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Student Chapter Toolkit
Resources to guide your efforts to educate and influence your campus, community, and domestic and national policy.
Resources to guide your efforts to educate and influence your campus, community, and domestic and national policy.
There are many components to successful fundraising. Your approach might include running a popular annual event or enlisting sponsorship local businesses and ways to appeal to them.
Effective fundraising depends on the request: don’t be afraid to ask. Remember that friends and family like to be involved in the causes that you support, and this is a good way for them to contribute. Local businesses like to be associated with student activities. Grantmakers have to make grants, so why not to you? Still nervous about asking? Tell yourself, “They won’t give unless I ask.”
Present a sincere and straightforward request, deliver on what you promise, and don’t forget to thank your supporters! This will help you build relationships over time so that you feel relaxed and confident about asking for help, and the donor enjoys the interaction and will want to give again. The Appendices section of the Welcome Packet Toolkit includes sample fundraising request letters you can modify for your chapter’s use.
Sources for Financial and Material Support
- Grants: Grants may be available through your school, or may reward based on your geographical community (such as city foundations) or the goals of your work. To search for grants, ask for help at your school’s office of career services or student activities office. Some grants can be found on online databases such as foundationcenter.com  or foundationsearch.com . When applying, answer each question clearly, be explicit about how you intend to reach your goals, and use any Technical Assistance that the funder offers.
- Sponsorship: Remember grade school bowl-a-thons? Ask supporters to sponsor something new: a stair climb in the tallest building on campus, a bike- or walk-a-thon, or a penny for every mile you’re traveling this summer to practice your clinical skills.
- Group dues are also a good source of financial support.
- In-kind donations: Donors may have items or services that can help your chapter, or may be willing to make financial donations.
Ideas for Fundraisers
- Art Exhibits (with refreshments)
- Benefit Concerts
- Benefit Nights (working with local sports venues, clubs or restaurants, have a benefit night on a specific issue)
- VIP Dinners, cocktail reception, a speech, a dunking booth, or a car wash with a guest expert or local celebrity
- Casino or poker Nights
- Food can attract people: food festivals for local specialties, like a chili cookoff.
- Spare Change Drive (make it competitive among years or departments on your campus, with a prize for the winner)
- Walk, Run, or Bike-a-thons… or even Bowl-a-thons
An event does not have to solely be a fundraiser; you can include a fundraising component to an action or event. Some examples of fund raising additions:
- Entrance fee to an entertaining or exclusive event
- Merchandise Sales (shirts, buttons, bags, hats, etc)
- Refreshments Sales
- Donation Solicitation (save money by not paying for services or goods)
These are some common fundraiser ideas. When deciding what the chapter wants to organize, it is also important to consider who your targeted audience is to assure the most participation. Generally speaking, the more creative an event is, the more successful it will be.
There are many components to successful fundraising. Your approach might include running a popular annual event or enlisting sponsorship local businesses and ways to appeal to them. Effective fundraising depends on the request: don’t be afraid to ask. Remember that friends … Continue reading
Education is fundamental to advocacy. Before members of your community act, they must first be made aware of human rights violations. To raise awareness, options include hosting a speaker or a panel, a film screening, or a conference. Be aware of the advantages of collaboration. Educational events are also a great way to recruit new members and spread the work about your chapter.
Speakers and Panels
Use faculty at your institution or local experts to put together a panel on an issue of importance (e.g. Health/Human rights, HIV/AIDS). Once you have decided on the issue of the panel, enlist speakers to discuss different aspects of the issue. Find a venue at your institution or somewhere locally. Hold a Q&A session after the speakers have finished, so that the audience can ask questions. If needed, draft a series of questions to ask the speakers during the session. Advertise for the event via flyers, internet (facebook, myspace, e-mail), and newspapers. Contact appropriate local human rights organizations to help advertise and sponsor the event.
A presentation by an informed and dynamic speaker is an effective way of motivating students, faculty and the community to become engaged in human rights. Finding an expert on your issue to address a group is not as hard as you think. There are several sources:
You can find speakers on specific issues by researching relevant organizations, your school’s academic departments, other schools, hospitals, health professional organizations and Google. An internet search will also turn up a number of speakers’ bureaus, but they tend to represent speakers who command large fees. For the budget-conscious, look into NGOs and websites dedicated to your specific issue. PHR can provide useful recommendations as well.
