Join YAL chapters nationwide to raise awareness about the principles established in our founding document — the United States Constitution. Celebrate the constitution any time of the year, especially on Constitution Day (September 16th) and throughout the following week. YAL has three recommended ways to conduct your constitution-themed activism:
- Build a Free Speech Wall to highlight one of our most important liberties secured by the First Amendment.
- Build a Giant Constitution which students can sign.
- Use a Constitution Quiz to brush students up on their constitutional rights.
The three goals of every activism event are to:
- Educate new students in the ideas of liberty
- Recruit new members for your YAL chapter
- Earn media attention for your event to expand its outreach
No matter how your chapter chooses to celebrate the constitution, following these steps will ensure that you optimize the outcome of your event:
- Reach out to YAL’s Leadership Team for support: YAL’s Leadership Team is your number-one tool for success. Find a YAL leader near you who can help you execute your activism event. Your Regional Director and the State Chairs in your area are your best resource for learning how to organize an effective activism event. If either position has not yet been filled, learn more and apply to join the Leadership Team here.
- Apply for resources: YAL is offering FREE resources and recommendations to every participating YAL chapter:
- An activism grant for up to $100
- A recruitment kit packed with materials, clip boards, sidewalk chalk, books, flyers, a political quiz and chart, and everything else you’ll need to draw students to your chapter.
- Always recruit for liberty: With every activism event you do, you should recruit new members. Print out plenty of YAL sign-up sheets to sign up interested students. When your event is over, use the Member Upload Tool to upload all your new members’ information to your chapter page. Once you upload member information, each new member will get an email asking them to join your chapter.
- Make your plans: Meet up with your chapter members and plan the dates and details for your activism event. Take some time to brainstorm and put your ideas on paper. After a productive meeting, you should walk away with a clear and actionable plan with specific tasks assigned to your members.
Ask yourselves some basic questions: What do you want to do? Who is going to do what? When are you going to do it? How much preparation time is needed? When are you going to meet again to prepare?
Always keep in mind the three most important goals for any activism project:
1. Recruit new members
2. Educate your classmates
3. Earn media attention
For each activism event, there are two major components:
- An on-campus tabling exercise, including visual display and/or interactive quiz, to recruit new members and promote your upcoming Defend the Constitution meeting/event.
- A large chapter meeting/event to educate all attendees and discuss the issue you are addressing. This could be a speaker, PowerPoint presentation, politician, professor, movie, and/or general discussion.
Choose an event
Use one — or two or all three! — of these activism ideas to make your Constitution Week event eye-catching and effective.
1. The Constitution Quiz
This is a great tool to make fellow students aware of just how little they know about the Constitution. Use this as a supplement to a a larger event (see below), or use this at your recruitment table or at a follow-up meeting. You can use this as a way to collect names and contact info — have a drawing for a good prize which students can enter only by filling out the quiz and including their name, email, and phone number. Download YAL’s sample quiz and build on these questions to make a unique tool for your chapter.
2. Make a Giant Constitution
During one year’s Constitution activism, YAL at the University of Texas-San Antonio created a 17-ft Constitution and displayed it in a high-traffic area on campus, offering passing students a chance to be signers of the Constitution! The chapter handed out over 200 Constitutions and received more than 325 signatures. An additional 80 students signed up to learn more about YAL.
Check out the pictures below and UTSA’s report for more details on how to duplicate this great idea at your campus!
3. Build a Free Speech Wall
If you really want to turn heads, the main event of your Constitution Week activism should be a Free Speech Wall, a large display designed to catch the attention of passing students and give you an easy way to explain the importance of the First Amendment.
This idea was also developed by the YAL chapter at UTSA, where the wall proved to be a great way to engage and educate the student body. Take a look at the pictures below and read the UTSA chapter’s report from last year to learn how to build your own Free Speech Wall.
Here’s a step-by-step instructional video for building your Free Speech Wall:
Reserve a high-traffic area to table on campus once you have picked your dates for execution. As a recognized student organization, it should be as simple as contacting your student affairs office and jumping through the necessary hoops to receive permission to table.
If your YAL chapter is not yet officially recognized by your university and it won’t let you reserve tabling space, don’t fear. Get creative, and always remember that the table doesn’t get recruits: you do.
If your campus gives you any trouble and tries to relegate your activism to a “free speech zone,” please contact us so we can help you defeat these unconstitutional regulations.
Reserve a classroom and any necessary tech equipment, so you can host a film screening, a speaker, or give a presentation. Predict how many students you think will attend the film screening, and reserve a room to accommodate.
Pro tip: Always reserve rooms that are only big enough to accommodate 75% of the amount of people you expect to show up. It is better for everyone to think that your event ended up having standing room only when you host it in a smaller room rather than think that hardly anyone showed up when you host it in a large auditorium.
We strongly suggest that you walk through the room before the event, so you understand how the equipment works and how to set up the room properly.
