|By Michelle Hagopian, ANCA Eastern Region Executive Director
It’s no secret that the power of most Armenian organizations lies within our local communities. From California to New York and everywhere in between, we rely on our local leaders to step up, motivate others and produce results.
The Armenian National Committee of America is no exception to this norm. We are a grassroots organization that advocates on behalf of the Armenian-American community, and though we may have a few individuals who lead regions, the bulk of what we do is thanks to you.
The ANCA Eastern Region has at least 25 local chapters, many of which are manned by a small handful of the same people who lead other Armenian organizations. We’re always grateful for their help, but wouldn’t it be great if we had 20-30 people in each local ANC chapter participating and leading their respective communities? It’s always exciting to develop new talent and help those who are already spread thin. Nothing would make me happier than to see an explosion of local activity in the Eastern Region.
To that end, I’d like to offer some tips for our local committees that are perhaps struggling or at a standstill without much direction. We’ve got the power to influence policy making at every level in this country, and you should your voice and actions to cause change.
How to get the community involved
Many ANC chapters have been successful in promoting Hai Tahd by sponsoring single lectures or lecture series, letter-writing campaigns, panel discussions, demonstrations and mass mailing efforts, among other things. Update that a bit to the world we live in now and you’ll see the same efforts but with slight tweaks (e.g. emails and action alerts instead of writing letters).
If you see an action alert on www.anca.org, go ahead and follow the phone scripts or sign the email. But take it a step further. Why not host a community phone-banking event? If the alert requires hundreds of calls to Congress, why not have your local ANC organize your community to account for 200 of those calls?
Hosting a lecture series or a town hall meeting is also a great way to engage your community. You don’t necessarily need a particular reason to do so either. Say you want to educate your community about Artsakh and the struggle for independence. Ask me (or any other leader in the Eastern Region) to help you find speakers and make it happen. Making that phone call is half the battle – once you get the ball rolling, organizing an event becomes a breeze with experience.
I would encourage those communities that have never sponsored a lecture to start with one to gauge public reaction first before diving into an extensive lecture series. It’s important to reach out to regional leadership if you’re venturing into new territory just to ensure you have the help you need.
If you choose to pursue a lecture, here are some tips to guide the process:
1. Choose a relevant topic that will both educate the public and communicate the ANC’s direction
2. Compile a list of Armenian and non-Armenian speakers (i.e. professors, human rights leaders, genocide scholars) who are experts or knowledgeable about the topic. Try to get the best speaker, using a list in order of preference. Be flexible if your first choice can’t make it.
3. Publicize the event once you’ve secured a lecturer and have a date set.
4. Send flyers to the public using your community mailing list and send event announcements to sister organizations.
5. Send a brief press release to The Armenian Weekly and Hairenik to publicize the event as well as your church newsletter. *Regional staffers can help edit and distribute press releases to all media.
6. Don’t forget non-Armenian media as well – send public service announcements to TV/radio stations, press releases to newspapers and magazines and to university campuses. Students love attending these events.
7. If the lecture is a success and you think your community could support a lecture series, develop one! It can be a few months later, but take your time with it and give the community something ANC-related to look forward to.
These are just a few tips to engage your community. Look for more ideas in this column in the coming weeks.
And, as always, if you ever need guidance, have a question or just want to chat, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.