Spread the Word

Spreading the Word: Getting Help From the Community

There’s often no need to reinvent the wheel in publicizing your projects in the park. Other, well-established groups in your community probably have effective ways of communicating with your neighbors. Since they share with you the goal of improving the quality of life in your neighborhood, they will often be happy to help you publicize events.

Civic and Religious Groups
Ask the presidents of these groups for help publicizing your event. Particularly if you offer to do the same for them, they may be willing to let you:

-Make an announcement at the beginning of one of the group’s meetings.
-Hand out flyers at a meeting or send them to the group’s mailing list.
-Post flyers on the group’s bulletin board.
-List your event in the group’s newsletter.

Local Schools
Schools can be a great resource for event publicity—after all, when children come to an event, their parents usually come with them! Ask the principals and administrators of elementary schools, high schools, and colleges for help publicizing your event to students. They may:

-Put you in touch with interested teachers or the PTA.
-Help you distribute flyers to students and parents.
-Let you post flyers on the school’s bulletin board.
-Put you in touch with student groups that may be interested in helping you, such as the student government or an environmental club. (Approach these student groups as you would other civic groups, by asking to make an announcement at one of their meetings.)

Elected Officials
Speak with your Supervisor’s Aide as well as the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services for help with publicity. Elected officials and their staff can help you publicize an event by:

-Including your flyers in one of their regular mailings.
-Announcing your event at the many community meetings they attend.

Keeping Members Involved Between Events
Attending an event or a meeting once does not guarantee that a person will be drawn into the group. You must keep your group lively and visible in the neighborhood to retain the interest of “one-timers.”

-Mark the date – It helps to set the date of your next meeting at the end of the previous one. That way, people know about meeting with plenty of time to arrange their schedules. Also, your group might decide to hold meetings at the same time every month, i.e. that your group will meet the first Sunday of every month at 4pm. That way, people won’t have to wonder when the next meeting will be.
-Don’t forget to call – Many groups find it helpful to set up a phone tree. Even if you put up flyers and make announcements, usually the best way to get people to a meeting is to call and have a personal invitation.
-Make your events fun – Adding a social aspect and food to your activities attracts more people to your group. Rather than having meetings be all business, allow for some mingling time – after all, the point of a neighborhood group is to build community.
-Stay in touch with email - Email is an easy and efficient way to keep your members thinking of the group. A distribution list is an effective way to quickly let your members know of developments.
-Publish an electronic or paper newsletter – A newsletter is a good way to remind people of your presence. The more people who receive news of your events, the more people in the neighborhood who will keep your group in mind.
-Plan small social events - It is important to keep your members involved in the interim – brunches, coffees, cocktail parties, and informal discussions are good ways to bring people together. You can use this time to generate activity by planning some easy events with your active members.
-Talk to people personally – Speak personally to the members of your group and others in the community about their interests and hopes for the park. Not only will the personal connection make them more likely to stay involved, but you will also be better able to pull them into projects that match their interests.
-Attend other organizational meetings – By attending other group’s meetings, especially active neighborhood associations, you can not only share good ideas, but you can also invite new people to be part of what your group is doing.
-Don’t stop during the rainy season – You can keep people active even during the wetter months. Planning a season of successful activities takes time; the sooner you start the better you’ll do.
-Serve food! It is a simple fact that meetings with food attract more attendees.

Building A Mailing List
A good mailing list is important not only because it reflects your group’s numbers, but also provides you with a large pool of helping hands to accomplish your group’s goals. Always look for opportunities to build your mailing list, and keep it maintained! Where to start:

-First ask members of your group for their personal mailing list. You’ll automatically start off with a large group of people with a connection to your group.
-Ask your neighborhood association(s) for help. Your neighborhood may have a list of names and numbers of local interested groups to give to your organization.
-Trade with other groups. Some of your group’s current members may belong to groups that have databases relevant to you. These groups may want to help you out by contributing parts of their list. Keep in mind the privacy concerns of your members.
-Start a Google Group. Email is an inexpensive and efficient way to stay in contact with your group. Google groups allow all group members to communicate with each other. You must first create a Google ID and then create a group. Visit www.google.com to create a user ID.

San Francisco Park Group Existing Listserve Examples:*

-Koshland Park Community Garden: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/kpclg
-Park Presidio Boulevard: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BoulevardNeighbors

You can also search for pre-existing neighborhood listserves. Joining a pre-existing listserve may be more suitable for small park groups because there is already an existing audience.

