Episode 8 | The Do’s and Don’ts of Starting a Parent Group!Sep 24, 2022
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In today’s podcast, Karen draws from her 27 years of experience to guide you through the process of forming your own local activist group with like-minded parents, and how to avoid the pitfalls that can derail your efforts.
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Today is going to be a fun one.
Today I'm going to talk about the dos and don'ts of starting a parent group. This can go for whether it's a parent group or any kind of activist group in your local community. I'm going to talk about parent groups because that's who I've worked with over the last 25, 30 years. I can't tell you how many parent groups I've seen come and go. So I've taken the best practices from the ones that I believe have been really effective and that have stayed around, or even some of the new ones that have popped up, because there are several that have popped up recently during COVID, and look, to me, from the outside looking in, like they have a real chance of sustaining and growing.
So I want to go over just the dos and the don'ts of starting a parent group, because you're going to need to walk through this with people, like-minded people. You can't really do all of this alone. If you listen to my school board podcast, you realize that, "Hey, we need to be organized and go up to the school board, and we need to have a plan." You're going to be much more effective if there's a few of you going instead of just yourself every week.
So here we go, the dos and don'ts of starting a parent group. I have 10 dos and five don'ts.
Obviously, the first thing you need to do is get mobilized and organized. So you need to start with your circle. It should be, whether it's your local book club, your local Bible study, it can even be a civic group that's already established, but you need to make sure that it's with like-minded people. As I go on to the rest of the dos, you'll see some of the things to keep in mind, but you need to make sure that everyone's pretty much aligned together. As you message and as you communicate what you're doing, your organization will grow.
The next one is really, really important. That is, to come up with your name and a mission statement. You need to make sure that the name communicates the mission statement. It can be simple. I like positive things like being for something. You have to be careful when you pick names. I like things that are forward thinking, like you're for something. Like For Parental Rights, or Parental Rights In Our Community, or Great Education. Or whatever you want to come up with. I don't want to throw out any names because I don't want to favor any of the names. Depending on what your vision is, they can have your local city in them or not.
Now, in general, single-issue group, those are the easiest to gain support for because everyone is going to be aligned on that one thing. When you expand to more than one thing, or one issue, that's when not everybody's so like-minded. Here's an example:
During COVID, lots of people aligned together on getting the masks off our kids, and/or lots of people aligned on the not forcing vaccinations on kids. But when you came down to other issues, other issues that I'm personally passionate about, like parental rights, what they're teaching in school when it comes to the sexualization of our kids, sharing personal data, that kind of thing, I found that not everybody that was opposed to masks agreed with me on the teaching of gender ideology in classroom. So that's where a single issue is really ... it's easier, but you need to be careful because groups will start and then they start expanding into lots of things. I think you probably need to be more than single issue. That's why I like something around parental rights. Because parental rights, even if you are for teaching sex education in school, you would agree that parents must be notified and have the ability to opt out.
So that's something that both sides can get around. But you need to make sure that your mission statement and who you are is really clearly defined. That needs to be done on the front end. So many groups start with one thing and then start to get pulled in another direction. I know I've been recently involved with one local parent group. It's like, they're into everything all over. You go to their Facebook page and every day it's a new topic that they're talking about. It's confusing. You lose momentum. Your job, when you're the leaders and you're a group, your job is to expand and amplify the voice of the people. And you can't do that when you're all over the place. It's just like a company, you have to be branding and marketing.
The other thing is you need to choose a leader. Now, you may be the one that wants to start the group, but you have no desire to talk in front of people or to organize. You want to be the one behind the scenes. However that is, you need to choose a leader and you need to look for people in your group. Obviously, this needs to be done with a lot of prayer. But you need people with a variety of gifting. You need people that can write. And there may be someone that never wants to speak publicly, never wants to go to a meeting, but they're a very good writer. So they'll send out emails or they'll do flyers or something for you. So leading isn't just being the loudest in the group, leading is something where people follow the leader. It's not just they follow them because they're the loudest.
The other thing that is important is that ... You might have a leader that's the face, and then a leader that's doing things behind the scenes, and that's great too, but you do need to be able to delegate. That'll come up with some more of the dos and don'ts. If this takes off, you're going to need to be able to spread the workload and be able to delegate. You then need to set roles, responsibilities, and sort of the rules that you all agree are going to govern things. So, you want to plug people in to the role that they fit. I've got a gal that is very good on organizing. So she keeps track of who's doing what. I just have to ask her. I don't have to keep track of that. I'm not organized like that. In some other groups, you've got someone that has a relationship with the media. That's a different gift. So you want to kind of figure out, "Okay, who's good in that area?"
