Advocacy can be fun! 

House parties are great ways to share information, motivate your peers, increase awareness of the ACLU in your community, and celebrate victories. As well as support one another during loss and harships. Here are tips and tools you will need to make your house party a success. You’ll find guides for planning your event, suggested formats, and plans for follow-up.

1. Commit to hosting a house party to write letters or make phone calls

Sign up to host an official ACLU affilaited house party by emailing our advocacy team at: southdakota@aclu.org. You may also submit and event with our team at People Power and advertise your event statewide. When you commit to hosting a party, we can provide materials such as: 

  • Sign in sheets
  • Letter writing templates
  • Phone scripts 
  • Infographics  
  • Legislative bill information
  • Suggested issue areas for your letters (i.e. LGBTQ+, abortion/reproductive freedom, free speech, etc...) 
  • SDLeg bingo 
  • Legislator emails  
  • and more, just scroll down to find copies and print them at home! 

2. Set a goal

Brainstorm with a committee of your peers, "what is the goal of this event?" Is it to provide information, motivate lawmakers on a specific action, increase rapid response teams, raise awareness of issues you care about in your community or to celebrate a victory? Whatever your goal is, name it and stick to it. 

3. Establish your event in a well-known and accessible location

Choosing the right location for your event depends on whom must attend and the particular environment you want to create. Find a home or event space that is big enough for your guests to be comfortable, but not so large that it is difficult for people to participate in a group discussion. Other factors to consider when selecting a space include parking, access to public transportation, ADA accessibility, and the distance your guests must travel to get there. If you're looking for a place to host that is free of charge and open to the public, send us an email to southdakota@aclu.org with the subject line: "House Party" and your city's name. We'll help you find a place! 

4. Promote your event

Getting people to your event is just as important as planning the program, or booking the catering. Your event cannot be successful if people don't know it is happening or where it is. When hosting a small event for a group of friends and neighbors, send personal e-mails and make phone calls to remind folks. When applicable, you may create a private or public Facebook event to bring in attendees you might not be as familiar with, or use it as a way to inspire others to follow suit. Posters hung around your community are also wonderful ways to bring awareness to your work. 

5. Confirm essential details

  • Date, time, and location. 
  • Describe and name the event: a basic, brief description, as simple as “Letter Writing Party” or "Debate Watch Party" is great. Follow up with a brief description of goals, what you'll have there, and if anyone needs to bring supplies. 
  • Connect with your attendees on a personal level, and keep the lines of communication open at all times. It is important to make the implicit explicit. List e-mails and phone numbers of the organizers on all materials too, this is crucial incase guests need to contact you with questions.

At the party

Meticulous preparation on the day of your house party will result in a smooth-running event. Between the time your guests arrive and when the formal proceedings begin, you should set the stage for the remainder of the event.

Important details

Registration

Be sure to keep track of who attends your event so that you can contact them again for future activities. The simplest way to do this is to have a sign-up sheet with space for the most important information: name, address, phone number and e-mail. Have a couple of pens or pencils on hand. It’s a good idea to designate a volunteer to personally ask each attendee if they have had a chance to sign in. 

Name tags

Chances are your guests won’t know each other. Encourage them to wear name tags! You can certainly write them out beforehand if you know who is attending, or put out blank name badges or stickers along with a few markers and ask guests to create their own. Name tags will make it easier for guests to learn each other’s names, pronouns, and will allow you to call on people during the group discussions.

Refreshments

While not absolutely necessary, guests always appreciate refreshments. You can keep it as simple as coffee and sodas, with store-bought cookies or pastries. If you hold your event at a local coffee shop or restaurant, owners may donate some drinks and snacks.

Introductions and opening remarks

As your guests get settled, before the presentation begins, take the opportunity to welcome them. Introduce yourself. If the group is small enough, you might go around the room and invite each person to say their name and what brings them to the event.

Educational materials

Have current ACLU materials, including membership brochures and e-mail sign-up sheets, available. You might also pass them out after the event ends or place them on a table near the exit. The ACLU of South Dakota has printed materials available at no cost, just ask.

Group discussion

  • Have a few pre-planned topics or questions. If everyone in the room seems to have something to contribute, you can scale back their ambitions to focus on a few central points and one or two urgent actions. On the other hand, you can use a question or idea as a way to elicit a response. If you need any ideas regarding what questions or topics to discuss, contact us and we will help.
  • Call on people. Give each person a chance to speak who is comfortable.
  • Stick to a time limit. If you hit your time limit and the group is still talking, ask for one last question. If people wish to continue the discussion, they can do so outside or after other people have the chance to leave.

The ACLU of South Dakota's website, aclusd.org; has detailed information about numerous civil liberties issues that can help prepare you to lead the discussion. You can share key pieces of information and breaking news and be better prepared to answer questions. If someone asks a question and you don’t know the answer, it’s OK to say you don’t know. Simply offer to find out the information and get back to them later.

Don't forget to follow up

Thank guests for attending

Send out thank you cards or make a phone call to thank your attendees for taking the time to defend civil liberties.

Answer questions left unanswered

Make sure that any unanswered questions get answered. Feel free to contact us if you need help answering these questions.

Remind attendees to join the ACLU of South Dakota's membership

Let attendees know that it is important to follow up on the issues that were discussed at the party and the best way to do that is to keep informed and become a card carrying member of the ACLU of South Dakota