Here are some tips for those out there who are members of a Tea Party group or a similar organization, especially for those who are running such groups:
• Be organized. If you in charge of a group, then you will have to get things organized, even if you do not care much for organization. Otherwise, things will get chaotic and people who attend meetings will notice and possibly lose interest.
• Make sure the meetings run smoothly. Develop an agenda for the meetings, and address each topic one at a time. Also, do not get off the topic. Getting off the topic will also lead to chaos.
• Some groups have two types of meetings: business meetings where they go over group business, and public meetings in which there will be a guest speaker. It is best if guest speakers are scheduled for public meetings, and not for business meetings, especially if there are a lot of topics to discuss at the business meetings). In addition, it is preferable that there is only one guest speaker per public meeting, especially if the group has a time frame for its public meetings. For example, if your group meets at a certain place and is allowed only two hours free of charge, then you need to get the meeting done and over with within two hours to avoid being charged for going over or being asked not to meet at that place.
• Officers within the organization should consist of the following: chairperson (or president), vice-chairperson (or vice president), secretary, treasurer, and sergeant-at-arms. The chairperson runs the group, and the vice-chairperson fills in should the chairperson be absent. Duties of both positions also include running the meetings, scheduling best speakers, and essentially being leaders of the group. And when I say leader I mean exactly that and not boss (more on that later). The secretary takes notes and handles correspondence. The treasurer is in charge of the money, financial transactions, and can act as a quartermaster for the group’s merchandise and other items should there be any such items (note: the job of quartermaster can go to someone other than the treasurer, but make sure the inventory and treasurer’s ledger are accurate and up-to-date regardless of who is quartermaster).
• Be respectful. That means not just keeping your cool, but also being polite in general. As I mentioned before, avoid getting off the subject that is being discussed. But it also means not interrupting other people. Don’t be the type of person who just wants to vent about various topics. If you are able to identify a problem, great. Now come up with an effective solution and don’t rattle on about the problem or throwing your arms up in despair over it. When a guest speaker is giving a presentation, wait until he or she is done with the presentation before asking questions or making comments. Avoid having knee-jerk reactions to certain situations, and don’t bite off someone’s head if they mention topics that you feel strongly about. Also, if you decide to take the initiative on certain matters, make it clear you are not trying to step on anyone’s toes. Finally, if you are in charge of the group, you are the leader and not the boss. Everyone else in the group are not your minions, so don’t be making them do things that they are unable to do or do not want to do.
• When carrying out a project (e.g. having a sale at some event), be sure you have enough people who can help out. Coordination and communication are important, otherwise everyone will be doing their own thing which in turn will lead to chaos. Also, try to avoid any project that is costly, time-consuming, and requires a lot of manpower — hence don’t bite off more than you can chew.
• In regards to merchandise, make sure it is paid for before selling it (i.e. no charge accounts). Don’t purchase any expensive items, because that will drain the treasury. And keep prices reasonable.
• In regards to handout material, it should only consist of information regarding group meetings and upcoming events. Doing so will prevent your group from having excessive amounts of flyers, pamphlets, and leaflets on various topics, which take up space on tables at events (even if they are stapled into packets), not to mention the need for paperweights at outdoor events.
• Be fiscally responsible, especially it is a principle among conservatives. If you have a limited amount of money, then hold off on making purchases unless they are absolutely necessary. The same scenario applies to donating money to candidates or reimbursing out-of-town guest speakers for gas money. If necessary, avoid having any out-of-town guest speakers and stick with officials at all levels of government or people running for office as your guest speakers.
In addition to following these tips, I would also recommend reading the book Robert’s Rules of Order.
photo credit: Smithsonian Institution Photograph of the wreck of the Boston and Maine train #302 via photopin (license)