Rally Starter Guide


If you’re like us, you believe the status quo just isn’t good enough – inequality is rising, the Earth is getting hotter, and our politicians often seem more interested in power and money than the people they represent. You may feel angry, sad, cynical, defeated, or alone. But MILLIONS of people feel the exact same way. So what are you going to do about it? We’ve made the answer as simple as possible: use Rally Starter to campaign for change!

So... how do you get started? We’re going to walk you through the steps to start a powerful campaign, step by step. Really, anyone can do it.

Theory of Change

It’s the phrase that keeps you up at night when something is bothering you, “If... [insert an action that would solve a problem], then... [insert the positive impact that would be created]!”

If an African American woman refuses to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in Alabama, then the NAACP will create a powerful moment that will help advance the Civil Right Movement. (Thank you, Rosa Parks!)

We call this a Theory of Change, and it’s the building block of any successful campaign.

There are two central questions you need to ask yourself:

  1. What change do you want?
  2. What actions would need to happen to create that change?

The answers to these questions become your central Theory of Change - the North Star for the campaign. Literally every action in your campaign will be contributing to this Theory of Change, because it’s what needs to happen to achieve your goal.

Let’s say you’re a student at Backwards University and the star football player is suddenly accused of sexual assault. It’s the college’s policy to remove an employee from all school-related activities during an ongoing investigation. However, there’s a catch. The Backwards University football team is undefeated and playing its biggest rival (Forwards University) on Saturday – a week after the alleged assault. It’s Tuesday, and the accused star football player attends practice as usual, even though he’s being investigated for the sexual assault. You decide that you need to do something to pressure your college administration to take sexual assault more seriously and pass a zero-tolerance policy for all employees and students. Here’s what you’re thinking...

If Backwards University students mobilize their collective power on campus, then the administration will be pressured to pass a zero-tolerance policy on sexual assault for all employees and students.

This is an example of a campaign’s central Theory of Change – your North Star. (Don’t worry, we’ll show you how this gets more specific and compelling.)

Who holds the power for change?

When we talk about creating social change, there’s almost always a common denominator – power. The status quo of any situation exists because someone has leveraged their power over someone else.


In rural California in the mid 1900s, grape growers had so much power, money, and influence that they disregarded the federal minimum wage and created a norm of farmworker exploitation. That power balance began to shift when Filipino and Mexican farmworkers united under the leadership of Cesar Chavez and others. That partnership led to the Delano Grape Strike, a five year grassroots organizing effort that ultimately reduced consumer demand for non-union grapes and forced the growers into a collective bargaining agreement. The power balance did not become equal, but it had significantly significantly shifted towards the farmworkers.

Remember that in our Backwards University example, it’s clear that the administration has the power to pass a zero-tolerance policy. But the next question is critical when designing a campaign: who has the power to influence the administration to make this decision? Or to put it another way, who has power over the decision-makers?

The reason we need to understand who holds power in a relationship is because we need to figure out who our campaign should target.

Here are two ways to help untangle the question:

  1. SHORT OPTION (5-10 mins). Answer these questions:
    • Who has the power to create the change you want?

      This is your Decision-Maker (e.g. Backwards University administration)

    • Who has the power over the Decision-Maker?

      This is your Influencer (e.g. Backwards University football program, high-profile sponsors of the football team)

    • Who can help you raise the profile of your Rally?

      This is your ALLY (e.g. student groups, campus Take Back the Night Chapter, supportive professors, team boosters, etc.)

  2. LONGER OPTION (30-90 mins): Complete a Power Map to visualize all of the players in an issue: how much influence do they have, and how much do they support/oppose your position?
    • Click here for a Power Mapping guide.

Building a Critical Path

It’s clear that your end goal is for Backwards University administration to take sexual assault more seriously. But how do we do that? What are we actually asking people to do to achieve this change? We figure this out by building a critical path – the blueprint of your campaign.

Take a piece of paper and at the top, write your end goal - in our example it’s, “Backwards University passes a policy that all employees and students will be treated with the same zero-tolerance policy for sexual assault.”

Now, from top to bottom, working down the page from your end goal, think of what would need to happen right before the previous goal was achieved. There are no ‘right’ answers to this – that’s why campaigning is so fun and creative!

Backwards University passes a policy that all employees and students will be treated with the same zero-tolerance policy for sexual assault.


Backwards University Board meets to discuss its campus sexual assault policy.


Backwards University loses $400,000 in revenue from lost ticket sales.


Students organize a boycott of the game between Backwards and Forwards Universities.

