Organizing for Action
Starting with a “group of one,” the Tool Box provides options for organizing a GRR group. You may remain as one, or grow into a group of three to five or even a larger gathering of 20 or more. You will learn strategies and tips about group development and nurturing. We also suggest ways you can collaborate with local partner organizations and offer suggestions for communicating using social and public media. We repeat some of the suggestions so that each section can stand alone. We also have included “Recipes for Action” which you can work with right now.
Our goal is to help you increase your power to safeguard reproductive rights for all.
(Please click a topic below)
Why Organize Grandmothers?
We know that when we work together, GRR power will overcome and win!
Since GRR! hit the ground running five years ago, we’ve often asked ourselves, who ARE the grandmothers who are so drawn to this work? We wanted to find out more so we surveyed the GRR community and learned a lot. You probably share some of these traits.
Most GRR activists are age 50 plus and from the generation of women who came of age during the pre-Roe v Wade years. They are women who —
Are highly motivated to preserve the values of sexual and reproductive choice
Are open to sharing their own abortion and reproductive health experiences, and ending the silence and stigma surrounding them
Have in-depth knowledge about abortion before Roe v. Wade and they understand what life was like when abortion was illegal
Know that, despite the 1973 Roe v Wade decision, abortion and reproductive health care still aren’t fully accessible for all people
We also know that Grandmothers who GRR! —
Are voters and advocates who want to take action
Desire the experience of solidarity that comes from belonging to a GRR group
Understand the impact of current threats to reproductive rights could have on future generations of women
Want to help in many different and unique ways, including sending a postcard to a legislator, joining a GRR group, writing letters to the editor, etc.
Will do whatever they can to keep abortion and all reproductive health care legal and safe
We also discovered that some in our group represent other generations and may not actually be grandmothers. But they are “Grandmothers At Heart”.
Our own experience, starting in Mid-Coast Maine, shows the power of the grandmother generation of women. We have grown from a small group of seventeen activists to more than seventy GRRs active in the Mid-Coast region of Maine. In the last year alone, we have added three new GRR chapters elsewhere in Maine and one beyond Maine’s borders. Nearly 4,000 people now follow us on both Facebook and Twitter. Our posts reach GRRs in 46 states and three countries. Each day our numbers grow.
Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights (GRR) works through education and advocacy, to secure for younger generations access to reproductive rights, justice and health care for which our generation fought so hard.
Become a Group of ONE
If you come to GRR not knowing other activists in your area or state, don’t worry. You are already part of a community of many GRRs across the country.
Join our email list if you haven’t already. We will send you alerts about state and national legislation and a monthly bulletin. Go to: https://actionnetwork.org/forms/join-grr
You can have influence from wherever you live, via telephone, computer, or letters. Your voice and actions are very valuable.
Here are some STRATEGIES you can commit to as a group of one:
– Follow us on Social Media
– Learn more about reproductive justice and current events through the GRR Website and our pages on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. The Guttmacher Institute is another good source of information at www.guttmacher.org.
– Contact your state office of national organizations such as Planned Parenthood Federation of America and NARAL Pro Choice America. See Appendix A for a list of national organizations with state offices to learn about local and national advocacy initiatives. You will meet other activists who will support you and your efforts.
– Make phone calls to or email your Members of Congress. They may have busy phone lines in Washington, but many of us have found that we can get through to an in-state office to leave our comments. Go to your federal legislator’s website where you will find their contact information. https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/
– Make phone calls or email your state legislators. You can find their names and contact information at https://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/.
– Wear a GRR pin or tee shirt which often leads to interesting conversations. Although it may stimulate some negative comments, more often it leads to the start of a positive conversation about reproductive rights. To order tee shirts and pins contact GRR at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Keep in touch with us via email@example.com. We would love to hear from you. And it’s possible that we have heard from another GRR near you.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
How to Start a GRR Chapter
Every local GRR group will be a little different, reflecting the talents and circumstances of the people involved. Do the following steps in the order you choose to get your group started. The list below is based on what we’ve learned when organizing our Mid-Coast Maine GRR chapter over the past five years. Just remember: There is no one perfect way to do this. Look around your own community and take note of groups that are working on reproductive rights. Is there room at the table for others to step up and work together to protect these threatened rights? As a GRR, you have something special to add to their activism.
Step One: Review the status of reproductive rights in your community and state.
