SSDP CHAPTER ORGANIZING MANUAL
WELCOME TO SSDP!
This Chapter Organizing Manual was created for you by SSDP members and alumni who led and supported SSDP chapters on their campuses and advised hundreds of SSDP chapters on successful policy change initiatives at the campus, local, state, national, and global levels. This manual will be your guide for how to get involved with SSDP and help end the War on Drugs.
This document is created by and for the SSDP community. We invite your input and hope you will contribute your ideas and experiences! To suggest edits, please request "comment access" from the menu above.
Students for Sensible Drug Policy is an international grassroots network of students who are concerned about the impact of drug misuse on our communities, but who also know that the “War on Drugs” is failing our generation and our society.
SSDP mobilizes and empowers young people to participate in the political process, pushing for sensible policies to achieve a safer and more just future. SSDP does this while fighting back against counterproductive policies – in particular, those that directly harm students and youth.
SSDP neither condones nor condemns drug use. Instead, we respect the right of individuals to make decisions about their own health and well-being. We promote youth civic engagement as a critical tool in reforming drug policy. SSDP respects the diverse experiences and identities of our constituents. We develop leaders who advocate for policy changes based on justice, liberty, compassion, and reason.
Jason Ortiz ‘08* | Executive Director
Róisín Downes ‘15 | Executive Director of SSDP International
Rob Hofmann ‘16 | Policy and Advocacy Director
Luis Montoya ‘16 | Operations Director
Dr. Vilmarie Fraguada Narloch ‘09 | Director of Drug Education
Rachel Wissner ‘11 | Development Director
Moronfolu Adeniyi ‘14 | African Development Consultant
Mohawk Greene | Website Administrator
Oriana Mayorga ‘13 | Equity Strategist
Rory O’Brien ‘19 | Communications Manager
Jacob Plowden ‘15 |New York Coordinator
Jeremy Sharp ‘12 | Pacific Region Outreach Coordinator
Iulia Vatau ‘20 | Global Fellow for Europe and the United Nations
Carmen Winter ‘19 | Development Associate
Nina Christie ‘21 | Drug Free Schools and Communities Act Intern
Emma Landry ‘21 | Resolution to Advance Sensible Drug Policy Intern
*Throughout SSDP materials, you will notice years associated with our alumni. This indicates a person’s “SSDP Class of” year, meaning the first year they got involved with us.
In the fall of 1996, members of the Student Drug Reform Movement (SDRM) started chatting over the Internet using a Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet) discussion page. In 1997, the Rochester Cannabis Coalition (RCC) at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York applied to become the first official student organization in the United States dedicated to fighting the War on Drugs. The RIT administration denied RCC’s application and ultimately expelled the lead organizer, Shea Gunther ‘98, who would go on to become an SSDP founder.
In Winter 1998, SDRM members at University of Massachusetts-Amherst hosted a conference for about 50 students, many of whom would go on to join Shea in founding SSDP. That conference led to the First National Gathering in Washington, DC the following year, where attendees decided collectively to form SSDP into a national U.S. organization and elected a Board of Directors comprised of one representative from each of the five schools that had chapters operating under the SSDP name (Hampshire College, University of Wisconsin-Madison, George Washington University, American University, and Rochester Institute of Technology). SSDP undertook a series of actions and events which contributed to the partial repeal of the Higher Education Act Aid Elimination Penalty (HEAAEP) in 2002, our first political victory. The HEAAEP was later fully repealed in 2020, led by the coalition that SSDP helped create twenty years prior.
Other milestones and moments in history include:
SSDP defeated the Department of Education in a lawsuit seeking information about the number of students who have lost financial aid due to drug convictions in each state. When the DoE sought to make us pay an exorbitant sum for our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, we sued, and The New York Times editorialized on our behalf.
SSDP held our first federal lobby day during the 2011 SSDP Training and Lobby Day Conference at the University of Maryland.
On the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon declaring the beginning of the ‘War on Drugs’, SSDP chapters organized candlelight vigils in 22 cities to honor the lives lost by the War on Drugs.
SSDP was granted official consultative status at the United Nations, serving as the only U.S. based drug policy reform organization working hand in hand with the UN’s committee on drug policy.
A delegation of seven students from three countries represented SSDP at the 57th session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND).
More than 150 SSDPers attended the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on ‘the world drug problem’ and fought backlash and insults from the drug war supporting status quo.
October - November 2016
SSDPers made 70,000 voter contacts in U.S. states with marijuana-related ballot measures.
For the first time, SSDP had chapters in all six habitable continents.
SSDP’s efforts to repeal the HEAAEP provided a model that has led to the development of our network of young people for the past twenty years. SSDP has since expanded from a single chapter in upstate New York to a global network of about 200 chapters in over 30 countries working to implement that vision on their campuses, in their communities, and at the state, national, and international levels. For more information about SSDP’s history, including a special episode of the podcast Marijuana Today recorded by several alumni and founders that goes over the history in detail, check out https://ssdp.org/ssdp-history/.
After you submit your New Member Application, a member of our outreach team will contact you via e-mail and request to set up a time to chat about starting up your chapter. Each outreach team member supports chapters in different regions, and the person who contacts you will depend on where you are located. To find out who is the Global HQ Team member for your region, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your outreach team member will be your best resource as a new member of SSDP. SSDP’s outreach team members are former chapter leaders or very dedicated chapter members who have years of experience organizing young people both on and off campus, and can help guide you through everything you will need to do to set up a strong, active SSDP chapter. During your first call, they will ask why you are interested in drug policy reform, what you hope to accomplish through SSDP, and co-develop a plan on how to get started. They will also connect you to other SSDP chapters all over the world, especially in your region, by adding you to SSDP social media, messaging groups, and other communication platforms utilized by SSDPers.
