunity for leadership development!

It is also a best practice to check in with group members and potential speakers to see what’s most convenient before finalizing a time. As always, consider what times will be most accessible for folks in your community particularly around work and parenting or care-taking schedules.

Note that the one time of day that is not recommended would be 2pm-3pm. Local TV stations typically have a daily meeting at that time and it’s very difficult to get them to attend an event. (Learn more.) 

Choose a tactic

Our strategy is to build urgency and stiffen Democrat’s spines by generating earned media in support of S1 and inclusive democracy reform through splashy, press-worthy events. 

This toolkit has a sample agenda for a press conference but you know your community better than anyone so be creative and choose a tactic that works best for you. 

Venue and logistics

This is the next choice-point for your group. The best place to hold your Deadline for Democracy event is outside of a district office. If you absolutely can’t hold it in front of a district office (we see you, rural Indivisibles), host your event in a public space like a local park or a high traffic area in your community. 

Register your event on the Indivisible map

Once you have your event set, register it on the Indivisible map (including Deadline for Democracy as the event issue focus). That way we can measure Indivisible’s reach and help push out your event and help recruit attendees. Pro-tip: Is your event only for established group members and volunteers? Mark it as “private” when you register.  

Delegate and determine roles

Any event is a great opportunity to develop leadership within your group and empower folks to take on new responsibilities. Depending on the scale of your event, you may want to create teams or just have one point person for specific duties. You can find some specific ideas for roles below.

Brainstorm and recruit speakers

Most effective events have 2-4 speakers with each speaker talking for 3-5 minutes. The theme for this event is democracy reform so brainstorm and recruit speakers who can speak to that theme. Is there a developing activist with a personal story about voting rights? Is there an ally from a local democracy group that you can invite? If your Senator is already a co-sponsor of the For the People Act, we highly recommend inviting them to speak at the event. Make a plan to invite and confirm your speakers.

Build a Recruitment Plan and start recruiting

We have a handy guide all about recruiting, and a worksheet to help you build a plan. Start by re-engaging members who have dropped off over the last few years, and build out to new folks who are itching to oust Trump. 

Prepare any props or setup needs

At the very least, you need a megaphone and a few signs with your demands. If it’s available to you, it is also helpful to have a podium, press packets, water (it’s July!), and orange traffic cones to block off traffic. Please reach out to your Indivisible organizer if we can help with resources to purchase these items.

Sample Event Roles

Deadline for Democracy events are about building urgency and stiffening Democrat’s spines to pass real, inclusive democracy reform by generating earned media through splashy, press-worthy events. You can’t do that by yourself. It is important to split up the work among your leadership team, or your best activist friends.

This is good organizing. People will be more invested in events, and more likely to participate when they have a clear role. So gather your top volunteers (and the activists you are developing into your top volunteers) and decide on roles and tasks. Here are some sample roles to get you started.

  • Media liaison: Press outreach is most effectively handled by one person who can build relationships over time If you already have a media liaison, great! That’s your person! If not, this is a great time to develop one. 
  • Greeters: These are your friendliest folks who always know how to make someone feel comfortable. Give them a sign-in sheet and a clipboard and task them with signing in everyone at the event. Make a point to introduce them to any new faces and connect activists who haven’t met before.
  • Master of Ceremony (MC): Identify at least 1 group member to be responsible for firing up the crowd, introducing speakers, starting chants, and making sure the overall program is running on time. Need a good chant? “Show me what democracy looks like?This is what democracy looks like!”
  • Speakers: Recruit 2-4 people to speak at your event. This list should include at least one leader from your group, and one developing activist. Bonus points for building intentional partnerships with ally groups in your community and including a space for an ally from a democracy group.
  • Photographer/videographer: Ask one person to take photos and one person to take video. Got something really special and visual planned? Reach out to your Indivisible organizer about hiring a professional photographer. 
  • Social media coordinator: At least one person (could also be the photographer) should be tweeting out photos of the event in real time! Remember to always tag @IndivisibleGuide so we can uplift your work!
  • Art director: Person in charge of supplies and crafts for posters, signs, and materials! This person writes the best protest signs and isn’t afraid of a little glitter. 

Sample Event Agenda

We know events can be hectic, so here is a sample agenda for the day to make sure that your event goes off without a hitch.

Before the event:

45 minutes before the event: Gather the people who have key roles (MC, speakers, etc.). Bring snacks and water, assemble any art pieces that need assembly, test any technology, and make reminder calls to everyone who signed up to attend.

Huddle with the speakers and run through their talking points. Make sure our demands are clearly articulated in each speech (pass S1 now, no excuses), and that they know the order they will be speaking. 

15 minutes before the event: Attendees show up. Huddle with all your activists (and new faces!) to remind them of the importance of these events. Even if your Senator is already cosponsoring S-1 or the staunchest opponent, it is important that we speak with a national voice to increase the urgency. Explain the plan of action and get into position.

Immediately before the event

The media liaison greets local press and gives reporters a press packet.

During the event

Kick-off the event: The MC starts some chants (“Show me what democracy looks like!” Is a crowd-pleaser), and welcomes the crowd. They explain the purpose of the event and introduce the first speaker. Need some talking points? We have a great explainer on the For the People Act (S1) here.

Speakers: Each speaker talks for 3-5 minutes about the importance of holding our elected officials accountable and passing the For the People Act. Some topics of conversation: getting money out of politics, ending gerrymandering, restoring voting rights. 

Close: The MC closes the event by thanking everyone for coming, clearly reiterating our asks, and finishing out strong with some chants.

Ongoing: The Social Media Coordinator should record, live-tweet and/or Facebook-live the entire experience. You can tweet excerpts from speeches, pictures of the crowd, or gifs that perfectly express your emotions.

  • Make sure that you are recording and taking photos horizontally, not vertically. It really helps the video get shared and makes it usable for press.
  • Be sure to tag your Senator.
  • Be sure to tag @IndivisibleTeam Twitter.
  • Post photos of the action to your social media accounts!

After the Event

Immediately after the event: Send your stories, pictures, and best practices to your organizer or suppportteam@indivisible.org.

The night of the event: Email your attendees to thank them for a great action. Immediate follow up is important for recruitment and group longevity! Invite all attendees and activists to a debrief meeting.