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Planning a Community Outreach Event
One way to raise awareness about the census and build some energy and enthusiasm for a participation campaign is to organize a larger-scale town meeting, or if you want a more festive atmosphere, throw a block party.
If there are regularly scheduled festivals in your community, find out if organizers will let you speak or give out information. Work with media to help publicize your event in advance and also encouraging media to cover it, expanding the audience for your message. You may be able to encourage other organizations to help produce a major public event by combining education about the census with other initiatives like voter registration.
You may be well-versed in organizing a public event. If that's the case, start thinking creatively about an event that would work well in your community.
If you're not as familiar with organizing something like a town meeting with a target audience of 100 or more people, this section of the toolkit is designed to walk you through some of the things to consider as part of your planning.
An event doesn't have to cost a lot of money to produce, especially if you or a friendly organization has access to rent-free space and equipment. But producing an event will take some money. Consider and plan for the costs of:
- Space (if you or a partner do not have a venue you can use for free)
- Food (you'll boost turnout if you can tell people you'll have something for them to eat)
- Promotion / getting the word out
- Sound system or other equipment
- Staff Time
See if other organizations will co-sponsor the event and provide funding, refreshments, or materials.
Offer local businesses and coalition partners the opportunity to be listed as a cosponsor in exchange for providing meeting space, phone use, or copying and advertising expenses. You might be able to make a deal with a local copy shop and get free copies in return for advertising their name on the back of your brochures and flyers. Be creative!
Identify a location that is seen as a "safe" place for people you want to reach, is convenient and easy to find, has free parking, is wheelchair accessible, can accommodate a sound system and maybe some video, and can seat around 100 people.
You don't want to be in a huge auditorium that will feel empty and low-energy even if you generate a good turnout.
Develop a timeline of steps needed to plan, promote, and carry out your event. Assign staff or volunteers responsibility for tasks that need to be done.
Be sure to give yourself enough time to get the word out to your target audience once you've nailed down the logistics.
Agenda & Speakers
Think about your goals as you put together your agenda and speakers.
Your goals will be to provide people with basic information about the census, highlight the importance of the census to the local community and to the services that are important to your audience, correct false information and address fears people may have about answering census forms, and encourage attendees to participate.
You may also be able to recruit volunteers for canvassing and other campaign events.
Your speakers should represent your community's diversity, should prepare their remarks in advance, and should make a commitment to stick to the amount of time they are given.
Here's a sample agenda. Each section could be handled by a different community leader or coalition partner.
Town Meeting on the 2010 Census
It's Time. Make Yourself Count!
Welcome and Introduction of Speakers
Basics about the Census: Why and How it is Done
What the Census Means to Our Community:
Representation, Resources, Rights
The Census Form and How to Get Assistance or Answers to Questions
Addressing Common Questions and Concerns
Ask for Volunteers to Support Local Campaign
Consider what kind of materials you want people to take with them when they leave.
You can create a simple fact sheet with some of the key messages encouraging people to take part. Include phone numbers for local assistance centers or call-in help for languages that are spoken in your community.
Templates for flyers and brochures will be available on the partners section of the Census Bureau's website.
Publicity and Outreach
Create flyers promoting your forum and have them available at the offices and service centers for local community organizations.
Encourage local groups and congregations to publicize your event in their newsletters. Ask local radio stations and community newspapers to promote the event in their calendar sections (keep in mind that some of these have lead times of more than a week).
The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund will offer media outreach help to events organized by its partner organizations.