There are four things you need to do in order to become an officially established SSDP chapter:
During your first call with your outreach team member, you will develop a plan to achieve these steps. Once you have completed the required steps, be sure to let your outreach team member know. You are now an established chapter of SSDP! Established SSDP chapters are listed on our website, receive an SSDP email address, and can start reporting their chapter’s successes through our online tool, the SSDP Chapter Activity Tracker (AKA the SSDP CAT) for free SSDP stuff! Chapters and members also receive benefits including:
As you are planning your first meeting, focus on the content and make an agenda. Start by briefly introducing SSDP and our mission, but try your best to do as little talking as possible and hold a conversation where everyone is contributing. Check out our template presentation for your first chapter meeting of the semester for some guidance. Send an interest form to members of your mailing or text list to confirm people’s interest and best meeting times.
Preparation takes time - sometimes more time than the meeting itself - so start to prepare at least a week before your next meeting.
First, select a date and time that is convenient for people who want to attend the meeting.
Second, consider if you would like to meet virtually or in-person. You should consider the number of COVID-19 cases in your country and the ability to find a room or place where you can adequately socially distance yourself if necessary. For countries that are still experiencing COVID spikes, social distancing guidelines generally recommend against having more than 10 people in the same place, even with masks and social distancing in place. If you choose to meet in-person, find a place outside or a room with good ventilation and plenty of space.
For countries which have significantly reduced their COVID-19 cases, if you choose to hold in-person events, choose a location that is accessible to young people in your community. Consider meeting at local coffee shops, parks, or other public spaces off campus if you would like to reach more young people who are not students. If you are holding meetings on campus, try securing a space that is centrally located or is in a building that regularly gets traffic.
Whether your events are virtual or in-person, create a Facebook event, Google Calendar invite, and send emails or group messages so members and supporters can save the date and time. If you hold meetings at a set time & place every week, see if you can list it on a virtual or in-person community calendar or bulletin board.
Come up with an agenda for the general membership meeting. Include introductions, announcements from chapter leadership and SSDP global leadership, topics of discussion, and anything else you might anticipate coming up at the meeting.
When planning for meetings, always ask yourself: How will this meeting contribute to our chapter’s policy change goals? Having chapter policy goals is especially helpful for chapters meeting virtually, as it provides a reason for people to come together. Your Global HQ Team member can help you brainstorm and solidify your agenda too!
If you don’t have a secretary or moderator, ask a volunteer to take notes and a volunteer to moderate the meeting. Both are important responsibilities that should be carried out by someone other than the chapter president. Notes can be given to absent members and used to plan the next meeting, while the moderator can ensure that the meeting is moving along in an efficient manner. It’s not a bad idea to rotate these roles every meeting.
Send email and social media reminders to prospective members about the meeting several days in advance with the date, time, location, and any other important details. Follow that up with a text message and email around 24 hours before the meeting begins. Include the agenda and ask for additions. Send an additional reminder on the day of the meeting, especially if it is an important meeting. Make phone calls or send text messages to core members to ensure that they haven’t forgotten.
Think about how many times you decided to go to something because you heard there would be food. If you don’t have any money in your budget for food, ask core leadership members to pitch in a few bucks for some pizza and soda or reach out to your local pizza place to request a donation. Chapters can get creative about negotiating sponsorships with local businesses as well. For example, if XYZ Local Pizza Place provides free pizza for a meeting, they can send along flyers to be handed out at the meeting.
Once every six months, your Global HQ team member will request that you submit a chapter roster, which helps the SSDP Global HQ Team accurately measure the size of our network. Collecting rosters also helps us communicate timely action opportunities to the SSDP network, makes it easier to contact chapter members interested in conferences or other events, and allows us to share the latest news from SSDP and the global drug policy community. Once you have your first meeting, use the sign-up sheet to create an official roster and send it to your Global HQ team member. You can find the sign up sheet template online.
Being a recognized student organization has many benefits, such as the ability to reserve meeting and event space on campus or apply for funding. Whether your schooling is virtual, in-person, or a mix of both, becoming a recognized student organization is valuable for your chapter and is highly recommended by the authors of this manual. It’s very likely that your school has the requirements for becoming an official student organization listed on its website. Go to your school’s website and search for “student organization” or “clubs” and you should be able to find details on the process. While the process is different at every school, typically this process includes the following three steps:
We also recognize that the process can take a long time at some schools, and that other schools may even reject your proposal. If this happens, do not get discouraged. Contact your Global HQ team member and chat about the impediments towards achieving recognition. Also remember that you can still become an Established SSDP chapter before you are a recognized student organization by completing the establishing steps listed on Page 4.
Research the faculty. Check your school’s website for faculty bios: you may find that various professors at your school have studied or worked on drug policy, law, criminal justice reform, or other intersecting issues. When inviting a faculty member to be your sponsor, make sure that you are prepared to clearly explain that SSDP neither condemns nor encourages drug use and that our goal is to promote open, honest, and rational discussion about drug use and drug policies.
Be clear about what the advisor’s role would be. While having an advisor who is heavily engaged in your chapter activities, meetings, and events can be very beneficial, many SSDP chapter advisors are minimally involved with chapter activities beyond the initial paperwork. If you are unable to find an enthusiastic and engaged advisor, it’s O.K. to make it clear to busy faculty that they will not need to spend any time working directly with your chapter if they are unable to do so.
