The penultimate Zoom-based “Advocacy Workshop” by the Armenian National Committee of America – Eastern Region (ANCA-ER), “Organizing Events” took place on Monday, September 13. It was principally led by ANCA-ER board member Steve Mesrobian and Karine Shnorhokian of the ANC of New Jersey.
Mesrobian commenced the workshop by explaining the different types of events: educational, community engagement, targeting awareness and fundraising events. An educational event, often commemorative or celebratory, seeks to educate and raise awareness on community issues. On the other hand, community engagement events tend to ask something of the community—canvassing, phone banking, voter registration and Rapid Responder registration, for instance. Events that target awareness, like a protest or rally, raise awareness for an issue through targeted actions. Fundraising, one of the more complicated types of events, has two aspects: internal and external—fundraising for organizations within the community and fundraising for something outside the community.
Shnorhokian took over from there, explaining the different strategies and steps for planning events. First, one puts together a committee for the event—a body of individuals responsible for the planning of the event. It is important that all committee members know their expectations. Ultimately, creating and establishing a timeline is key, regardless of the scope and size of an event. This timeline plays a large role in committee communication; the beginning of the planning process may warrant less communication than the end of the planning process.
Some community organizations, such as the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF), Armenian Relief Society (ARS), Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), Homenetmen, Hamazkayin and so on, provide steady and constant sources of attendance. However, it is also necessary to reach out to groups and individuals besides such mainstays of the Armenian community. Shnorhokian encourages the use of Google Drive for important materials so that they are maintained for posterity. For repeated events, this ensures that there is material to look back on, providing inspiration and creating a standard for future reference. Publishing PR materials after the event, such as articles and photos, is nearly equally important. Shnorhokian notes that to do this, we “utilize our own bread and butter, the Armenian Weekly, as well as other media.”
The first guest speaker, Sipan Ohannesian of the ANC of Greater Washington, explained how to carry out protests. First, it is key to acquire all necessary permits. Having good relations with local law enforcement helps to expedite this process and maintain its efficiency. From a PR standpoint, the event should be published on social media and emailed out using lists of community members from organizations like the AYF and ARF. At the protest itself, necessary materials include bullhorns, radios, speakers and banners.
Another guest speaker, Steve Elmasian of the ANC of Rhode Island, spoke about reaching out to political candidates. When trying to invite political officials for further interaction to advance Hai Tahd, the ANCA must go about building a rapport with them, while the cash-endowed Turkish lobbies also vie for the official’s attention in a bid to sabotage the Armenian Cause. Instead, when possible, the ANCA tries to organize events with candidates before they’ve reached that station to facilitate conversations on the advancements of Hai Tahd later.
Ken Hachikian from the ANC of Chicago spoke on fundraising, both local and regional. Selecting the host is critical. Hachikian explains, “Once you have a host, I think everything else falls into place very easily.” In terms of essentials, these events should include, if possible, members of the ANCA across all levels: national ANCA, as well as regional and local ANC.
One example event is a flag-raising. In various Massachusetts towns, that campaign was led by the ANC of Merrimack Valley. Ara Jeknavorian of that particular ANC explained the details of that process. The campaign, which was inspired by the Rhode Island ANC, was a major success, with 20 towns participating with a proclamation, flag raising or both.
Lastly, Yervant Kachichian of the ANC of New Jersey covered the different aspects of PR. For instance, it is important to separate event PR from personal accounts. Official flyers and event details should be published on an official account of the ANCA or on an account dedicated to that event, as opposed to a personal account. At the event itself, there must be individuals responsible for capturing pictures and/or a livestream (such as on Facebook Live) of the event while it is happening.
The next workshop, led by Aram Balian (ANCA-ER board member), Sosy Bouroujian (AYF Eastern Region Central Executive member) and Alex Manoukian (ANCA Programs Director), will be held on October 4, 2021, and will focus on “Youth Advocacy.” Please visit er.anca.org/workshop and scroll to the bottom to register.