Start a Constitution Week
In Your Town
Implementation of Constitution Week in Your Home Town
To All Who are Passionate About the US Constitution,
Grand Lake U. S. Constitution Week (GLUSCW) in Colorado is the Premier Constitution Week in America. By that we mean we are the first to continuously celebrate the US Constitution with a weeklong event, and we also mean we are the BEST! No one will be able to challenge us as the first, but we are hoping you will attempt to challenge us as the best. We have had numerous requests over the years to assist others in implementing this celebration of the United States Constitution. A weeklong event celebrating the US Constitution was proposed by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and enacted into law by President Eisenhower and Congress on August 2, 1956. In Grand Lake, Colorado, we decided to honor these proposals. This document is an effort to encourage you to consider starting this observance in your town. We sincerely hope you do and pass it on to others. The idea is to have these celebrations sweep across America similar to that of the 4th of July, but with emphasis on education of the United Stated Constitution. The United States Constitution changed the world! The question to ask yourself is: if we as a country would have followed in the footsteps as requested by President Eisenhower, DAR, and Congress on August 2,1956 would our country be so divided today? I think we would not, so let's get started today! Please join Grand Lake US Constitution Week in this effort. So far, communities in Lake Havasu, AZ, Fort Collins/Windsor, CO, and Wimberley, TX have decided to honor the US Constitution. We hope you will too.
The idea behind Constitution Week is to promote, educate and celebrate our country’s founding document, the United States Constitution. Typically, this is done surrounding the date of September 17, the anniversary of the signing of our Constitution. If this week cannot work in your community than chose a different date. Do not let this discourage you! The additional benefits include an economic boost to any community with family fun activities and community awareness and fellowship. It may resemble similar to that of a festival.
Activities can include, but not limited to, speakers, parade, trivia contest, run for the republic 5k, political party booths, non-profit and for-profit booth expo, music, kids' education fun booth, flyover, fireworks, food & beverages, patriotic ceremonies, athletic games, proclamations, etc. Keep in mind that the 250th anniversary of the signing of the US Constitution will be September 17, 2037. Think of your celebration as practice for a huge nationwide celebration on that date!
The educational aspect is the heart of Grand Lake US Constitution Week. We do not try to make it a political event, but rather an event for those who want to learn more about the US Constitution and to celebrate it. Nonetheless, you should make your Constitution Week whatever you wish it to be. Remember we are just providing guidance, but your community should celebrate in the way you want to.
How to get started?
Start with a small group of volunteers, maybe three to five people. Credibility is the key to the success of the event for future years and “buy in” becomes easier to assure returning participants. This will help grow the event. Volunteers with skill sets such as accounting, marketing, handyman or Macgyver type skills, and a leader who finds a way to get around the obstacles without damaging relationships. It is always better to build bridges than to burn them. Quality of volunteers is paramount to the success of Constitution Week.
Obviously, you will have to solicit donations to get started. You may need to “ante up” your own money. You may also be able to sell the idea to potential speakers who may do it “pro bono” if the project interests them. Our first year we had 3 speakers and a few activities, including town-funded fireworks, and spent only $200 and donated 2 nights of lodging. We were not aggressive about funding our first year. We focused more on the idea of Constitution Week to see if it would go. After the first successful year then you could approach organizations suggested in this document. I’m certain you have your own ideas. The more funds you have the more dynamic speakers you will attract to the program.
Speaker Details & Search
Build activities around your speaker base. Our focal point is the speakers. Try to find engaging speakers with great topics. Typically, the best speakers are those who have the 3 E’s, experts, educational and entertaining. Ones who use the entire stage tend to be more engaging. You will be exposed to various methods of delivery, so be aware and accommodate their individual needs. Ask them! A wireless microphone might be desirable.
I have identified 2 sources of speakers. The first is the academic speaker source that are found at Colleges, Universities and Public Policy Think Tanks. More specifically, Professors and Authors of Academic publications. The second category is what I call “Street Smart or from the “University of Hard Knocks” This could be sheriffs, attorneys, judges, radio talk show hosts or people who have been in the line of fire on a daily basis over constitutional issues.
We have had success with both sources and ask the guest speaker to stay away from the political aspects as much as possible. Let the audience decide. He can give his position on the topic. This usually becomes realized during the Q&A portion of the presentation.
By far the best avenue to obtain speakers has been through friend of a friend type relationships. We have written or made cold calls and have been successful as well. It just takes longer. Stay away from speaker bureau if you can. They can be expensive.
The diversity of your speaker base over the years is an important marketing tool as the event matures. Try to have a diverse speakers. This will bring even more credibility to your program.
Keep a list of past speakers and display at your events as years go by. Keep in mind that if your guest speakers have a great experience, they will most likely tell their friends and other potential speakers. Make their experience memorable.
All speakers have different needs. Some want to be compensated. Others will focus more on the event and less on the money. We usually provide honorarium, lodging, transportation, and anything else we can afford in the budget. We once paid for the speaker's house sitter. We always did what we could do to make it happen. This is our biggest expense and will likely be yours. Over 90% of our expenses are dedicated to speakers, fireworks and spreading the word about the event. None of our volunteers receive any compensation.
Venue selection can be very important when getting started. We approached restaurant/bars to host our speaking engagements. Our attendees enjoyed the idea of sitting down, ordering a cocktail and having an appetizer. It helps to have a short social hour before getting started (30 minutes or so).
The nuts and bolts of how we approached restaurants/bars was that we would promote their business on all advertising/literature in exchange for the venue space and free appetizers. The restaurant would provide a cash bar with the idea they could generate enough revenue to help defray some of the cost of hosting the event. The benefit for the business owner was pretty inexpensive advertising and the idea that they supported this patriotic program. We promoted their business as much as we could. This also created some buzz with the general public since they were the hosting the event. For GLUSCW this arrangement was highly successful!