After your first call with your Global HQ team member, we will create a Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram account for your chapter upon request. A Facebook group is a great tool for internal organizing with your chapter, while a Facebook page or Twitter and Instagram account serve as a way for your chapter to communicate with the public as well as the rest of the SSDP network. We encourage you to utilize these platforms to share drug policy news, SSDP announcements, and chapter updates. Consider using a graphics tool like Canva to create striking social media materials!
You are also welcome to create profiles on other social media sites. If you are making an account on a social media page, you must link the account(s) to your SSDP chapter email (ending in chapters.ssdp.org). This is so your Global HQ team member can reset the password in case the former chapter members are unresponsive. We have seen chapter accounts with thousands of followers that are unusable because we can not reset the password! Don’t let that happen to your chapter!
We encourage email and group chat updates alongside social media updates to reach members and supporters who don’t often use social media.
When you become an Established SSDP Organization, we celebrate! We hope you are as excited about telling the world about your chapter as we are. Chapters are encouraged to write a short post for our blog on their process of starting a chapter and their plans for the future, which will be listed out by your Global HQ team member.
Maybe you are interested in SSDP and committed to ending the War on Drugs but you don’t think that you can commit to organizing and building an SSDP chapter. Let your Global HQ team member know that you are interested in being an SSDP Ambassador. As an Ambassador, you get to participate in SSDP’s drug policy reform campaigns without forming an official chapter. Ambassadors represent SSDP on campus and in their local community, distribute SSDP literature, work to address policy goals from an individual standpoint, submit op-eds and LTEs to newspapers, and may identify future chapter members with the time and resources to establish a chapter of SSDP. In return, SSDP provides limited team support as well as the full breadth of SSDP benefits including access to the SSDP CAT Points store; policy change, community organizing, and educational resources; networking, training, and career opportunities; and application for member scholarships to attend select global events.
One of the most important parts of managing your chapter is recruiting new members. The best way to make your chapter sustainable is to continually attract new members and to train your existing members to do the same. Every time someone joins your SSDP chapter, they give your chapter a better chance to have an impact on policy, increase student safety, positively impact your community, and spread the message of drug policy reform. Your ultimate goal is to create an active chapter which is welcoming to people of multiple backgrounds, so we encourage you to be creative when recruiting members.
Bonus: Check out this 2013 recruitment webinar from our former outreach team (back when we were the US-based SSDP National) about recruiting members and employ the following strategies to get the word out.
SSDP members often engage their communities in a myriad of ways, including:
Tabling is a very effective way to get the word out about your SSDP chapter and recruit new members. Set up a table in a high-traffic area so that you can talk to people about the War on Drugs and why you are starting an SSDP chapter. Pass out materials to prospective members and collect contact information to add to your chapter roster. It is also a good idea to make a sign, a banner, or flyers so you can effectively display the SSDP logo and messages connected with the SSDP mission.
Use your care package materials. New chapters and Ambassadors will receive a complementary care package of SSDP materials upon request, which will include promotional items like SSDP stickers, bookmarks, and brochures to hand out and use to educate your peers if you intend on organizing tabling events. Chapters that have already received this package can purchase additional care packages and other materials from the SSDP CAT Store.
Build a chapter roster. Tabling, educational events, and campus/community actions will help you build a chapter roster that can also serve as an email list. Not every person whom you make contact with will join your chapter, but you should still encourage them to sign up to receive email alerts and reminders about SSDP-related actions, meetings, and events.
Professionalism is key. Cover your table with a table banner whenever possible since it makes you look more professional (you can order a very professional banner off of our SSDP CAT Store!) Wear an SSDP shirt if you have one. Stand up instead of sitting down if you’re able to, and always appear friendly and approachable. Also, never underestimate the attraction of free candy and other goodies!
You already know what to say. You decided to start an SSDP chapter because you believe the War on Drugs has failed. You don’t need to know all the stats, facts, and history to be a great representative of SSDP -- you already are! Over time, bolster your knowledge with the drug policy resources we’ve made available to you, but for now you can start simply, with current events, news, and basic questions that will spark a conversation..
If they stick around long enough, tell them about your chapter and what you do (or hope to do) in your community. Ask if they’d like to get on your email list. Make sure you don’t do all the talking. Make each interaction while tabling a conversation by asking questions. A great question to ask after you have introduced SSDP is “Have you seen the effects of the War on Drugs??” If they say something relevant to what your chapter is working on, ask them if they would like to be involved in your efforts. If they see something that your chapter isn’t currently focused on, invite them to your next meeting to discuss their ideas.
There may be other campus and local organizations who will want to work with your chapter. If applicable, check your school's website for a complete list of campus organizations. A simple Google search of local advocacy organizations, organizer trainings, and other relevant events will also help you find some potential allies in the community at large.
Attend meetings of these organizations so that you can make an announcement about the formation of your SSDP chapter, recruit some new members, and learn from other successful organizations on campus.
Now that you are an official SSDP chapter, your next step is to develop a plan of action.
Organizing events that spread awareness, call people to action, or organize people around a cause are an important part of policy change both on and off campus. They can also be a fun and engaging way to attract new members to your chapter. Events like film screenings, guest speakers, or debates draw people in and give them an opportunity to learn about drug policy. At the event, you can pass around the sign-up sheet, talk about SSDP’s mission and the chapter’s policy priorities, and announce the date, time, and location of your next meeting. At least two or three people should share the responsibility of organizing the event to prevent anyone from feeling overwhelmed.
There is no formula to fully anticipate what events and activities will be the right fit for your chapter. However, there are some guiding questions that you could use to help you along the way.
Most importantly, ask yourself, does it spark passion? SSDPers join and stay for many different reasons, ranging from skills building and professional development to education to making friends. Events that speak to these core reasons and ambitions, for you and your members, will likely generate a bigger impact.