When looking for a speaker, keep the issue paramount: the most effective presentations feature speakers who are credible on the issue and convey genuine passion and commitment.
- Before choosing a speaker, film, or presentation topic, set clear goals for your event.
- When researching a speaker, find out what costs are involved. Some speakers require an honorarium; others may waive their fee but require that travel and other out-of-pocket costs be covered. Other may donate their time and cover their own expenses. Be sure that you understand clearly what costs you will need to cover. If your chapter has inadequate funds, plan to raise funds or approach the student activities office or academic departments for sponsorship.
- Invite your speaker well in advance of your event, at least two months. That way, if your first choice is not available, you’ll have time to find someone else. Nevertheless, if you must plan your event quickly, it never hurts to ask — your speaker may be available on short notice.
- Ask about your school’s policy on speakers. Some schools require permits, signatures from the administration, or another form of approval of individual speakers.
- Create a program flow for the event with set times, roles for event organizers, and time at the end for attendees to take action. Assign a host or contact person for your speaker(s).
- Prepare a written introduction on the speaker(s) and the issue and ask the speaker(s) to approve it.
- Coordinate travel for your speaker(s). Build in extra time in case of travel delays or emergency. If your speaker is not familiar with your campus, provide a map with information about parking, and hang a sign on the door of the building. Ask your speaker to arrive with sufficient time to get settled before the event begins. You are the host: introduce your speaker to the organizers, relevant faculty or advisors, and any other presenters.
- You may be able to set up meetings between your speaker and smaller groups before or after your event, e.g., with policymakers or faculty.
- Start publicizing in school and community newspapers, online, etc, two to three weeks in advance and plan for a “publicity blitz” in the five days leading up to the event.
- Invite the media. Contact reporters and editors, issue a press release; arrange interviews or a press conference if appropriate.
- Videotape or audiotape the event. Be sure to get permission from the speaker to use the tape. It can be a great educational and advocacy tool, and is a good way of documenting your chapter activities.
Screening a film is a great way to attract a range of people, demonstrate how relevant human rights are to many situations, and help develop awareness of or sympathy for an issue. Choose an interesting topic – for example, asylum and detention, access to health care, HIV/AIDS, clean water, infectious diseases, or a historical or political situation. To find a film that addresses that issue, consult the suggested film list <<link to list of films>>. Choose the number of films that you want to run, and have a film series. Have a weekend film festival, or spread out the films by showing one film at the same time each day for a week, or each week for several weeks. Enlist members of your chapter to help by finding films/documentaries to show, getting the rights to the film if needed, advertising for the event via flyers, posters, the internet (facebook, personal e-mail invitations or listservs), newspapers, and local organizations. Invite fellow classmates, faculty, and local community members. Collect donations or raise money for a cause or organization.
On the day of the screening, give a brief introduction to the documentary and the issues covered. Another option is to collect donations for the cause/theme of the screening.
Symposium or Conference
Host a symposium or conference at your institution on an issue of importance (Global Health Disparities, Access to Medications, HIV/AIDS). Find a venue for the conference at your institution (and be sure to have the appropriate number of rooms for sessions). Choose a keynote speaker, and enlist members of your chapter or outside experts to run workshops and lectures. Advertise for the conference via flyers, internet, and newspapers. Send invitations to your local community, local organizations, and colleges and universities in your region.
Health and Human Rights Education
Want to change the way your school teaches medicine and public health? Want to educate your entire class–and all the classes that come after you? Be a part of PHR’s Health and Human Rights Education Program (HHRE), and start a new course, elective or lecture series at your institution. Check out our HHRE toolkit here for all you need to create lasting curriculum on human rights and health. PHR has HHRE mentors who can also help you plan and strategize: contact Hope at firstname.lastname@example.org to be connected.
Other Ideas for Education and Engagement
PHR student chapters have always been very creative in identifying opportunities for education. Chapters have held arts shows, talent shows, walks, made AIDS quilts, and more. We encourage you to find new and different ways of mobilizing your campus–let us know about your original efforts and we may feature them in this toolkit!