More specifically, GLUSCW for a majority of time did a different venue for every presentation. Many times, 2 venues per day, if we were doing a luncheon and dinner presentations. The biggest challenge was moving the “check in” and “merchandise booth” from venue to venue. The number of volunteers is key. In more recent years we have pulled away from business venues to a central conference center. This was done partially because our events grew too big and the ease of not having to move our booths. In retrospect, perhaps a little mix of the two types of venues would be best. Our guests enjoyed going to the Restaurant/Bar and now they do so before or after the event.
Merchandise has always been difficult with regards to what sells and at what price. What is appealing, the quality and what quantity to order is a challenge. It does require upfront funding. The marketing benefit/name recognition is helpful. We did make some profit, but just not as much as you would think unless the merchandise was donated. If your merchandise is sized, try to find uni-sex sizes. Most years we did not put dates on the merchandise, so if we had some left, we could sell them the next year. We took cash or check and recently started to use Venmo.
Selling Constitution Week
Pick speakers and a few selected activities and assign tasks and visualize how it will come together. With tentative speakers in mind activities can be considered and the number of volunteers needed can be assessed.
Put together a rough draft of a schedule of events. You now have something to sell and can solicit organizations such as veteran's groups (perhaps your best supporters, e.g., The American Legion, VFW, etc.) chamber of commerce, police & fire departments, service clubs, town council, and most important the business community.
You are now beginning the process of “buy in.” Schedule with these organizations a time to make a presentation. Ask them to come and “kick the tires” you might say. If you have an engaging speaker that is known someone might kick in a few bucks to help cover expenses. Most importantly you are looking for the “buy in!”
Keep your schedule flexible enough to make some changes. Produce a final draft about 60 days before the event. The sooner you start planning the better, but committing too soon to activities may also pass up an unrealized opportunity. This happens, but there is always next year and if the timing does not work retain the info and contact them immediately after the current year's event ends. There is always next year, and you should always have this in the back of your mind as the role of an organizer. I cannot stress the importance of this enough. What about next year? Have a year-end debriefing to discuss successes, weaknesses, and opportunities.
The first day is the hardest day of the GLUSCW. This is when you find out what you forgot. These are the steps we go through at a typical speaking engagement.
Setup sign in booth. Get info on attendees for future newsletters and such. Marketing and print material setup. Put out donation jars. More than one!
Setup merchandise booth.
Venue setup. Chairs, microphone, podium, lectern, American Flag, decorations
Person assigned to start with announcements to get things started. Start with welcome. Who are you and what is Constitution Week? Thank you's, go over schedule for next day perhaps, funding.....fyi kind of stuff. Invocation from spiritual leader? Pledge of allegiance, national anthem? (Typically, we only did the national anthem on our big day, which was Saturday.) Introduction of speaker......you need a bio!
Speaker begins. Usually between 40 to 50 minutes followed with 20 minutes or so of Q&A or however long the speaker wants to go. Typically depends on how engaged the attendees are.
Thanks for coming and visit our merchandise booth. See you tomorrow!
The sound system should be a good one. How many times have you been to something like this and you cannot hear very well. Don’t let that happen. Depending on the type of microphone (you probably borrowed and are unfamiliar with it) many speakers do not keep the microphone close enough to their mouths. This is a very common mistake, so heads up!
Faith is essential that your Constitution Week venture will work. It will! People are curious and want to know, especially now. The timing could not be more perfect. This is a very easy way for attendees to learn.
Startup funds for next year? It sure makes it a lot easier to generate enough revenue, so you have some startup funds for next year.
Review necessary permits, licenses and liability insurance requirements. Contact the local government office for direction.
Decide how you want to grow. Constitution Week three-year growth plan
Considerations such as annual date, how many days, (1-3 days) Same week every year and schedule conflicts with other town activities.
How many speakers. Keynote speaker on Saturday.
Develop website and social media.
Apply for non-profit. What type 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4). More about this below.
Bank Account? Register your name with Secretary of State.
Appoint or hire a Videographer/ Photographer
Increase days to 3-5 days. Wednesday thru Saturday or Sunday.
Activities, Parade, music, food & beverage.
Add a luncheon guest speaker. This increased our reach.
Booths on your big day. (Saturday) Profit and/or non-profit.
Increase 5-7 days. Monday thru Saturday or Sunday
Activities, parade, music, trivia contest, food & beverage, 5K
Add another luncheon speaker
Booths on your big day.
As you already know marketing/advertising can be an elusive undertaking. For many of our years we did not have much funding available; however, some inexpensive choices can be very effective. Below I have stated some obvious items, but perhaps regard it as a reminder list.
Our parade is probably one of the most effective and simplest activities. It really engages the public and attracts people to come. We always do a patriotic theme and even had prize money for best of, but certainly not necessary. People love parades!
Contact Chamber of Commerce, County Tourism Boards, public announcements programing on the radio, government agencies, local organizations and above all Veteran groups like The American Legion and VFW.
Develop marketing materials on why Constitution Week is a great event to support. Past photos and videos are great. Put together a power point presentation.
www.dar.org Daughters of the American Revolution
Merchandise supplier www.corporatetocasual.com
Learn about non-profits, e.g., 501(c)(3) form 1023 www.pay.gov.com
You will have Naysayers! It hurts, but it goes away after a while. Thick skin! Simply stick together and tell the story of the American Founding and the greatest governing document, the United States Constitution.