Start booking your event early. The more time you have to plan, the easier it will be to resolve any issues that come up. Determine a date, time, and location for your event that works for the chapter, the speaker, and your target audience. This step will be significantly easier if you choose Zoom or Google Hangouts over a physical venue, but make sure you are still sending out dates, times, and call-in links several days in advance. Check the community calendar and with other student organizations to avoid competition with other meetings or events likely to attract the same audience. You should also expect to have to navigate an approval process to reserve a space for your event that can take weeks on many campuses. Be prepared to have your events loosely planned at least one month in advance.
Note: Please make sure you obtain consent to take pictures or videos of chapter members.
Make sure you take plenty of pictures of your event while it’s happening. Assigning a chapter member with a good camera (or a newer phone) to take pictures is a great way to ensure that your event will be documented. While phone pictures are great for quickly uploading to social media, try and find someone with a decent camera (or rent one from your campus media center) and get at least a few high quality pictures that you can use in the future. Post your photos on your chapter’s social media pages afterwards and share it with your community. Invite a representative from the campus newspaper and/or local newspaper to attend: they will often have better cameras and can do a write up of the event! Also be sure to send your pictures to your Global HQ team member so they can share it with the rest of the SSDP network.
If you collected sign-ups during your event, send out an email the next day thanking everyone for coming. Include the date & location of your next SSDP meeting or a schedule of events if you have one. Be sure to thank any speakers that came from out of town with a thank you note or email, and invite them to keep in touch or come back again if it was a successful event. If any members of the faculty or administration attended the event, invite them to participate in future SSDP events and meetings. Finally, thank and reward your chapter members who helped make the event happen!
Every month of the year there are at least a few coordinated days of action run by allies and intersectional organizations that your chapter can organize around. This list has one such action for each month of the year. If you want to learn more about how you can get involved with any of these actions, reach out to your Global HQ team member.
January 22 - 28: NIDA Drug Facts Week
February 20: World Day of Social Justice
March 31: International Drug Checking Day
April 22: Earth Day
May 1-31: Mental Health Awareness Month
June 26: Support. Don’t Punish.
July 28: World Hepatitis Day
August 31: International Overdose Awareness Day
September 20: 920 Psilocybin Day of Action
October 22 - International Day Against Police Brutality
December 1 - World AIDS Day
LEADING YOUR CHAPTER
If you’ve gotten this far, it means that you have successfully established your SSDP chapter and are ready to lead your chapter toward policy change! This section will cover resources and tips you should utilize throughout your time as an SSDP chapter leader, and knowledge you should make sure to pass on to your next chapter leader.
The way you choose to organize your chapter’s leadership is up to you. No matter what structure your chapter decides to use, it’s important that everyone is on the same page about expected roles and responsibilities at the beginning of each semester. This can help prevent conflict if everyone knows exactly what the chapter expects of them, and if a leader is no longer able to fulfill their duties, they can find a replacement or inform the President that they will be stepping down.
Generally, colleges require student organizations to have three positions: President, Vice President, and either a Treasurer or Secretary. While there are limits to a traditional leadership structure, SSDP recommends starting with these positions in the preliminary phase of chapter development, and then working with your Global HQ Outreach Team member to develop additional positions based on the needs of your chapter and the individual strengths and interests of your chapter members.
The SSDP CAT is an online interface for SSDP chapters to log the activities they are engaged in. When chapters log activity on the CAT, they earn CAT points. CAT points can be spent on SSDP materials, conference scholarships, and other items that help support your work. Think of the CAT as a way to earn resources that would otherwise cost money by logging your activism. Only established chapters and Ambassadors are given access to the CAT. If you are not an established SSDP chapter but would like access to the CAT, talk to your Global HQ team member.
You can access the CAT at cat.ssdp.org
Logging your activities in the CAT will earn you points that you can trade in for materials, resources, and other items from SSDP headquarters. Additionally, the CAT serves as an effective means of data tracking for SSDP as a whole. The more accurately you use the CAT, the better we can tell the story of SSDP. It helps the SSDP team determine what activities our chapters care most about and in turn we can tailor our chapter support to best suit your needs and priorities. By keeping track of your chapter’s activity you are leaving a visible legacy for future leaders of your chapter. It’s also a fun way to engage in healthy competition among other SSDP chapters. You can see where your chapter stands in our leaderboard.
A full and up-to-date list of point earning activities can be found here: http://cat.ssdp.org/available-activities.
If your chapter is recognized as a student organization by your school, your chapter likely has the opportunity to apply for funds through your student government, activities board, or other funding body. This is an easy way to get money that can help your chapter buy materials, put on events, or travel to conferences. Typically, you will have to submit requests for funding by a certain deadline. Take some time to research these dates and of all the guidelines for submitting your completed funding request. Many organizations will be competing for funds, so don’t wait until the last minute. Remember, this is your money! It is included in your tuition. DO NOT miss budget deadlines or pass up the opportunity to get funds from your school.
If you have an idea for an event on campus, check with faculty departments about co-sponsoring the event. Faculty departments on campus often have large budgets to fund speakers, movie screenings, conferences, and more. Set up a meeting with a department head, present your idea, and ask if they will partner with your chapter for an event.
If you’re unable to request funds or your request is not approved, you’ll have to raise money on your own. To have a successful fundraiser, chapter members must be very dedicated and establish concrete sales projections. Advertise any fundraising event as effectively as possible. Use banners, posters, flyers, chalk, radio spots, newspaper advertisements, and Facebook to get the word out.