The Advantages of Collaboration
Collaboration increases the potential to create change by expanding your reach and leveraging resources. Collaboration can range from co-sponsoring one event with one or more other groups, to forming a coalition to work on a long-term campaign. Simply put: The more committed individuals and groups you can involve in your campaign efforts, the bigger impact you can make.
- Widen your reach: Build your attendance at events; increase the number of people willing to take action.
- Brainstorm: Take advantage of different perspectives- they can lead to a more comprehensive approach to an issue
- Build credibility: Different communities coming together on an issue can enhance credibility with a wider audience
- Share resources: Pool your resources and connections to make a greater impact
- Create a bigger presence for your group: Demonstrate to chapter members and potential members that they are a part of a larger movement
Examples of Collaboration in Action:
- The recent national Day of Action is a great example of collaboration in action. Several PHR chapters worked together with the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) and Universities Allied for Essential Medicines chapters to urge local politicians to support a bill that would require all medicines from universities to be accessible to developing countries.
- Student chapters partnered with their human rights advocacy chapters, Student Global AIDS Campaign chapters, and other campus groups to take action during World AIDS Day.
- Physicians for Human Rights has worked in the past with Student Global AIDS Campaign, Amnesty International, Human Rights First, the Global Health Council, and the International Federation of Medical Students Association, among others. You might want to contact these and other like-minded organizations to find out if there are chapters or members on your campus or in your local community.
Education is fundamental to advocacy. Before members of your community act, they must first be made aware of human rights violations. To raise awareness, options include hosting a speaker or a panel, a film screening, or a conference. Be aware … Continue reading
The power of the media is a tremendous asset when it comes to getting our message out to the public, and an educated, motivated public can create demand for change. In addition, media exposure can increase your legitimacy and clout within the community. Press releases are an excellent way to encourage local media (be it the school newspaper or the city’s TV news) to cover your event.
View the slide show to learn more about working with the media and using public relations effectively.
To coordinate with Physicians for Human Rights, contact PHR’s Senior Press Officer .
The Press Advisory
The purpose of a press advisory is to notify the media in advance about an event or activity.
The press advisory should explain the “who, what, where, when and why” of the event and should provide just enough information to entice reporters to cover your story.
It is important to remember that press advisories are different than press releases. Advisories are meant to persuade the media to cover an event before it happens. The objective is to present your event as worthy of coverage; you want reporters to attend your event to get the whole story.
Note: One of the first steps in developing a media strategy is to build a media list. This requires some research on the web and on the phone to obtain the names and contact information for the media outlets in your area and the reporters and editors who cover relevant issues.
- Send the press advisory to your media list twice; one week before the event, and again, as a reminder, two days before the event.
- If you do not know the specific reporter, send advisories to “Assignment Editor” at television stations and newspapers and to “News Director” at radio stations.
- Even if you know a reporter or news outlet is not likely to attend your event, send advisories. You may get a one-on-one interview or a wire service or pool may cover the event for the outlet. This is particularly true for radio stations, which are often short-staffed and have a significant amount of airtime to fill.
Use a standard format for media advisories:
- Brief headline describing the event.
- Print “MEDIA ADVISORY” in the top left corner of the page.
- Provide contact names, phone numbers and e-mail.
- Highlight the date, time and place.
- Give a brief description of the purpose and format of the event, who will be speaking, and if there will be photo opportunities.
Media advisories should be no longer than one page. Indicate the end of the page by placing a “-30-” or “###,” universal “end” symbols used by news outlets.
The Press Release
The purpose of a press release is to summarize and present your story, help the reporter frame your message accurately, and provide background information and quotes from the spokespersons.
Distribute the press release at your event; directly after the event, fax it to all contacts on your media list who do not attend.
- Use PHR letterhead.
- Double spaced and one-sided.
- One or two pages.
- Brief headline.
- Highlight the release date and provide contact names and numbers.
- Indicate page continuation by placing the word “more” in parenthesis at the bottom of the page.
- Indicate the end of the release by placing a “-30-” or “###” at the bottom of the document.
- Include a short blurb at the end about your chapter and mention that it is affiliated with PHR.
Making Reporter Pitch Calls
After sending an Advisory or Release make a “pitch call” to the media outlets to ask them to cover the event or story. Before making the call think about the answers to these questions:
- Why is this event newsworthy? Why should they cover it?
- What makes this event different unique?
- Are there important/interesting people they can interview? Why are they important/interesting?