Some of this stuff may take some time. You may have a leader and you may have several meetings before you start to put people in place. Don't think you have to assign something to everyone right away. You don't. You want to kind of see who rises to the cream of the crop. There's going to be a lot of people that come after you. People have different gifts. There may be somebody that's really good, usually they're younger than me, I'm about to turn 60, that can do social media. So find someone that can do social media. Well, that's where the kind of rules and responsibility come in. If you're going to be doing social media or have someone that is not the leader in charge of the web, you need to set some boundaries as a group, what is and isn't allowed? "Are we going to, on our Facebook page, post information for local candidates? And if we are, are there any limits? Are we going to let everybody, or just the ones we choose to like?" Those are things that need to be thought out on the front end.
Then you need to create your media profiles and your social media. I know not everybody likes social media, but that is where you are going to grow and expand your group. Whether it's Twitter, Parler, Rumble, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Nextdoor. Nextdoor, a lot of us older ladies are on Nextdoor. So get those set up. That's how you are going to get mobilized and organized and be able to expand your group with like-minded people.
Another one that I think some of the parent groups that are popping up, I don't think they were aware. There are a lot of very legitimate organizations that have been working on policy and on these types of issues for a long, long time that parents are just waking up to. So find an organization that has been vetted, they're legitimate, they're not a fringe group, and coalesce with them. You want to make sure, I don't think that you should get entangled in anything that's partisan. I think you should stay with a nonprofit group. Now, they may have more leanings where they work more with Republicans because they're more for parental rights. Whatever that is, it's not that they aren't going to have a leaning, but that they aren't strictly partisan. Because you're going to have a lot of people in your group that agree with you, but they don't want to get political. You shouldn't make that ... that shouldn't be the stopping or the sticking point when you're talking about reclaiming our parental rights at our local school board. So this parent group, you need to be like-minded. If there are things that you're not like-minded on, that have to do with the president or something else, let that go. We need to reclaim our rights and protect our kids.
The next one is huge. Okay. I just said work with vetted and legitimate organizations. So this goes into the next one. Use facts, not opinion. Stick with the facts. You need to avoid theories that can't be demonstrated. That is the quickest way to discredit your own group, is if something is put out there and it's false, or you don't know what you're talking about. All I can tell you is we're getting ready to go to a school board meeting in Tennessee. For the last year and a half, I've been listening to everyone tell us that the local school board, we need to change the governance policies because they have no power at our local school board. So all of these new people that are running for school board, they're all running on the platform of “Change the Governance Policy”.
Well, I work more at a national level and hadn't looked at the governance policies at my small, local community school district. So I finally did. Now, I knew from all my work in other districts that that probably wasn't true. So I look at it, and coming up, the next podcast is going to be some of my testimony before the next school board. Where all I've been hearing for the last year and a half is, "Oh, governance policies, governance policies." That's somebody's opinion. When you go read the governance policies, and I'm going to read from it in my testimony, it makes it clear that the school board is supposed to be doing everything they're supposed to be doing. They set policy. They hold the superintendent of schools, or they hold the staff accountable. They are the ones that set goals. They have all the power.
The problem isn't we need a new governance policy, the problem is our school board needs to start acting like the school board and actually read what their own policies say. So you need to stick with facts, not opinion. And when somebody says something, you need to ask for the source, "Well, where is that?" That's why using a vetted group is really, really important. They can help you get to the bottom of things.
The other one, choose your battles. You can't take on everything. This is the hardest one for just me personally. It's like every issue gets me all passionate and all fired up, and that's going to happen in your group. You're going to have lots of different personalities, and they're going to see something at school that really upsets them, or see something on the news. So that's why your mission statement and kind of being aligned is really important, because you're going to want to go talk about those other issues. You really are. It's going to be on your heart, but you've got to choose your battles.
You've got to stay on offense. Don't go on the defense. I'm going to give you an example. When you're on offense, you're on message. When you let the other side define, you're busy being defensive to redefine yourself. Here's an example. I got a call from a friend in Texas. They were fighting the really graphic pornography in schools. So all of the moms were doing open records request, or FOIAs, on certain books in the public school libraries. So the progressive group went and did a FOIA on all the moms to get all the names of the people that were doing the FOIAs on the books. Like, this progressive guy was going to expose these moms that were doing this.