Pretty cool, right? By building a critical path, we’ve identified that the best way to exert power over the Backwards University administration is by targeting their pocketbooks – in this case, by boycotting the football game on Saturday.

The campaign action is now clear: Organize a boycott of Saturday’s football game.

And the coolest part? Even that action is built using the principles of the Theory of Change. Take a look:

If students boycott Saturday’s football game, then the college will lose money from ticket sales and the administration will be pressured into considering a zero tolerance policy to avoid future boycotts and negative press.

Selecting your Actions

Once you’ve built your campaign’s critical path, you need to figure out the “how”. In our example, your strategy is to create a financial loss for Backwards University to pressure them into creating a zero tolerance policy. What are the actions that you can use for this strategy?

Rally Starter let’s you easily create different actions to change the balance of power and influence the Decision-Maker! Here’s how you could take advantage of these actions for our example:

PHONE: Flood the university’s administration office with phone calls to tell them that now is the time for a zero tolerance policy for sexual assault.

EMAIL: How many times a day do you check your email? Guess what, Decision-Makers do, too. Send messages straight to administrative officials’ inboxes to leverage your supporters’ collective power!

SOCIAL MEDIA: Word-of-web is the new word-of-mouth, but you can reach thousands of people in a few moments. Use social media to motivate and urge your fellow students to take action, recruit more allies, gain publicity, and organize your on the ground actions!

BOYCOTT: While boycotts are challenging to organize, they can be incredibly effective in the right circumstances. In this example, a boycott of Saturday’s football game is a powerful way to demonstrate urgency and hit the university’s Decision-Makers where it hurts the most – their pocketbook.

EVENT: On top of the boycott of Saturday’s football game, why stop there? Organize a nonviolent protest in front of the football stadium on Saturday morning to make your voices heard (and most likely get some prominent media attention)!

Make a list of all of the actions that would help influence your campaign’s Decision-Makers. And jot down some notes about what what you would include in your phone script and email copy – you’ll include these in your Rally to make it as easy as possible for supporters to take action!

Problem, Solution, Ask

You’ve now created your Theory of Change, identified who holds the power to create the change you want, built a critical path to achieve your campaign goal, and selected actions to leverage your community’s power.

Congratulations! You’ve designed a campaign, and Rally Starter will help turn that idea into change!

The last step in the process is understanding the most effective way to talk (and write) about your Rally. This can seem daunting, but it can actually be broken into a simple three-step formula:

Problem, Solution, and Ask. This formula will help communicate all the necessary components of your campaign to your supporters in the Rally Description, phone talking points, emails, and social media.


The most effective way to connect with a potential supporter is by clearly conveying the problem that you are trying to fix. Describe the problem in ways that connect emotionally with the reader – it is proven to be the most effective way to gain support.

Are football ticket sales more important than the safety of our students? Does our administration care that someone is assaulted every 98 seconds? Last weekend, one of our fellow students was sexually assaulted at a party, and a football player has been charged. But here’s the crazy part – he is still practicing with the team and will play in the game on Saturday. This is NOT acceptable!


Now that you’ve described the problem, you need to lay out the solution. This is where you should also articulate your Theory of Change. It will help your supporters understand how you will get from the first milestone to the final campaign goal.

Here’s how we are going to make sure this never happens again. First, we are going to boycott Saturday’s football game to send a clear message to our administration that students will not tolerate inaction when it comes to our safety! If we can reduce the ever-important ticket sales, the administration will be forced to hear our call for a zero tolerance policy against sexual assault. This is how we can reduce sexual assault at Backwards University!


Now that your reader understands the problem and the solution, it’s time to harness their voices by clearly asking them to take action! Make sure that you convey urgency and call for actions that someone can take immediately.

Now is the time to join our Rally and boycott Saturday’s football game! But let’s not stop there. We’ve set up phone and email features so you can reach out directly to our administrators, then use social media to make your voice even louder! On Saturday morning, we’ll be at the stadium - not for football, but to help stop sexual assault at Backwards University! We’ll be in touch with details in the coming days.

Draft your own Problem, Solution, and Ask paragraphs for your campaign!

Rally for the change you believe in!

You now know everything you need to create a Rally! Don’t forget to communicate often with your supporters via email. Motivate them often with updates about new actions, responses from Decision-Makers and Influencers, or the recruitment of powerful Allies! You want to make the Rally feel urgent and necessary! And when you feel a campaign starting to tip towards victory, go the extra mile to turn your Rally into a Win!

Good luck Rallying for a better world. We believe in you!


Download as PDF

You can download this guide as a PDF.