After thinking through these questions write your pitch out and practice it. Here is an outline of what you should include:
- Introduce yourself and PHR
- Brief details of who, what, when, where
- One reason why they should cover the story
- Description of important/interesting person or visual
- Ask for a commitment to cover the story: “Can you make it to this important event?
Sample Reporter Pitch Call
Hi this is [your name] with the Physicians for Human Rights Student Chapter at [your school]. We are an organization of health professional students committed to human rights and dignity for all people.
On Wednesday we are holding a documentary screening of “Standard Operation Procedure” at 7pm in Zimmer Auditorium.
The film discusses the evidence of systematic torture by US personnel of people in custody at Abu Ghraib, and the implications of that evidence.
After the film we will have a live online discussion with Errol Morris, the filmmaker.
Do you think you can make it on Wednesday at 7pm to cover this important event?
Glad you can make it. Would you like me to send directions?
The Letter to the Editor
Letters to the Editor (LTE) should be around 150 words. The goal of an LTE is to offer insightful, expert, and timely commentary on something the paper has recently published. Before writing an LTE, check the publication’s website to see if they publish recommended word counts or guidelines.
Do your homework. Has the paper written on the topic before? If you are responding to a specific article, include the title of the article in your letter and the date it was published. Have other LTEs been written on the topic? What can you add with your LTE?
Know your audience and write to it. If you are writing to a local paper, remember that the readers are everyday people. Avoid statistics and be relatable – talk about your personal experience and connection to the issue.
Be clear and concise. Don’t tackle too much and keep the letter focused on one aspect of your issue. Get to your point quickly and keep your paragraphs short (two to three sentences).
Reread it before submitting for grammar and spelling errors and then submit with your name, email, phone number, and address.
Finally, don’t be discouraged if your LTE isn’t printed. Depending on the topic, publications can receive several LTEs on the same issue. However, the fact that you’ve taken the time to write a well-crafted LTE further draws attention to you and your issue.
The power of the media is a tremendous asset when it comes to getting our message out to the public, and an educated, motivated public can create demand for change. In addition, media exposure can increase your legitimacy and clout … Continue reading
Toolkit: Student Chapter Toolkit
Throughout the year, both during National Actions and at other strategic times, you will have opportunities to help pass important legislation and influence policy. Here are a few advocacy tactics your Chapter can use – either individually or together.
Be strategic when selecting the target of your advocacy. You may want to provoke legislative change, demand corporate social responsibility, or shift public opinion. This power mapping process will help you decide.
As your student chapter plans advocacy initiatives—and as you build your own capacity as an advocate—it is critical to analyze the power structures involved in the policies and processes you are advocating for or against. This kind of analysis will ensure your action is as effective as possible in both moving policy and in moving people:
- Who has the power to make the change you want, and is most vulnerable to the kinds of pressure you can mount?
- Who are your allies? Who could be your active supporters?
- Who will actively oppose you?
- How can we reach the people in power?
One process tool for this is called power mapping. Power mapping allows advocacy groups to systematically lay out power dynamics across your campaign so you can focus in on your main target—the one who can make the change you want to see—while also illuminating other potential connections and recognizing opposition so you can minimize it. Power mapping is used by organizations across the globe to: forge alliances; build support; do the most targeted actions; be politically relevant and strategic; and build awareness and legitimacy of your group.
Step One: Setting the Stage
To begin the process of power mapping, identify all of the stakeholders and actors involved in your particular issue. One helpful matrix to do this mapping is the power mapping table included below—it helps you map out your campaign allies, beneficiaries, opponents, decision makers, and those who influence the decision makers—all key power relationships to win a campaign.
- Allies: People who are “on your side” either because they will benefit directly or because they share the same objectives and want to help bring about these changes as part of a broader movement. These are the people and groups who are already active on your issue or those you want to enlist and you think you can get on board. Ask yourself: who can you bring into this campaign as stakeholders and supporters?
- Beneficiaries: People whose lives will be improved by the successful achievement of your advocacy goals. They can also be called “allies” but without additional organizing, a beneficiary is often a more passive stakeholder than an ally.