– Use the internet or library to learn about what state laws govern the delivery of reproductive health care in your state. One place to begin: https://www.prochoiceamerica.org/laws-policy/state-government/
– Identify the threats to accessible reproductive health care in your state. The Guttmacher Institute is an excellent, objective source for information about specific laws in your state: https://www.guttmacher.org/united-‐states/abortion/state-‐policies-‐abortion
– Recognize that many important issues affect the lives of women and their families, including access to health care, economic opportunity, domestic violence, the availability of high quality childcare and many other things.
– Use the GRR website to identify your members of Congress and state legislature and to determine their position on reproductive rights.
Step Two: Invite your friends and like-minded people to meet at your home to discuss reproductive rights.
– Sharing stories and narratives from the days before Roe V Wade will ignite women’s passion for protecting reproductive rights today.
– Eight to ten or so people is a great start but fewer is just fine. Some have started with just three to five.
– Look for a commitment of a couple of hours a month to fight for reproductive rights and justice.
– Identify two or three co-founders who are interested in participating and recruiting others. Ideally, they would be from different social networks so that you can maximize your reach
– It is critical that our work reflect the voices of those most affected by barriers to reproductive health care- low-income women and women of color. Make every effort to pursue diversity at each stage of your group development process.
– If there are other groups organizing around women’s rights that also are threatened, reach out and partner with them in a sensitive way. Help amplify their voices and support their leadership, while maintaining your own voice.
Step Three: Ignite women’s passion for this work by sharing stories and narratives from the days before Roe v. Wade
– Discuss how important reproductive rights are to women’s health and safety, and how these rights are being eroded.
– Invite women to share their stories. You’ll be surprised to learn how many women have had experience, or know the experience, of friends or family from the days when abortion was illegal and contraception often unavailable. It helps remove stigma when people share with a group.
– Discuss the importance of using narratives to warn younger generations about what it could be like without reproductive rights. Young people WANT to hear these stories and are moved by them.
Step Four: Your group will thrive when each person feels valued for her unique strengths and skills. Validate each person equally for every contribution they make no matter how large or small.
– Every commitment of time and energy is important no matter how big or small. Members will know this when everyone’s work is recognized in a group email or at a meeting.
– Encourage a variety of activities that anyone can participate in, from writing a letter to members of Congress, to calling their legislators, to testifying at a hearing.
Step Five: Keep your focus on reproductive rights and justice.
– Your GRR group will be strongest when your message is clear – keep your public events and communications focused on reproductive rights. Keep the message simple.
– At times, we collaborate with organizations that champion a wide range of issues affecting women and families. We want to educate people about the interconnectedness of reproductive rights to all crucial issues affecting women from maternal and child health to economic security. Yet, we always try to highlight the foundational importance of reproductive justice.
– GRR groups will be stronger when our message is clear. Keep the message simple and straightforward.
Step Six: Keep up the momentum. Have a core group that meets every month to share information and plan future action. We try to:
– Get together on a regular basis to keep people energized and involved.
– Have a well-thought out agenda for every meeting which includes items from GRR’s three areas of focus- outreach, advocacy and education.
– Ask different people to facilitate meetings so that this role doesn’t fall on the shoulders of only one person and become a burden.
– Make sure there is good follow-up for all attendees after the meeting. We highly recommend taking and sending out good minutes as a way to keep GRRs connected and informed!
– Stay in touch with group members between meetings and events via group emails, newsletters and legislative alerts.
– Invite them all to join our national email list: https://actionnetwork.org/forms/join-grr
Step Seven: Wear the yellow GRR tee shirts, pins and/or scarves. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to order tee shirts, pins, etc.
– The tee shirts, especially, tell a story: we are grandmothers and we are organized. Pins can help too; though small, the pins do attract attention.
– It’s amazing how big an impact these make at public meetings and at the legislature, even with just a few GRRs! We often joke that “three’s a crowd.”
– You will be recognized, like-minded people will thank you, and your numbers will grow.
Some people may live in a geographically isolated area. Others may have commitments or limitations which prevent them from physically attending a group meeting. You still can meet
with others virtually as long as you have access to a computer and WIFI. Even if you don’t have Internet where you live, there are now a wide variety of WIFI connections available. This can make it easier for GRRs to connect both inside their homes and outside. For example, most libraries and cafes now have free WIFI which you can use to join GRR meetings.
