A recent survey of M+R staff shows that 8% of us keep a megaphone at home so we can be ready in case a rally, protest, or alien invasion requiring a rousing speech from Bill Pullman breaks out. We were kinda surprised and disappointed the number wasn’t higher — we love making noise, and we love when activists get together. But the truth is, bringing 1,000 people together in person requires more than a megaphone: it takes a ton of staff time and a pretty big budget.

If your nonprofit doesn’t have idle staff and big bucks to spare (shocking, we know), how do you do mass organizing? The answer is in a different stat: turns out, 100% of M+R staff have a phone, and unless you work for The Hermit Alliance, the same is true of your supporters and partners.

Tele-townhalls aren’t just for politicians looking to snuggle up to voters in their living rooms — they can be a powerful tool for nonprofits looking for supporters. These calls require a bit of prep, but they can bring together thousands of advocates and rally them for your cause for less time and whole lot less money than a traditional gathering.

Earlier this year, we helped a coalition of groups host a national tele-townhall with 15,000 callers who wanted to hear and talk about equal pay for equal work, paid sick days, paid family and medical leave, and access to affordable childcare. Good stuff that you don’t hear nearly enough about.

Here are 3 ways you can win big by hosting your own tele-townhall:

1) It’s like a party with a few thousand of your besties and your cause is the guest of honor.

When was the last time you spoke – I mean, actually spoke, not tweeted! – to your supporters? Been awhile, right? Tele-townhalls are an easy way to do just that without breaking the bank with an in-person reception or lobby day.

And while you’re saving money, you’re also deepening relationships with the partners who help promote it and getting closer to your speakers and champions (legislative leaders, reporters, celebs, local supporters, etc.). It’s safe to say your favorite partners and spokespeople are much more likely to say yes to talking on the phone in their pajamas for an hour than to sitting on a panel in person.

2) Get new people talking about you and your cause.

We’ve all been there. You’re working on an issue that is important, but it’s not exactly making it to the front page of the paper…or even the last page. The only way to make your thing the Next Big Thing is to break through and pull people away from a Real Housewives marathon long enough to get them on board.

When you host a tele-townhall you can target your invitation list and expand it beyond your organization’s current supporters. Two ways to make this easy on yourself: 1) Buddy up and ask partner and affinity organizations to co-sponsor the call and share lists for the dial-out, and 2) Work with a good vendor who has a rich database that they will segment and call for you.

Once you get everyone on the phone, you have a rare dedicated time to make your case and bring folks up to speed. As if that wasn’t good enough, you also get to ask them to take action while you have their attention. It doesn’t get much better than that for us organizers.

3) Get a huge bang for your buck!

Facebook isn’t the only communications platform that is constantly updating its technology. Tele-townhalls have come a long way as well, and you can get creative with how you use the call to reach and engage your callers. (AKA get more for your money.) Cutting-edge tele-townhalls will:

  • patch callers through directly to their policymakers’ offices in DC
  • give constituents the chance to talk aloud (and not just on Twitter) with officials and household names in a chaos-free way
  • allow organizations to poll attendees on different types of messaging or policy priorities
  • ask (and get!) callers to commit to things like organizing in their communities, writing letters, getting trained as volunteers, etc.

Now that you know the reasons for having a tele-town hall, call us if you want help making one happen for your cause. Just dial the M+R switchboard: 202-478-6120.