This is a post for those interested in hosting an event to bring awareness to GMO issues. It follows our May 22 event: Plant Your GE Free Garden and free movie showing.
Real Event as a Model: Step by Step Guidance
by April Reeves:
I’m going to write about a real event I’m organizing. May 22 is the date. Ralph Fisher Auditorium is the venue: holds 300+ people and I intend to fill it. Here’s how:
- Book venue and date first. Give yourself 5-6 weeks if you’ve done one before. Give yourself 2 months if not.
- Purpose of event: Free movie showing/guest speaker panel for Q&A’s/taking Richmond into a GE free zone. GMO awareness. Pro gardening. Buy tickets to win an entire garden of Heritage and Ancient vegetable plants (from my greenhouse).
- Theme: Plant Your GE Free Garden. We will give away small bags of seeds for gardens: beans, flowers, other veggies. May 22 is the long weekend most people plant gardens.
- Who is coming? For our organization (GE Free BC) we invite local politicians, council members and mayor, ALL local media (they are the first to invite)! We will be asking Richmond council to adopt a resolution to prohibit GE crops and trees in the municipality (similar to a county). We also invite all gardening groups (thus the theme) and other organizations (cancer society, food security, other pertinent org’s). Then we fill the rest of the event with local concerned citizens.
- Now that you have this down, WHERE do you start?
Create personal invitations: if you’re not computer savvy then find someone who is. You need to create nice, personal invitations. I get a formal envelope, and design something to fit the size. I print it on the heaviest card stock I can get through a printer. Make sure all details are on the invitation. For our event, I also add a letter to explain the GE free process/resolution, plus a short overview of “why” this is important: GMO information (include Jeffery Smith’s web site). I invite personally all media, officials, organizations, politicians, governments, farmers, food store owners and any and all gardening groups and personal friends. I mail them out early. The general public will be invited another way (below). Timing for sending them: no later than 3 weeks; public figures book early. Ask for an RSVP; I do this as a way to save them a seat: “All RSVP’s will have a seat reserved for them”.
- Sponsors: you will need to find companies that will trade you “in kind”, meaning you trade exposure for stuff. In this case, we will work with food companies that are GM free, like Nature’s Path, Amy’s and others. If they can’t give away food, I ask for good coupons at least. They can put up a table or a banner or whatever for exposure. When you approach a sponsor make sure you have your venue and date and plan. You must appear organized and professional. If you align yourself with an organization (like ours), it’s easier. Org’s have more clout with sponsors. Also, many sponsors will have their own ideas: listen to them! They may be able to attract more people to your event! Ask them if they have any ideas they would like to try. Bring them in as helpers.
- Invite the public: ask your media reps if they can put a small free ad in their local paper for you. If not, the classifieds often pull a lot of weight and cost next to nothing. I design posters and post them everywhere: health food stores, power poles, community centers, libraries… Use FaceBook: it’s one of the best venues to spread a message! Join FB sites like local gardening groups and other associated groups. They are out there: just think about what their names might be and search. When doing any event think about a theme that goes in all your material.
- Have a donation bucket: in most events I get $200-$700 per event. People give more money than if you asked for an admission fee. Especially when you give stuff away. They don’t mind: think of donations as a way for people to express their appreciation for what you are doing. Really, that’s all money is…..
- Make sure you have enough volunteers. You may want to set up tables: in our case, we have 3: one for the free seed packets, one for petitions and letter signings (see below) and one for misc.
- Someone needs to be the host and speaker who welcomes everyone at the beginning of the movie, and brings questions to the guest speaker panel. Your speaker panel can include: one really good GMO speaker / one farmer / one political person that’s up on GMO / one non-GMO gardener that’s well known – you get the idea. Mix it up. Have every question covered. In our case, we want people to ask political questions. We are doing a lot of this to see where our next GM campaign will move to. Yes, have an agenda; it’s okay this time!
- While you are organizing be available: make sure you answer all phone calls and return calls promptly. I don’t have a cell phone and I can do this! Nothing speaks louder than neglect.
- Know your material. If you don’t know enough about GMO issues (health, environment, corporate control, government back-pocket deals) then get a short fast education: Institute for Responsible Technology: GE Free BC.wordpress.com: Organic Consumers.org are 3 great sites for you to find all sorts of information.
- Go to your library and take out Genetic Roulette or Seeds of Deception. What! They don’t have them! Take your donation money and buy them for the library. Our libraries have them plus almost every GM video made. We asked for them and they delivered.
- Have one table dedicated to information. This will take you some time but if you plan to do more in the future it’s worth it. Again, Jeffrey Smith’s site has great tools, and soon our site will have them as well. Your participants must go home with something in their hands.
- Have another table dedicated to “Take Action”. Petitions work here. We create letters that pertain to current issues (Bill C474) and all people have to do is pick up a pen and sign and put their contact info on. We mail it for them. We get up to 400-800 letters done in one evening this way. We have at least 6 of them. Most people sign them all. One of those letters will target a food manufacturer: ask Kashi: if they use GM you will no longer buy from them (example). Since GE alfalfa and wheat is the big one, go after wheat boards and manufacturers. Let them know you will stop supporting them. Let your politicians know you sent this letter. When you create letters for your events keep this in mind.
It’s a good idea to send thank-you letters as well. When our politicians sent a yes vote for Bill C474 I sent off a letter and an email to every politician that voted yes, especially the 2 that split off from their parties policy: I told them they had integrity which was a real reason to vote for them again. Always thank those that support what you do. You get more butterflies with honey.
So, I’ve probably left out lots which I will fill in the comments, but this is how I put a basic GMO event together. It’s hard work, but each one gets easier. If you do the math on the donations, you can make money at it as well. Our donations go to our organization, but if you’re not affiliated with any you can pay your way and do a lot of good. I can do this every week if I want: there’s that much interest in it. My greenhouse and gardens are calling me though: must feed families Non-GM foods!!!
Please feel free to repost any of this on any site or FB page: just include my information.
April Reeves, Director, GE Free BC.wordpress.com and .org
Extra Tip: Open the Doors Early
If your event starts at 7, open the doors at 6 to allow your sponsors time to talk with the participants, and allow time for participants to sign petitions and letters. It’s a social event so make sure you speak about the networking and social advantages as well in your collateral.