At Midcoast Maine GRR, we link to groups and meetings using applications such as Zoom and Go to Meeting. These applications are managed by one central person in our group who then sends links to those who wish to join the meeting. By clicking on the link, you are automatically joined to the meeting.
Here are some tips for virtual meetings:
– If possible, meet at least once in person. This helps with bonding and relationship building which can be more difficult when meeting over the internet for the first time. Yet, a virtual meeting can do a lot to join people together.
– Have regularly scheduled meetings. Seek to make sure virtual members will receive meeting announcements;
– When available, video calls for meetings can strengthen personal connections. Miscommunication occurs less often than when using chat and email.
– Make sure there is good follow-up for all attendees after the meeting. We highly recommend taking and sending out good minutes as a way to keep GRRs connected and informed!
Don’t let tech tie-ups deter you from meeting. It has taken all of us to learn how to make these meetings work. Just have confidence in that old saying, “If it doesn’t work the first time, try, try again.”
Collaborating With Other Groups
In every community and state there are groups that have been advocating for reproductive rights for generations. They may not know about GRR initially but will welcome you for your special role as an advocate. Some are national groups such as Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the ACLU, and National Organization of Women, which have offices in every state. See Appendix A: National Organizations with state offices. Others include local and statewide family planning programs and advocacy groups. Together they represent a cross section of the reproductive rights movement that spans different strategies, demographics and regions.
Collaborating with other groups is easier and more effective than going it alone. Use online research to identify the natural allies in your area – you will increase the impact of your efforts. We collaborate with organizations that champion a wide range of issues affecting women and families, but our focus is clear: GRR’s sole mission is to support reproductive rights and justice.
Here are some tactics for building relationships with allied reproductive rights groups:
Meet with clinics in your area that offer reproductive health services to talk about ways you can support them. Planned Parenthood is a great place to start, and there may be other reproductive health service providers with whom you can work. In Maine we collaborate with three different reproductive health care organizations. Discuss ways your group can support them. Ask if there is somebody in charge of education and advocacy – they are the most natural connectors for GRR.
Work with local and state government officials and legislative members who support access to reproductive health care. Staff at Planned Parenthood and other service providers/advocates often know who they are and can share this information. Think about the best ways to communicate with your government representatives to advance the cause of reproductive justice. Phone calls, emails, postcards, letters, and personal visits all work. Legislators tell us that just a few handwritten notes can be particularly effective.
Join a local alliance of individuals and organizations that champion the rights of women. Here in Maine, GRR participates in an alliance that includes the ACLU, League of Women Voters, providers of reproductive health care, advocates for economic opportunity and against domestic violence, and others. Reach out to appropriate local alliances and see how your activities can help to support their goals while enhancing yours. Some of our best public events have grown out of working with partner organizations. Joining events organized by others is an easy way to make a mark. Other groups love it when we show up in our visible yellow and support them.
Contact local colleges and universities to find students interested in women’s studies, gender studies, centers for women, sociology & social work programs. There may be an on-campus chapter of NARAL Pro-Choice America, for instance. Intergenerational events where older women share stories with young women about actively supporting reproductive rights are meaningful for everybody. It’s great for GRRs to hear from younger women about their current struggles, too. Sometimes local churches and other faith-based organizations would like to get involved. Don’t be discouraged if it takes more than one attempt to make contact. Organizations in this field are often short-staffed, so they may need more than one email or phone call from you.
Communicating with active GRR supporters and others who support reproductive rights is critical. Be mindful of how GRR presents itself and share information strategically to increase your impact.
Respect the views of others even when they oppose you. We find it’s most effective to be calm, wise grandmothers acting on a lifetime of experience. We’re confident in our point of view and comfortable defending it. There’s no name calling in GRR!
Remember, GRR is a non-partisan organization. We do not endorse candidates; we do not endorse political parties. Instead we focus on the issues. We are here to point out which candidates support sexual and reproductive rights – regardless of their political affiliation. Individual GRR members, as private citizens, may choose to work for the candidate of their choice.
Create a Gmail address for your group (ex: KansasGRR@gmail.com). This makes it possible for new members to contact you directly (while keeping your personal contact info private).