So a call came from a friend that was helping these moms, and said, "Hey, Karen, can he do that?" I said, "Yes, he can do that." She's like, "What do we do?" She was all concerned they were going to be outed, or, "What are they going to do with this information?" I said, "You need to go on offense. Here's what you do. You go out. You call a press conference or you place an ad in the local paper, and you say, 'Hey, here we are. We are the moms that checked out these books, and here is the book we checked out. And here's why. It talks about anal sex.'" You know, just start reading from the really graphic book. Don't let them intimidate you to be on the defense. Go on the offense. Make them defend why they think that book is okay for middle schoolers. So think of that in terms of stay on the offense, don't get defensive, and make the other side own how extreme they are on these things.
The other one, the last of the 10, is anticipate pushback. You're going to get opposition. You're going to find out there are people even in your own church that don't agree with you. You just need to know that going in and have a very thick skin. That's why really having a good, solid group of people around you. And I probably should have added to have a prayer team. I'll add that the next time. Have a prayer team around your group because you will get pushback.
So now, because we don't want this podcast to go too long, we're going to go into the don'ts.
Don't compete with other groups or create one if there's one already out there. Now, I talked about working with vetted and legitimate organizations. I'm not talking about those. A lot of organizations, whether they're a state policy council or Eagle Forum or Family Research Council, you're getting all your information from those people, but they don't ... they might not have chapter chairs in your community, or chapter groups or groups that are working at the school board level. So in that case, you're going to want to create a group. But if there's already one there, then join that group and roll your sleeves up. There's nothing more frustrating than when a parent group is working on the ground and doing their best with the volunteers they have, and someone else comes along and says, "Oh, I'm going to start a group because I think I know better." That's great. Then use your leadership skills and your knowledge in this other group. So that's important, don't compete, but compliment other groups that are out there.
Another one, I cannot tell you how often I see this, don't let people, and I would say political consultants, elected officials, hijack your organization. The minute you're formed and you start showing up at a school board meeting, you are going to start getting calls. It's going to be from elected officials and their staff. And it's going to be from political consultants. I know this weekend, i spent some time with the Moms For Liberty, out of Florida. They were talking about the calls they're getting from establishment Republicans upset with who they endorsed locally because they really were the conservatives as opposed to establishment candidate. They were adamant about sticking with what they believe in and not getting hijacked. That is really a hard thing to do.
Because all of a sudden you're getting a call from or you're getting message from a Congressman or a Senator, and it feels good. It's like, "Whoa, maybe we're getting somewhere.”. Well, you know what? If they were doing their job, we wouldn't be in the situation we're in where we have to go to the school board. So, I'm just telling you, I don't think a lot of them know what's going on or how their laws affect us day to day in the school districts. So just be careful. You can use them if they're an ally, if they're willing to help you, but not if they're coming in to tell you what to do and how you should do it. That isn't going to work. Don't let them hijack your organization. Because they're going to want to hijack. And when they hijack it, they want to control it.
Don't go out of the gate too quickly. Meaning, even if something's going on, take a little bit of time to name your group, do your mission statement. There's going to be several more years that we're going to be fighting this battle. The left has been doing this for a long time. You need to have a strategy. You need to have your message ready so that you're on the offense and not the defense. I often say, "The other side is playing chess, and for years, we've been playing candy land. Well, we need to match them at their chess game. So don't go out of the gate too quickly."
This one's an important one. The fourth one is don't burn your people out. That goes back to choosing your battles on the do’s. I can't tell you how many get burned out, because they get going and there might be five in the group, and then there's only two and those two have been doing all the work for two years. You can't burn your people out. You can't all of a sudden be a stay-at-home mom, and then four days a week be asking your husband to babysit the kids because you're gone, gone, gone, gone, gone. They're going to be trouble four weeks, five weeks in. The kids are going to be upset. So don't burn your people out. That goes back to choosing your battles, having a specific mission, working with vetted organizations, which cut down on some of the work, responsibilities. When you have a leader that can delegate, you can spread the work out.
So last but not least, I encourage people not to be partisan. I think your group will be broader. I think you'll be respected and wanted by both political organizations. The more you entangle with one specific elected official ... That doesn't mean you can't work with one or you can't do something or have one speak, but the more you're entangled with them, the more you're going to be seen as partisan and not really for the people, for reclaiming our schools, and for returning power back to our local communities.
So that's it. That's the do’s and don'ts of starting a parent group.
Remember, if you're listening to this and you're not listening at thekitchentableactivist.com, you're listening on Buzzsprout or Apple or somewhere, you need to go to the kitchentableactivist.com. It is there that you will get our list of the dos and don'ts to put into your activist planner, so that no matter where you are, Florida, Texas, New York, California, by the end of the year, and a year of listening to podcasts, you will have a full activist planner for your community to help you reclaim your parental rights.
Interact with Karen in the comments and let other Kitchen Table Activists know what parent groups you have been involved in our created yourself!