SSDP chapters have successfully raised money using the following methods:
Sales: Bake sales, potlucks, t-shirt sales or tie-dying, coffee/tea sales, grilled cheese sales, ‘baked sales’, art / craft sales
Direct Fundraising: GoFundMe, requesting donations from: friends and family, allied organizations / community partners, cannabis companies, other businesses; requesting sponsors for chapter events or activities, placing SSDP donation boxes in local businesses
Events: Concerts (virtual or in-person), open mic night, DJ streams on Twitch, ‘Dine to Donate’ event, Costume party / Halloween party, Dance party / fundrager, game night / tournament, drag show
Other: Car washes, raffle (of SSDP related items or other items), prize wheel
Sometimes it takes money to make money! If your chapter is short on available funds and needs working capital to start a fundraising event, there are some options:
If you need help with raising money, send an email to our Director of Development, Rachel Wissner, at email@example.com.
SSDP is a 501(c)(3) non-profit entity. Every dollar we use to operate the organization comes from tax-deductible donations from members of the public who are interested in ending the War on Drugs. Be sure to review the website resources on ways to donate. You never know when you might have a chance encounter with a person who may be in a position to make a one-time or a recurring donation to SSDP. For those who are interested in recurring monthly donations, refer them to the Sensible Society.
While recruitment is one of the main goals of chapter building, retaining those members is the cornerstone of your chapter’s continued success. It can be frustrating to go from having meetings with 25 people attending to only 3 or 4 attending the next semester. Try these tips to make sure that doesn’t happen to your chapter - but if it does, hang in there! Members will stay with your chapter if it is fun, exciting, and rewarding. By staying organized, holding effective meetings, and effectively engaging chapter members in compelling educational opportunities and campaigns, you will be able to keep your members engaged and coming back.
You will lose members -- and you won’t attract new activists -- if you don’t stay regularly active. The most successful chapters have a member-informed vision they are working toward throughout any given semester. These chapters will form strong bonds with community and campus leaders, send representatives to community and campus events, provide relevant trainings, host education events, organize direct actions, and find other meaningful ways to empower and mobilize their community.
Make it easy for your members to know when meetings take place by announcing them well in advance. Make it easy for your members to prepare for meetings by letting them know what to expect and what is expected of them. Try to hold consistent weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly meetings in the same place at the same time. Work with your members to make sure things stay on track, and be ready to re-delegate or intervene if things are stalled.
The most successful SSDP chapters strive for a strongly inclusive decision-making process. Chapter priorities and actions should emerge from an ongoing dialogue among the chapter membership. Make sure your email lists, social media groups, or messaging groups are actively communicating and consistently deliver relevant updates to your membership.
Effective leaders seek regular feedback, so encourage chapter members to give honest viewpoints about their experience as members, leaders’ performance, the decision-making process, and the goals the chapter would like to accomplish so that you can make sure you are providing them with an enriching experience that builds their desire to be a part of SSDP. This could come in the form of Google Surveys (which include the option of anonymity) and/or bi-semester group discussions, for example. Remember that as a chapter leader you are essentially a volunteer leader, and the best way for you to keep your “volunteers” engaged is to make sure they feel heard and appreciated.
Give your new chapter members responsibilities so you can show them how important they are to your chapter and generate buy-in from your members. Do your best to tailor your delegation to fit the skills that your members have to offer. For example, if you have a member who is studying graphic design or marketing, have them make posters or flyers for tabling and upcoming events. A business or accounting major might be able to manage your fundraising efforts and help you develop a budget for your chapter. If a member comes to you with an idea for a project or campaign, encourage them to start working on it themselves in addition to bringing it to the rest of the chapter. When you delegate a project, tell them, “You own this.” Be consistent in following up with your members to see how they are feeling, but be wary of micromanaging. Your job as chapter leader is not to tell your members how to do things, it’s to ensure things are getting done. If you’d like to learn more about effective delegation, watch this delegation webinar from our former outreach team
Students for Sensible Drug Policy recognizes that ending the War on Drugs rests on building an inclusive community dedicated to consciously addressing the disparate impacts of the War on Drugs and the ways in which its policies have marginalized specific, targeted people and communities, most particularly people and communities of color. We are committed to working with our allies to co-create sensible drug policies which achieve safety and justice by recognizing that our liberation is bound together.
Chapters are entitled to resolve conflict using their established democratic processes. We recommend following a restorative or transformative justice approach, like the one suggested in this document. For a more detailed version of a similar process, see this document. SSDP team members are available to provide guidance and advice in all such cases. We strongly hope that leadership will provide all parties in a conflict with the contact information for the Executive Director and your Global HQ team member in order to provide equal resources to all parties.
Students for Sensible Drug Policy implements and enforces a conduct violation complaint and restoration procedure as one practice among a set of practices intended to cultivate and sustain a community free of harassment or assault, unethical behavior, or personal attacks where a vibrant debate of ideas is upheld by a foundation of personal respect. These practices endeavor to align to the following principles:
Chapters may elect to restrict the privileges of the accused individual (the “respondent”) including restriction from certain events, certain types of events, or meetings; that could include expulsion from the chapter upon a vote of the members.
Respondents who are dissatisfied with the decision of the chapter may appeal to SSDP team members, who will investigate and respond. When possible, restitution or restoration of privileges should be available at the discretion of the complainant(s).
In any case which involves violence, threats, intimidation, harassment, or sexual misconduct, chapter leaders or members are expected to engage the support of the SSDP team. In the case that chapter leaders are accused of such behavior, chapter members are expected to engage the support of the SSDP team.
Students who change the world together stick together! SSDPers worldwide are connected by a shared commitment to ending the War on Drugs. Start a mentor/mentee program with older and newer members of your chapter. Encourage collaboration on projects between members who may not know each other too well. Challenge everyone to have a 20 minute conversation with each other. It can be harder to create a culture of care when your chapter gets bigger and bigger, but it’s definitely worth the effort.
