Herding Cats: Keep the Train Moving

I’ve previously talked about how to motivate libertarians to activism and how to foster relationships to organize a truly powerful community. Now, I’m going to tell you how to keep your movement from crumbling. Here’s how to keep your activist train moving.

1: Find ways of saying thanks

Everyone needs to get paid. Nonprofits and community efforts pay few to none with money, but any organizer worth their salt will recognize the necessity of compensating their activists in one way or another. Because these are volunteers that will be helping you mainly because they believe in the cause, instead think of it as saying “thank you.” Sometimes this is as simple as verbal thanks from you, but it can include a written card, public recognition, a special gift, official titles and responsibilities, and so on. Just make sure you provide some kind of reward mechanism to keep your activists wanting to come back.

2: Maintain a sense of purpose

Humans respond to a sense of struggle against an enemy in defense of their own tribe. Though you might have a non-confrontational mission, remember to keep it framed as fighting for a cause with high stakes and some resistance to overcome. People will help you once or a few times, but without a continuing sense of mission they will fall away. Keep every action tied into the greater narrative of your titanic struggle of good versus evil.

3: Cycle activists to avoid burnout

Though you might have the most happy, hardworking, determined bunch of rabble-rousers out there, you will need to rotate around the workload from time to time. Even the greatest activist will get burned out eventually, either from physical/mental exhaustion, boredom, financial reasons, or a toll on their work/life balance. Have at least three contacts for every one role, so if something comes up for one and another has been relied on too much you still have someone to carry the torch. This means you’ll have to over-recruit for what you need, and occasionally hold back your most energized activists slightly in order to involve others. It’s a lot of work, but few things are worse than building incredible momentum and then having it collapse before your eyes.

4: Keep pushing forward

Alright, so you’ve thanked all your activists, kept them deep in your greater purpose, and made sure none get too burned out. Guess what though, your operation can still stagnate. Why? Lack of forward momentum. Simple maintenance of a task is what jobs are for. Activism thrives on energy, something you can’t maintain by keeping a basic task covered. Keep building, climbing, achieving, outdoing yourselves. A revolution without momentum disbands.

5: Maintain recent personal contact with as many activists as possible

If you’ve done your job and hustled as an activist organizer, your friends should reach far beyond people with whom you’re able to maintain regular contact. That doesn’t, however, mean you shouldn’t make trying a priority. Don’t forget about your loyal liberty warriors on the geographical fringes of your operation. The leader must visit the frontlines regularly, and you can use this opportunity to see if any problems have been cropping up, encourage/energize your activists, and draw from knowledge outside of your centralized bubble. In fact, unless you’re absolutely tied down to one spot for your regular organizing, try to constantly move around your area of influence so you can keep contact as fresh as possible with all activists.

Follow these principles and your merry band of activists will continue on, growing all the time. A movement that doesn’t fizzle is a powerful thing indeed.

This is the third part of a three-article series on organizing activism. Read the first one here and the second one here.

Joël Valenzuela
Joël Valenzuela
Joël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx. He is also the founder of the Rights Brigade, a mover for the Free State Project, and a martial art instructor.