Last March, thanks in large part to the hundreds of online messages of support from Senior Planet members, the New York State Legislature voted to continue funding the Senior Planet North Country program through April 2019.
It was testament to the effectiveness of online activism, which can be a wonderful way to make your voice heard, to speak out, and to rally for a cause you believe in without leaving home. If you don’t feel like heading out to a crowded rally and holding up a homemade poster, you can still make a difference! Here, our guide to easy online activism.
Choose the cause you’d like to get involved with.
What issue do you care about the most? Global warming? Hunger in America? Refugee children? Figure out what your cause is and then zero in on how to find an organization to work for.
“The danger that seniors can run into is that if they are ranting about too many things, they get known for ranting,” says Nancy A. Shenker of theONswitch (theONswitch.com), a digital marketing consultancy. “It is important to find an organization you would like to support.”
At Guidestar.org, which bills itself as the largest source of information on non-profit organizations, you will get comprehensive, up to date nonprofit data. The “Resources” section helps you improve your understanding of the nonprofit sector and the organizations that serve the causes you care about; the “Support” section explains how to get the most out of Guidestar.org products.
At charitynavigator.org, another directory of nonprofit organizations, you can get a guide to volunteering, information on the tax benefits of giving, a guide to protecting yourself from online scams, and what to do when a charity calls. More than 9,000 charitable organizations are rated. “Then you can reach out to let them know you are available as a volunteer,” says Shenker. “Make a list of the skills you have that would be of benefit to that organization.”
And if you don’t want to march or protest, there’s plenty you can do at home. “For instance, right now I am planning for a gala and we need more silent auction items,” Shenker says. “This would be a great job for someone who loves to be on the phone talking to people, who maybe was in sales in a previous life.”
Petitions can be a persuasive tool
You can sign someone else’s petition, or you can study the various resources that are available for creating your own, and make one yourself. At https://www.ipetitions.com/, you will find out how to create an online petition in just a few minutes, without any technical knowledge to get you through it. You will find even more advice on how to write a compelling, attention-grabbing petition at https://www.change.org/start-a-petition. In addition to starting a petition, you will learn how to share it, how to get media attention for your petition, and how to engage supporters and build momentum.
Make phone calls and write letters
You can call or write letters to your elected officials at the local, state, and national levels, as well as to other people in positions of power, says Jeanne Flavin, PhD, a professor of sociology at Fordham University. “Weigh in by writing letters to the editor of your local or regional paper,” she says. “Even if your letter or commentary isn’t published, it will put the editor on notice that you are paying attention and that you give a darn about these issues.”
Flavin says she personally prefers “old-school telephone calls and letters over petitions and emails.” If you would like to know how to call your elected officials, check out https://autisticadvocacy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/fact-sheet-how-to-call-your-elected-officials.pdf. If you would like to get advice on how to write effective letters, check out https://www.aclu.org/other/tips-writing-your-elected-officials or https://seniorplanet.org//www.nea.org/home/19657.htm
To make sure your facts are always true, it’s a good idea to try fact-checking them. You can learn how to check facts on your own and an overview of the top fact-checking websites here.
Making phone calls and interacting with another person can be a persuasive tool, says Robert J.S. Ross, Ph.D. research professor of sociology at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. “Almost all campaigns offer their supporters the opportunity to make phone calls, and you can do this from home,” he says. “Calling is a personal communication that doesn’t require you to get out and walk around.”
But it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with your subject matter in advance. “The key thing is to know your facts,” Shenker says. “You want to educate, inspire and engage other people about a particular cause.”
And if you’re just starting out, expect to be a bit nervous at first. “But it gets easier with practice,” Flavin says. “By the fourth or fifth phone call, you’ll definitely have the hang of it.”