SF Neighborhood related listserves:*

-Glen Park: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/glenparkparents/
-The Portola: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/theportola/
-Mission District: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MissionDistrict

ETIQUETTE TIPS WHEN WRITING TO A LISTSERVE:

1. Keep your messages relevant to the topic and membership of the listserve.
2. If you have a comment or message directed at one specific person, do not send it to the listserve, but to him or her directly.
3. Remember that emails are not confidential or private, and can be forwarded on to hundreds of people.
4. Be polite and respectful of the other views that get posted on the listserve.
5. Always sign your message

Make sure your information is current. Once you start to accumulate names, you should be sure to keep your list up to date. Doing mailings with inaccurate information only wastes time and money. A database should be constantly edited for changes in contact information.

Keep track of database numbers. You can use the increasing size of your database as leverage for your group. If you are applying for grants or approaching elected officials for support, it can be particularly helpful to show how numbers have been increasing to reflect the growth of your organization. Start with a simple Excel spreadsheet for organizing contacts. If it grows too large, work with SFPA to find more advanced database solutions.

Email Alerts
An email action alert is a call to action – an attempt to get people to do something. Email Action Alerts serve as a quick and easy way to invite people to get involved in their community or political process. You can reach hundreds of people with the click of a mouse and facilitate quick and easy exchanges of information.

WRITING GOOD ACTION ALERTS:

1. Use a catchy subject line. You only get one chance to make a good first impression. If you have a catchy subject line people are more inclined to read what you have to say.
2. Keep it simple yet informative. Speak in a conversational tone and keep it short, getting to the point right away. Ask for one clear action. If you try to include too much, the impact of your message will get lost.
3. Don’t hide your alert in a newsletter. The e-newsletter format is not necessarily the most effective format for generating political action—your alert can be overshadowed by the other information in the newsletter. When it is critical that your constituents respond to your action item, send a separate email action alert with just one clear call to action.
4. Back up your issue. Make sure to give just enough background information and facts to give the issue validity without bogging down the document with data. Include links to other websites with more information.
5. Empower your audience. Let recipients know that their action will actually make a difference and thank them when they take action. For example, send a thank you email to all those who took part in an action to email a letter to their District Supervisor; let each person know the Supervisor’s response to the multitude of emails they received on the issue.
6. Personalize the issue. Connect your alert to the recipients’ lives and let them know how your issue affects their families and their communities.
7. Make it Urgent. Stress the urgency of the alert. Make it clear why you are sending the alert today instead of three weeks from now or next year.
8. Date it. Always include a date on your messages – emails can get forwarded around a lot and for long periods of time so it is important to show that your alert is current.
9. Always sign your messages. It will give you credibility when people know who you are, what group you are from, and how to contact you.
10. Remember the domino theory. Encourage recipients of the alert to forward the email. Think of the number of people you could reach if each person on your email list forwarded your action alert to at least one other person and so on and so on.
11. Privacy is key. When sending emails from an email account vs. a listserve, use the “Bcc” field, which stands for blind carbon copy. This field hides the individual email addresses so they are not displayed to everyone who gets the email. In addition, recipients of the email cannot reply back to the entire list.

Newsletters: Electronic or Print
Once your group has compiled a mailing list, your next step will be to send regular mailings to your members and other interested individuals, alerting them to your group’s plans and activities. An electronic and/or print newsletter are great ways to send out all the information you want to distribute at one time.

Newsletters take many forms, such as a simple and occasional photocopied sheet, an e-newsletter, or a sophisticated printed and designed publication. The type of newsletter you choose will depend on your budget and your membership’s preferred form of communication (i.e. whether most of them have web access).

Ideas For Newsletter Items

-Save the date – Promote your next meeting or clean-up
-Stories about park activities, gardening, neighborhood news, and more local happenings.
-A list of your group’s officers and contact info for each.
-A list of hotline numbers, such as the Police Department’s Safety Number, www.parkscan.org, 311, Recreation and Park’s number (831.2700).
-Membership/Donation information – let people know how they can become members and that you need donations to improve the park.
-President/Core Group Member’s Column – ask the president or a core group member of your organization to say a few words about what the park means to him/her, or comment upon a hot neighborhood or city issue.
-Advice column – have a group member who knows about gardening or dogs, for example, give advice about their area of expertise.
-A "Kid's Corner" – think up games or science information for kids. Or allow them their own page.
-Local heroes, leaders, guest authors, etc.
-A history of your park.