Once you know what event you want to conduct on your campus, be sure to follow these simple steps in order to make it the best thing your campus has ever seen:
Approach every student that walks by your table. You never know who could be a high-quality member of your chapter. Post colorful flyers all around campus and make a Facebook event to advertise your tabling event and your follow up meeting.
Sign up EVERYONE
Stay focused. The purpose of every activism event is to build your chapter and grow the youth movement for liberty. This is the only way that your YAL chapter can grow and maintain a lasting presence on campus. Always keep YAL sign up sheets on hand.
Sign up everyone you possibly can, and make sure to upload their contact information to your chapter page using the member upload tool. And always follow up with the students who have signed up at your table.
Pro tip: Ask every student who you get to stop at your table to sign up for a reminder about the follow up event, and ask them if they can make it to the event. Students are more likely to follow through on something they verbally commit to.
Host a productive follow-up meeting/event
You only have one chance to make a good first impression. Your first meeting after your tabling event should set the proper tone you want to convey as a chapter. That’s why YAL created a guide to running a successful meeting so that you can know exactly how to retain your new members with your meeting.
Here are some great resources for your informational meeting.
- Defend the Constitution presentation
- How to host a documentary screening at your meeting
- How to host a speaker at your meeting
- Request a YAL University speaker for a live, virtual presentation
Follow up or fail
Sign-ups are worth nothing if you don’t execute a proper follow up with each new contact you have and get them to your follow-up event.
This is the perfect time to talk with the new students that you engaged with during your project about the importance of protecting the constitution.
Follow up in multiple ways
Don’t rely on email follow ups: no one reads them besides the government. Be sure to give each interested student a personal phone call and ask them if they can come to your next meeting. Remember, students are more likely to follow through with something that they verbally commit to do.
After you’ve called everyone, send a follow up text the day of your event to round up any stragglers who wouldn’t show up otherwise. Try something like this:
“Hey [name], this is [name] from YAL. Thanks for stopping by our protest the other day. It was great getting meeting you. We’re all getting ready for our follow-up meeting and social right now. Can’t wait to see you at [time]!”
Email will only serve as a good reminder to those whom you’ve already reached by phone, text, and social media.
Host your event to feature a speaker, a documentary screening or a presentation as soon as possible. Your event should be within a couple days of your tabling activities so students don’t forget.
Schedule the meeting during an evening time slot which will conflict with the fewest number of classes possible, and don’t schedule events (other than socials) on weekends — don’t give your new recruits any reason not to attend!
At the meeting, begin by introducing YAL and explain how to get involved in your chapter. Next, screen your film or give your speaker the floor. After the meeting, offer an opportunity to socialize by going out for pizza, drinks, or whatever works best for your chapter to discuss the meeting and the ideas of liberty.
Conduct follow ups consistently even after students have come to their first YAL meeting. Consistent communication with students is the only way to ensure that they establish lasting friendships within your chapter, and therefore, stay involved after their first exposure to YAL.
Use the Member Upload Tool to upload all your new members’ information to your chapter page.
You can greatly increase the impact of your chapter’s activism efforts by documenting and sharing your story with other YAL activists on the YAL national blog. If you’re a chapter officer, it’s simple: Click here.
- Have detailed reports: Post all your pictures, give us all the details, and share with us how students reacted to your constitutional activism.
- Include your best pictures and video: Take as many photos as you can including action shots and group photos. Aim for at least 5 awesome pictures in your report. Include short videos (about 3-4 minutes). Make them upbeat, and mix in some music. Post your video to YouTube and embed the video in your chapter report.
- Include how many recruits you got: A primary goal of every activism event is to recruit new members into your YAL chapter. Share in your blog post how many sign-ups you got, how many participants you had in your event, and how many students you engaged overall.
- Include all of your earned media: Chapters that earn media attention reach a much wider audience and greater respect on campus. Include links to all of your media coverage in your report.
Once your chapter has conducted a successful Defend the Constitution event, it will pay to have a social to bring everyone together, celebrate your hard work, and provide an opportunity for your new recruits to feel welcomed into the group.
After your follow-up meeting, consider hosting a social. You can go out to a local pizza pub, a nearby bar, or do something more creative like go to one of your school’s football games together.
People may first become interested in your YAL chapter because of the ideas of liberty, but no one will stay as a member unless your chapter proves to be a source of camaraderie and friendship for them.
Use this Momentum for Your Next Activism Project!
Through conducting a successful activism effort, you won’t convince everyone to join your chapter, but you’ll see your membership grow quickly. You’ll be thankful you put in the effort when you have a record-setting turnout at your next chapter meeting!
Remember, every event you do on campus should be used as a launching pad for your next big project so don’t let your momentum end with this event! Use this energy to mobilize for your next big activism project. Check out YAL’s most recent National Activism project.