- Opponents: People who are opposed to what you’re trying to do and are likely to actively oppose you. Some of these people could become allies in time, with greater understanding of the issues, or could be standing in the way of what you’re trying to do. Adversaries can become targets of your advocacy project if you are planning a series of activities to “win them around.” Also, it is useful to not allow your campaign to get distracted by passive opponents—those who will not actively oppose you, or who do not have the ear of your targets. Ask yourself: how can you ensure the opposition stays at least neutral—and that your actions do not necessarily inflame them to put opposing pressure on policy makers? Can you make any opponents into allies with specific outreach strategies?
- Decision Makers: Those with the authority or power to make the desired change. Look at your list of decision makers and compare it to your objective and the policy/budget you are trying to change, and find the targets you have the greatest number of routes to reach. Ask yourself: are they vulnerable to influence? Accessible or accountable to your constituency or allies?
- Influencers: Those who through their position, relationship, knowledge, or status are able to influence those with the power of decision making, or the direction of policy changes. Ask yourself: who do you know who has the ear of your target? How can you influence them to move the target towards your position?
Step Two: Identifying Targets
Now that you have mapped out the overall power dynamics in your campaign, it is time to focus on mapping out your targets. A “target” is the person who has the power to give you what your group wants in your campaign. A target is a person, not a faceless institution. Your constituency can easily imagine and express power over a person—but how can anyone have power over “the government” or “the International Monetary Fund”? In addition, individual decision makers have more incentive to respond to actions targeted at them directly, versus at a committee, or a larger government body—their names and their position are on the line, so they are more likely to respond.
There are two kinds of targets: primary targets and secondary targets. The primary target is the person or institution with the ultimate power. This may include Senators and Congressmen, Medical School Deans, local elected officials, or others who hold the power to make the change you want to see.
Secondary targets are people who can influence your primary target. The opinions and actions of these “influencers” are important in achieving the advocacy objective in so far as they affect the opinions and actions of the decision makers. Some members of a primary audience can also be a secondary audience if they can influence other decision makers. For example, the President and the Secretary of State might influence one another’s opinions. Therefore, they are both a primary audience (“targets”) and a secondary audience (“influencers”). In addition, your secondary audience may contain oppositional forces to your objective. If so, it is extremely important to include these groups on your list, learn about them, and address them as part of your strategy.
Some secondary targets may include:
- Leaders of target’s party
- Business associates of the target
- Personal Assistants or staff
- Formal/informal advisors to the target
- National opinion leaders
A special note on targets
What does it mean to say target? The term “target” does NOT always imply that we are attacking them—but that they are the decision makers who are key and around whom you should focus your efforts. Advocacy can often be most effective when you approach your targets as colleagues versus adversaries: you are still targeting them and their power, but in a collaborative light. Or, to make change, you may have to use more aggressive tactics towards your target—either way, the target is the person who has the power to give you what you want, and it may or may not be strategic to treat them as an adversary.
You can have more than one target for a campaign, although in general, fewer are better and allow you to be more focused. There will often be a progression of targets on the way to victory in a complex campaign. If a “primary target” is determined too hard to reach, but critical for your issue, you can make your secondary target your main target—so if you can’t reach, say, the President, but you know he listens to a certain cabinet member, target that person primarily to reach the President.
Power mapping is an art, not a science. And things change. So think about the criteria listed in this power-mapping worksheet , but know they can be flexible. Targets totally depend on your objective, so targets in one campaign might be allies in another. Be flexible and ready to shift your targets and allies as the situation changes.
NSP National Actions
Three times a year, the PHR National Student Program leads a nationwide advocacy event known as a National Action. National Actions are opportunities for coordinated action on one of PHR’s key campaigns. National Actions generally seek to change U.S. policy to address an urgent human rights concern. Chapters that choose to participate are part of a coordinated nationwide advocacy effort that magnify the voice of health professional students and help change the health and human rights landscape.
Previous National Actions have introduced advocacy in tandem with an internationally observed day, like World AIDS Day and Human Rights Day. The Global Health Week of Action is linked to World Health Day.
Current or upcoming National Actions:
2011 Global Health Week of Action – May 1-7, 2011
Engage Your Congressional Representatives
Extend the fight for health and human rights by speaking with your congressperson. Call your congressperson’s office to set up an appointment. When scheduling a meeting, underline the magnitude of your issue(s), and say that it is important to you (and your officer team) as future health professionals.You can achieve a number of goals through interacting with your representatives: you will be letting the policymaker know that his or her constituency cares about the issue at hand; you can educate the policymaker about the issue and explain why his or her support is important; you may be able to gain a commitment for some specific action, such as voting for a piece of legislation, and you can thank participants for prior support. Even if you are not successful gaining a commitment, you will have established a dialogue, raised awareness, and set the stage for follow-up communication.