The best way to get your chapter members to engage -- and keep coming back for more -- is to make it a priority to ensure that your members are having fun being a part of SSDP. If you have a particularly successful meeting or event, reward your members with a social gathering or some pizza at your next meeting (or a virtual equivalent!). It will be up to you and your fellow chapter leaders to approach your meetings and events with positive energy and enthusiasm. Ending the War on Drugs is serious business and living within its reality can be overwhelming at times. The best way to avoid burnout and keep people hopeful about the future is to have fun and enjoy a laugh and a smile as often as you can.
One of the main missions of SSDP is to foster the development of drug policy reform advocates, changing policies from campuses to the United Nations. SSDP provides young people with a multitude of resources and dedicated time with team members to create and act on plans to end the War on Drugs through policy change campaigns.
You can view our current campaign toolkits here. Once you’ve found a campaign you’re interested in planning, check out our campaign plan template for guidance on organizing your campaign and objectives. Contact your Global HQ team member so they can help you plan out your next campaign!
SSDP’s Action Center is where we list our U.S. federal and state priorities. SSDP advocates for drug policy reform on multiple fronts, including marijuana legalization, reducing and eliminating mandatory minimums, stopping the aerial crop eradication of coca in South America, and more. Use our EveryAction links to contact your representatives in less than 30 seconds, and share with members of your chapter! You can see more regarding our federal policy priorities here.
While the movement to reform drug policy has made major strides in the last twenty years, rates of preventable drug overdose deaths continue to climb year after year and more than 360,000 people remain incarcerated for drug penalties. Highly stigmatized drugs remain criminalized in 49 U.S. states, leaving behind the most marginalized people who use drugs. People who use drugs continue to be subject to police violence, incarceration, and lack adequate health care and community support.
The SSDP network saw a clear need for additional resources to empower harm reduction advocates to change local municipal level policies directly related to local issues like over-policing, student codes of conduct, and transitioning emergency services toward an approach of non-violence. This resolution is in service of supporting efforts by SSDP members, their families and allies toward articulating a vision for a post mass incarceration world.
Due to Students for Sensible Drug Policy reach across the U.S. and our chapter structure, SSDP is uniquely situated to make local policy change in multiple states and begin to directly end the War on Drugs by directing pressure at their town and county governments. The Resolution to Advance Sensible Drug Policy is an effort to equip all SSDP members with clear policy grounded in science, reason and compassion. This resolution empowers all SSDP members and their allies to further the movement to end the war on drugs in their local context, with support from an international movement. Leveraging the expertise of young people worldwide toward local policy change is where the SSDP network can be most effective.
SSDP has started Resolution campaigns in localities ranging from towns of 45,000 people to cities with over 8 million. If you are interested in considering passing a Resolution in your community, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and CC your outreach team member.
The U.S. Policy Council, made up of SSDP alumni, Board, team, and chapter members, sets SSDP's policy priorities and supports members with resources, advice, collaborative opportunities, and communicating policy priorities and activities to the network. The full Council meets at least once per month to share updates from issue groups, plan for future activities, review assignments, and discuss other matters before the committee. If you are interested in policy change and advocacy, we highly encourage you to join this Council! Email email@example.com to join the mailing list and get invites for Council meetings.
Issue groups are formed to work deeply on specific policy issues. Primary responsibilities include monitoring bills and public debate about the issue; creating, updating, and maintaining toolkits and other resources; and providing support to SSDP members and chapters interested in the issue. Issue groups can select to have lead members if desired. Issue groups are open to all SSDP members. If you are interested in any of these groups, please either email firstname.lastname@example.org or the individual groups using their email addresses.
Whether you are meeting with school administrators or elected officials, lobbying is a crucial step towards policy change. Lobbying is a mixture between policy and politics. It is scrutinized heavily and demands a lot of work, but is the most effective form of interaction with elected officials that will yield results in influencing public policy. Here are just a few tips to ensure your chapter lobbies efficiently and effectively.
For more information about lobbying, check out our expanded Lobbying Toolkit
LIFE BEYOND YOUR CHAPTER
One of the greatest things about being a part of SSDP is getting connected to our global network of fellow members and alumni. Working with other chapters is a great way to meet your own policy goals, and engaging with some of SSDP’s various committees and programs can help guide you towards more specific resources on your drug policy interests. Your Global HQ team member can help connect you with chapters both near and far.
The Intersectionality Committee is a committee comprised of SSDP team, Board members, students, alumni, & community members dedicated to ensure SSDP builds an inclusive movement and that our work to end the War on Drugs is done through an intersectional framework. Additionally, the Intersectionality Committee strives to remove barriers and identify opportunities for more intentional inclusion, and provide resources to our network to strengthen our understanding of the intersectional nature of the global War on Drugs.
We will create welcoming, open, and safe spaces for all participants in our global movement to ensure the perspectives of directly impacted individuals are centered and represented. We will provide recognition of individuals’ lived experiences, i.e. first-hand accounts and impressions of life as a member of marginalized groups around the world.
We will identify and seek to break down barriers preventing marginalized individuals from participating in SSDP events, actions, organizing and advocacy work.
We will strive to ensure SSDP events, including conferences, provide a welcoming environment for current and potential members. We will be intentional about making SSDP events and spaces accessible to people who are disabled.
SSDP team and Board will hold ourselves accountable to dismantling structural racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression through addressing bigotry and discrimination within our network and the movement at large.
Intersectionality Committee meets by conference call monthly. Contact the SSDP team liaison, Carmen Jackman, at email@example.com if you're interested in getting involved.