Build your mailing list. Take attendance and contact info, especially email, at EVERY meeting and public event that may attract new supporters. Ask for everyone’s city or town, and in heavily populated areas the street address – this helps to figure out voting districts. It will also make it possible later to connect GRRs with each other.
Encourage people to go to our website www.grrnow.org and sign onto our national newsletter.
Keep your group informed. Figure out how often it’s best to contact people and keep the messages short and sweet. If you’re asking people to take specific action, put the request up front. Ask for feedback. Receiving too many email messages can be annoying. Emails with too much information sometimes don’t get read.
Wear your GRR button: They are great conversation starters.
Send us photos and brief updates on your activities: We would love to post them on GRR’s website
Engage local press outlets. Create news releases and short news articles – send them to every local paper you can think of. When using the GRR name please remember that you are members of a large, non-partisan organization. Let’s work together to keep our message clear and consistent.
Develop a list of local daily and weekly newspapers. Go to: http://www.onlinenewspapers.com/usstate/usatable.htm
to identify your local newspapers. .
Be savvy and shape the message! Identify the message for each project on which you work. You can turn to larger reproductive health groups who will have developed message points for every issue on which you’ve worked. Work to control the message and prevent things from being taken out of context. Stay on message.
If there’s no photo, it didn’t really happen! Take photos with acceptable web and print quality/resolution (not all phones can do this). Take a variety of photos showing GRRs in action, with different public officials, working on projects, in identifiable locations in your state.
GRR has a distinct, copyrighted graphic identity. This is true from our logo to the way we use images and typefaces on our website, print materials and t-shirts. If you’re creating posters or other local communications, please use type and colors consistent with GRR’s brand. We can provide you with an electronic file of the logo, but please don’t alter the image in any way.
Resources for visibility: GRR started in 2013 with a small group of concerned women, a big idea, and not much else. Since then, we’ve created a lot of great resources, so you don’t have to! Some things, like our website and Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are already available to you. Contact email@example.com for more information.
Website: Our GRR Website, including GRR’s mission, our background, and ways to join or contact us. We periodically post upcoming events and report on GRR activities every month. We will happily include your group’s updates.
GRR t-shirts. They’re loud, they’re yellow, and nobody can miss us when we wear them. We encourage all our members to show up in them, especially when attending political campaign events, demonstrations, and appearances before the legislature. Sometimes we just wear them around town – they start lots of great conversations. Place your order through firstname.lastname@example.org.
Buttons, bags, and business cards. These are all great ways to show support for reproductive rights. We’ve found it’s good to have small things to give away and other things to sell at very low cost. They make an eye-catching display at fairs, farmers’ markets, and other community gatherings. Place orders through email@example.com.
Let’s Get Going
We are thrilled to receive inquiries from women across the country every day. GRR looks forward to hearing about your new group and how it’s working to improve access to reproductive health care in your community. Together, we can build a network of activists improving the lives of women and their families. Stay in touch and let us know how we can help!
GRR has not experienced any security problems to date – either by phone, email, through Facebook, or our website. However, it’s always good to play it safe and take common sense precautions. Here are some tips:
Never share anybody’s contact info (name, address, phone, email) without their permission.
As a general rule, we do not use our full names on the website and we won’t use yours. If you send photos to GRR’s website the captions will not identify people. We will identify the general geographic location with your permission – we are thrilled to have partners in distant locations!
Verify all press requests before providing information. Do not encourage pranksters.
Be cautious -‐-‐ when new, unknown people express an interest in your group, you may want to use the internet (Facebook, for example) to check them out and evaluate their interest in GRR.
When speaking at public meetings as a private citizen you may need to identify yourself and the town you live in. This is also true when you send postcards to your government representatives. They will want to know that you live in their district when you are trying to get their attention. This is okay – there is strength in numbers.
How to deal with negative comments: If it’s someone you know personally, communicate with respect. If you do not know them personally, you do not need to give them “air time.” Just ignore their communication.
Grandmothers often have collections of tried and true recipes. We have some here for ways to take action. Just as you do in your own kitchen, make your own variations. And if you’d like, share your variations with to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recipe for Action: How to Become a GRR Activist
Servings: One at a time
Prep Time: Whatever time you have
Cook Time: As long as you want. 1 min to a lifetime
A passion for change
A pinch of curiosity to know more
A group to follow: Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights
A dash of personal time
A measure of outreach to family and friends
One small action you can take ASAP
A sprinkle of support for your activism
Feel your passion for reproductive rights and justice
Sir in your knowledge and experiences (especially if they were pre-Roe).