To identify your local and state representatives, go to USA.gov’s website. 
Letters to Congress
A letter-writing campaign can be a great way to urge your representatives or senators to back a major legislative issue or champion a cause crucial to health and human rights. Gather your chapter members, as well as faculty, classmates, and local community members, to write letters on a given issue. Bring sample letters for everyone to replicate or use as a draft. Then, send the letters out to your representative or senator. Follow-up the letter writing campaign with a phone call to your representative’s or senators’ offices.
Petitions and postcard campaigns demonstrate to your representatives, university president, or other official that there is substantial agreement in your PHR chapter, campus, or larger community on an issue. Collect signatures on issues ranging from implementing HHRE on campus to health care issues in Congress, and submit them with a cover letter explaining your position. If you collect signatures for a PHR campaign, mail them to the National Student Program Coordinator.
Schedule a meeting with your local representatives and senators by calling their national or district office and speaking with the scheduler. Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Member of Congress’s office. Allow sufficient lead time when calling for an appointment. The more advance notice the office has, the more likely that a representative will attend. Try to schedule your visit to coincide with a milestone: a report that has just been released, recent media coverage of an issue, a bill that is being deliberated, etc. Don’t bring a large group—three or four people should suffice. Be sure your group includes people from the legislator’s district, are from constituencies the member cares about (religious or civil groups, for example), and are articulate and confident. Practice what you will say beforehand, and keep your presentations brief and to the point.
An informal public event with the community, where attendees can voice their opinion and ask questions of their elected officials. Ask your representatives if they would be willing to meet with members of the community regarding a topical issue. This is also an excellent format in which to hear the viewpoints of community members without a representative present, and a way to form coalitions and decide on further action.
Many house parties are organized around televised debates during election season. Alternatively, some representatives are too busy to meet in person, but would be willing to have a call-in meeting with a group of constituents. House parties are also excellent vehicles when lobbying for a local or regional candidate, who may be willing to come speak to those assembled.
After any interaction with a representative, write a thank you note to all meeting attendees and send them follow-up materials from PHR to respond to any questions that came up during the meeting. If the policymaker was unsupportive or noncommittal, ask constituents to write letters on the issue; if the member is supportive, urge constituents to send thank you notes.
Hosting Call-In Events
Organizing a Call-In Day can be a very effective way to advocate to policy makers and to engage your campus. Congressional staffers keep track of who calls in to their offices every day, and what issues are on their mind. Make sure your issue rises to the top by getting 20, 50, or hundreds of your classmates to call your Senators’ or Congressperson’s office in one day.
Organizing a Call-In Day is easy. First, create materials about your issue. You’ll need a call-in script for people to follow, so they have the facts right there in front of them. These scripts should be short, just a few sentences–calls to offices usually last less than 2 minutes, so the script should be concise and powerful. You may also want to prepare a one page fact sheet. A fact sheet will teach potential callers more about your issue, and why they should care—and what impact their action can have on health and human rights. Finally, you need the phone number to the office–DOUBLE CHECK to make sure it works before you move forward.
Once you have the phone number, script and facts, its time to plan an outreach strategy. Got an active email list? Send out an elert. For more immediate impact, set up a table in a busy area of campus, and ask everyone to pull out their cell phones and make a call. Have PHR chapter members make the same ask in every class they are in on the call-in day–this will generate many calls. Work with other groups: reach out to AMSA or other campus groups and see if they want to join the call in day. Blog about it. Be creative—there are many ways to publicize a call-in day to ensure maximum exposure and impact.
Follow-up is important too. Within a few days of the call-in day, make official contact with your target policy maker’s office. See if they want or need more information. You will be on their radar screen—offer yourself as a resource and help make sure your issue remains at the top of their list!
Throughout the year, both during National Actions and at other strategic times, you will have opportunities to help pass important legislation and influence policy. Here are a few advocacy tactics your Chapter can use – either individually or together. Power … Continue reading