The Internetwork Collaboration Committee (ICC) serves as a space for SSDP members to receive support from peers on projects related to the needs or interests of the SSDP network. While the ICC is not responsible for the success or failure of a working group, the committee will provide working groups with support to execute their project(s). The ICC will provide liaisons to working groups to help SSDP members facilitate successful working group projects. Working groups may be started with at least one member. ICC will also serve as the hub for SSDP Ambassadors, and will hold a space to provide trainings, resource development, and social events that are open to the whole network.
The specific responsibilities of the Internetwork Collaboration Committee include:
The Internetwork Collaboration Committee meets at least once a month or when necessary at the call of the Committee Chair. Working groups will also meet at least once a month or when necessary at the call of the Working Group Director or Committee Chair. Meeting dates and times should be specified no less than one week in advance. For more details and meeting times, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
SSDP believes that members should be an important part of any campus/community prevention and intervention strategy. Just Say Know seeks to empower members in our network to analyze the relationship between drug policy and drug use by providing evidence-based drug information, teaching peers to recognize and address dangerous behaviors and unhealthy attitudes, and promoting prosocial and harm reduction oriented behaviors and attitudes.
SSDP is in a uniquely qualified position to do so because:
LIFE AFTER SSDP
As chapter leaders, one of your primary responsibilities is to make sure that your chapter lasts after you graduate. For chapters based out of schools, recruiting freshmen and sophomore students is a key part of this. Keep an eye out for active members with leadership potential and encourage them to take on a leadership role in the chapter. Get these chapter members in touch with your Global HQ team member so they can establish a relationship.
For many chapters, leadership transitions take place toward the end of a semester (when officer elections occur), but it can happen suddenly, gradually, or at any time. If someone is the perfect fit to be the next chapter leader, let them know explicitly by saying, “Based on your passion, attention to detail, and ability to execute, I can really see you as the next chapter leader.”
There are many other “torches” to be passed that lie outside of primary chapter leader responsibilities. Anytime senior chapter members have mastered a task, the next step should be to transfer that knowledge to new members and encourage them to take ownership of that task moving forward. If only one person in your chapter knows how to log into your SSDP Google account, use the Chapter Activity Tracker, reserve rooms on campus, or fill out the forms you need to maintain your RSO status on campus, this is your cue to transfer that knowledge to at least one additional person! The ultimate goal is for everyone in your chapter to be engaged in continual learning and personal growth. A good way to do this is to have outgoing chapter executives document their SSDP experience, so there are notes to pass along to future chapter leaders.
Bonus: Check out Rochester University SSDP’s Leadership Transition Checklist for additional transition information.
SSDP Style Guide
The style guide helps align SSDP materials along a set of standards that are universally applied throughout all chapters. When producing SSDP materials for your chapter, please follow this set of guidelines to aid in the presentation of SSDP content. While we encourage your chapter to be creative when designing advocacy materials, remaining on-brand is important because it establishes strong ties between the chapters in our network, presents a unified image of SSDP to decision makers and supporters, and helps us add a level of professionalism to our work.
634 U, 7698 C
7408 U, 1375 C
71, 0, 33, 0
7472 U or 7471 U (light)
225, 4, 40
99, 100, 103
4, 3, 0, 60
Montserrat, in all caps, is used for document titles, section titles, and occasionally in other design elements.
Open Sans is used for all other text.
Text should generally be left-aligned. In limited presentations, text may be right-aligned or justified. Text should never be centered.
All SSDP logos are available on our website at ssdp.org/resources/materials. If you would like to make a logo for your chapter, please email your Global HQ team member and CC email@example.com. Preferred logos are:
Old logos, reformatted logos, and other iterations of the SSDP logo are not approved.
ENGAGING WITH MEDIA
Media -- both on and off-campus -- is a great tool to use in order to get the word out about your chapter’s activities, as well as help your policy change efforts. This section will cover various forms of media you can utilize.
If you are contacted by a national reporter or major news outlet for an interview, it is important that you first contact your Global HQ team member before replying to the reporter.
The easiest and single most effective media activity you can do is write letters to the editor (LTEs). Because LTEs are among the most widely-read parts of newspapers and are always read by decision makers, many people will learn about SSDP’s issues every time you get a letter published. LTEs are generally 150-300 words long, so once your research is complete, writing a letter is fast. Take a look at a copy of the paper before you start writing so you can see what kind of letters they usually publish, and be sure to check for print guidelines. Always include your full contact information (name, phone number, address, and organizational affiliation) below your letter so the paper can confirm your identity. Your chances of publication will be greater if you are writing in response to a timely news story or a previously published article, editorial, column, Op-Ed, or another LTE. If you’re writing in response to a previous piece, you can dispute or elaborate on a point that was made, or highlight some aspect of the issue that wasn’t covered. You usually have a better chance of being published if you live in the geographical area being covered by the paper, but local papers often print LTEs from people outside of their immediate readership areas. Once a letter is written, you can alter it slightly and send it to several papers, multiplying your effectiveness with just a little more effort. However, you should avoid sending the exact same letter to more than one paper in a given geographical area. Read more about LTES here.
Op-Eds are opinion pieces from outside writers that are selected for publication by newspapers. Op-Eds are longer than LTEs, usually 600-800 words. As opposed to LTEs, papers usually only accept Op-Eds from “important people,” such as heads of organizations, public officials, celebrities, and experts. You can easily make the case that you do have special expertise on the issue because you are a student advocate affected by the policy about which you’re writing. However, you may have to ghostwrite a piece for someone else to sign, depending on the newspaper. For example, you may want to think about asking a professor, student government leader, your college president, or someone directly affected by drug policies to edit and sign an Op-Ed that you’ve drafted from their perspective.