Get steamed when you hear about the constant threats to reproductive rights
Click on GRR’s links to learn more about what you can do:
GRR website: https://grandmothersforreproductiverights.org
Know that GRR is for everyone: grandmothers and all grandmothers-at-heart (grandchildren too!) Everyone is a Grandchild of someone so everyone can GRR with us!
Sign on to the GRR email list: https://actionnetwork.org/forms/join-grr
Take one action to support reproductive rights
Find support for your action(s) from like-minded people among family and friends
Stay tuned to GRR…and get ready for your next action
Recipe for Action: Contacting your Members of Congress by Phone
Phone calls to Members of Congress are one of the most effective ways to make your voice heard. One phone call has the same impact as 1,000 emails. Some GRRs keep the contact information close to their phone to make it easier to call. When Members of Congress hear from a large number of people, they pay attention. So add your voice to the number!
Servings: 1-3 (1 Representative and 2 Senators)
Prep Time: 5-20 minutes
Cook Time: As needed, about 2-3 mins per call.
A large dollop of concern about a particular issue
An overflowing cup of desire to make your voice heard
A particular reason it is important for you to make contact with your Member of Congress (MOC)
The name and/or number of bill (The numbers for Senate and House differ).
1-2 talking points about the issue
Access to Internet for Member of Congress’s contact information
Paper and pencil (optional)
1. Feel your concern about the issue and mix it with your desire to make your voice heard.
2. Repeat to yourself the reason why it is important to contact your MOC
3. Check with your source of information for the name or the number of the bill and write it down. This website https://www.govtrack.us/ is one place to find information.
4. Choose 1-2 points that are most important that you want to say over the phone. If it helps, write down your points, or practice saying them. One point often is the best way to go.
5. Get onto the internet and find your MOC: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members
6. Choose where to call. Some of us have found we can get through and have more of a conversation with the aide who answers if we call an in-state office vs. their Washington, D.C. office. Your choice. You can find the in-state office contact information on each MOC’s website.
7. Be sure to tell the aide your name and town so they will know you are a constituent.
“I am (name)from (town). I am calling about the ___________ bill. I ask that you support/not support this bill because______________________.”
8. After you hang up, PAT YOURSELF ON THE BACK for having spoken up about this issue.
Recipe for Action: Starting a Group
Servings: 2-3 or more
Prep Time: A few emails sent
Cook Time: As long as you want
2-3 women (or more) who care about reproductive justice
Cups of tea or coffee for each one
A kitchen table
A few stories from before Roe v. Wade
Several pinches of laughter
1. Choose a date to get together
2. Brew some tea or coffee
3. Sit down around a kitchen table
4. Share your story about the days before Roe v. Wade and why you are interested in joining GRR.
5. Stir them all together
6. Watch the yeast of GRR humor rise.
7. Choose one thing you want to do, from talking with another friend, to writing a letter to your legislator, to…something that you all find is workable for you.
8. Pat yourselves on the back for getting started and email us so we can cheer with you. email@example.com
9. Plan when you will meet again.
Note: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. –Margaret Mead
Recipe for Action: Letter to the Editor (LTE)
300 words (or less)
1 opening statement
1 personal story (optional)
1 sprinkle of statistics (optional)
1 directive for action
1 contact information
1. “Be quick, be concise.” Almost all newspapers have a maximum word requirement for their Letters to the Editor (LTE). Always check the editorial page of the newspaper to which you are sending your letter. That usually will tell you such things as word limit and other information to include with your letter. Increasingly, more newspapers prefer that you send your LTE by e- mail
2. Begin your letter with a statement about why the issue is important. Refer to a recent event in your community or to a recent article – make a connection and make it relevant
3. Personalize. Good LTEs are concisely written, compelling, and written in the first person. The more that a LTE is personalized and provides a simple but powerful message, the better.
4. Verify your information. We don’t want to spread fake news.
5. Finish with your opinion about what should be done.
6. Don’t forget to add your signature and additional information requested by the newspaper
1. If you have time, allow your LTE to rest overnight
2. Go back for a final edit before you submit it via email or snail mail to the newspaper.
3. Enjoy the rewards of your advocacy when you see your name in print!