How to start a Friends of Susan B. Anthony umbrella organization

  1. Decide to do it.
  2. Arrange for a meeting place and set a date (or vice versa).
  3. Contact and invite to the meeting presidents or chairpersons of local:

League of Women Voters

American Association of University Women

National Organization for Women

Business and Professional Women

Planned Parenthood

any local women’s network organizations

any local woman’s Club

any local college or university women’s studies department

any local college or university political science department

any local church with a social concerns program, e.g., Quakers,

Unitarian/Universalists, Baha’is, community churches, etc.

any local political organizaion (Democrats, Republicans, and others)


Tell them the aim is to form a coalition that would only meet once a year, in a common activity to honor Susan B. Anthony. The FoSBA (Friends of Susan B. Anthony) in Alachua County’s history is this:


“The Friends of Susan B. Anthony began in 1968 as an informal February 15 birthday party luncheon organized by Beth Daane, Director of the Gainesville Public Library. It became an annual affair that was held variously at restaurants or private homes. As the years went by, other interested friends wanted to attend, too. It was not until 1989 that recognition was given to a local woman who exemplified some of the qualities of Susan B. Anthony, that is, concern for full enfranchisement of women and minorities and equal rights for all citizens. The group of Friends has no elected officers; it has never ‘formally’ organized. However, the die-hard friends of Susan B. want to continue the remembrance of this remarkable woman, her colleagues and the spirit of their time. We have chosen what has come to be known as Women’s Equality Day, the anniversary of the 19th Amendment (woman suffrage), August 26, to do that. May we never forget their sacrifices, hard work and persistence. ‘The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.’”


4. If this kind of loose organization suits you it will be easy to manage, as all you need is a steering committee, generally a member from each of the participating organizations. It is each one’s responsibility to keep their organization informed of ongoing plans and to see that each member gets on the mailing list. Each elected official should also be invited (along with candidates for office, especially if your event is scheduled near a voting date).


5. Once you have a group in agreement to participate, you can begin by formulating a mission statement to suit your community and situation. You can formally organize if you want to. We still like the informal arrangement.


6. When we started honoring someone it got more complicated. The group had to consider names to honor. Sometimes it was not hard. Then we realized we had a tiger by the tail and that a speaker would be a good idea, too. This activity has grown from eight to over 200 attendees since 1989. It has become a local highlight, especially in election years. It is a way for like-minded people and friends to get together who generally don’t see much of each other during the year. We encourage mixing up the tables so that attendees can meet new people and perhaps network with other activities in the future. Decide if you want to have an honoree. If you have a lot of active local women it will be easier. We would throw out some names, talk about them, and then sometimes narrow it down to two if there was not a clear favorite and then voted.


7. We operate with a coordinator. (It could rotate by election within the committee.) We inherited our format from Charlotte Yates who was a colleague of Beth Daane and who organized it for years. June Littler became a best buddy of Charlotte and since Charlotte’s death she has been doing it, along with handling the checkbook. She is now co-chair with Barbara Oberlander.


8. One of our members had publicity experience, so she handled that. We have the registration reservations mailed to a member who was willing to have the deluge of mail and had a computer to compile the list using Excel. From that we compile the list for the name tags. We insist on receiving reservations three days before the event (we are going to change it to four days); no payments at the door. We have to pay the hotel (these days) in advance. A member who is very good at editing makes the certificate for the honoree. (I’ll attach a copy it later.)


9. We have been lucky that some of the co-sponsoring organizations can contribute in-kind gifts rather than cash. One of them provides the printing costs for the announcement/invitation and for the program of the event. For several years we have had the same local florist donate the floral arrangement for the head table. We buy other stemmed flowers, usually carnations, for bud vases we have collected over the years (for 33 tables). One of the co-sponsors donates the use of its printer to produce the address labels for the original mailing and for the name badges for the event. The organizations that don’t contribute in-kind gifts contribute $25 or more to be a co-sponsor.


10. We operate on a shoestring and keep the reservation cost as low as possible so that lower income women can participate, too, especially since meals were starting to get expensive. We ask for donations and those who can afford it send more; we have no membership dues. Because of the in-kind printing gift our biggest cost has been for postage, envelopes, labels and nametags. (I’ll add a sample invitation and a program.)


11. Seed money to begin everything is very helpful. We managed with early donations the first time we needed postage to send out invitations, but we generally always were in the hole at the beginning of each year. Then we got a donation of $800 that keeps us solvent each year after all our bills are paid. We finally got a little ahead and can now give a modest $200 honorarium (up from $100) to our speaker. Often they have us pass it on to a cause of their choice, e.g., a humane society, the American Heart Association, etc.