Newspapers’ editorial boards frequently take official positions on matters of public policy. As activists, we can influence editorial boards to write in favor of drug policy reform. This is especially easy on campus. Get to know the editors of your campus paper and provide information about issues they care about. You can also influence off-campus papers to write favorable editorials. Put together a concise and captivating email pitch and follow up with phone calls. At some papers, the editorial board may request that you meet with them in person to lobby for your position. Bring some concise printed materials to leave behind. Also consider bringing someone who has been individually affected by the War on Drugs to show the personal importance of reform.
When doing interviews, remember that anything you say can be quoted! Take some time to prepare in advance and nail down your core talking points. Stick to these during the interview.
It is ok to admit when you do not know something. Never make up an answer or lie to a reporter. Instead, pledge to find the answer and get back to them later. Don’t get bogged down in small and boring details unless a reporter asks for more in-depth information. Speak slowly and clearly while delivering sound bites and answering questions. Dress conservatively, especially for TV interviews. You don’t want to go through all the trouble of setting up an interview and then alienate the audience with your appearance.
Make sure you have an idea of the length of the interview so that you can go through your bullet points and highlight the most important sub-points. If you have less time to answer interview questions than you anticipated, you will still be able to communicate your point effectively.
Always answer a related question you wanted to be asked as opposed to the exact question you are asked. Good interviewers will recognize that you are doing this and see it as a sign of experience. This often leads the interviewer to give you more time to answer. Don't be afraid to use language like “I've heard that question asked before but the more compelling and important question in terms of student safety is ...".
Focus on the safety of young people. When asked specifically about drug use, if all of your answers focus on student safety, then listeners or viewers will be less inclined to incorrectly suspect that your agenda is promoting drug use.
Reporters write articles for a living – it’s their job. They’re looking for interesting things to write about, and we have interesting things to tell them, so don’t be afraid to reach out and pitch stories. After an interview, always follow up with reporters promptly if you promised to get them more information. After a piece is published, send a short note or make a quick phone call to thank a reporter for writing a fair and balanced article, or to politely point out any gross inaccuracies or glaring omissions that you noticed. Once you’ve worked with a reporter, try to maintain the relationship. Let them know when you’ve got something new going on. If you have business cards (which you can purchase on the CAT Store!), be sure to give one to a reporter you talk to.
There may come a time when your school or a member of your SSDP chapter becomes the focus of media attention. This can happen as a result of a drug-related arrest, student overdose on drugs (including alcohol), or changes in school policy related to drugs including alcohol. Such events, particularly those not resulting in tragedy, can provide a compelling opportunity to talk about why bad drug policy is more dangerous than drugs themselves, but are rife with potential problems for even the most experienced advocacy and media relations professionals. SSDP was founded in part to help protect young people from the harms that can be associated with drug use and overly punitive drug policies and our global team is trained to help you in the event you or the members in your chapter are in need of support.
If there is a crisis situation, as described above, make sure to let your Global HQ team member know right away (once everyone is safe, of course). If you have trouble contacting your SSDP team member, you can call the Global HQ emergency hotline at 1-202-393-5280 and choose extension 9 to be connected to any member of the team. Be sure to communicate to your chapter members that they should call you in the event of a crisis and that they too can contact the global team for support in crisis situations (once everyone is safe).
In the event that a crisis situation occurs, DO NOT speak to the media unless and until you have received direct instructions from the SSDP team to make an appropriate statement. It is important that you also instruct your chapter members not to make any statements to the media, as such statements could prove problematic for students involved in the situation.
In this section, you will find some tools & resources that will help your chapter with all of the things listed in this manual. Many of these are also included as physical copies in SSDP care packages. All SSDP chapters are free to use these materials. If you would like to get creative and come up with some of your own original chapter materials, go for it! We only ask that you stay on brand with SSDP and follow the guidelines outlined in our style guide.
Sign-up Sheet. You can use this for tabling, meetings, events, and just about everything else you do as a chapter to collect contact info of interested students. Make sure someone in your chapter is responsible for adding sign-ups to your mailing list.
Just Say Know Fact Sheet. A one-page review of SSDP’s Peer Education Program, Just Say Know. Have this handy when tabling so you can show people how SSDP engages in drug education, or print out multiple copies to hand out.
The War on Drugs is a War on Ideology. This two-sided page explains how the War on Drugs is a war on both progressive values and conservative values.
List of SSDP Campaigns. Another great thing to put out while tabling in case anyone asks what kind of campaigns SSDP works on.
Sample Budget. Your budget will obviously be different than this one, but if you’ve never written a budget before, this is a good example to start from. Keep in mind that in order to apply for school funding, you may be required to submit a budget in a specific format provided by the school.
Roster Template. Use this template when submitting your chapter roster to your Global HQ team member.
Slack - email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to join our Slack channel
The Movement - A short film on the 2016 UNGASS made by members of University of Copenhagen SSDP
Drug Reform, Students, and the 2016 Election - Panel of SSDP staff, students, and alumni at the 2016 New Hampshire Primary Student Convention
Youth Coalition Statement at the 59th CND (2016) - Intervention from the floor by SSDP Board member Sara Velimirovic at the 59th CND in Vienna
Alternative Global Youth Coalition Consultation - Statement from SSDP and our global allies that describes our recommendations for the UNGASS
Are Drug Policies Protecting Youth? - Side event with CSSDP and Youth Rise at the 59th CND in Vienna
Protecting Youth from Drug Policy - Side event with CSSDP and SSDP UK at the 58th CND in Vienna