July 11, 2013

Students For Sensible Drug Policy Releases Its Organizational Objectives

July 11, 2013
students for sensible drug policy ssdp

students for sensible drug policy ssdpI received the following e-mail from Students for Sensible Drug Policy. I’m encouraging all readers to make a donation to SSDP, as they are the most amazing organization out there and they have always been my favorite:

Ending the War on Drugs is a big job. Do you ever wonder how organizations like SSDP tackle such a gargantuan task? Maybe you’ve heard this saying that we use here in our office that sums it up:

How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.

It’s hard to distill into a concrete one year plan outlining our goals and priorities, but we’re no strangers to hard work. Making change happen involves the nitty gritty details of bringing people together at regional and international events, mentoring and developing young leaders, pushing the policy envelope, staying connected with alumni, educating communities about harm reduction, raising money, and of course supporting and expanding our chapter network — just to name a few.

Each year, the Students for Sensible Drug Policy board, staff, and selected students and alumni come together for an in-person “Strategy Summit.” We just concluded this year’s summit where we talked about the direction of the organization and came to conclusions on our plan for the upcoming year.

This plan is finalized as our 2013-2014 SSDP Organizational Objectives, and I’m proud to share this with you.

SSDP Organizational Objectives

July 1, 2013 – June 30, 2014


Expanding our reach.
We will expand our network to more than 200 chapters and 3,000 active members in the United States. We will provide resources and support to our international chapter network.

Bringing people together.
Our staff will utilize professional best practices in event planning, execution and evaluation. We will continue to work with local chapters to host regional conferences-each attended by an average of 50 participants-in 6 locations during the Spring 2014 semester. Additionally, we will begin planning to host an international conference and lobby day in the fall of 2014 in Washington DC with 500 attendees.

Strengthening the network.
At least 250 students will participate in at least one interactive skills building webinar. Additionally, 250 students will receive one-on-one support provided by our outreach staff.

Increasing meaningful youth involvement.

We will effectively utilize our special consultative status with the United Nations to ensure that the drug policy reform movement is represented in General Assembly meetings and other related events. We will continue to facilitate active youth participation at critical conferences and events, such as the Drug Policy Alliance’s biennial Reform Conference.

Creating safe spaces and fostering diversity.
We will create a welcoming, open, and safe space for all stakeholders, including those that stand in conflict on other issues, and work to ensure that a wide range of perspectives are represented. We will actively seek out opportunities for collaboration with other organizations, including non-drug policy reform groups and those beyond our traditional allies. The Outreach, Recruitment and Diversity Committee will create and/or compile resources to assist chapters navigating diversity issues on their campuses, which staff will make accessible to chapters. We will also make every attempt to ensure that SSDP-sponsored events, including conferences, provide a non-threatening environment for all of our members and potential members and strive to provide recognition of all lived experiences.

Relationship building.
We will also collaborate with groups from across the political spectrum and non-drug policy reform groups to spread our message of reform. Our staff will take advantage of opportunities to network with allies.


Engaging our supporters.
We will actively engage our supporter base through regular and carefully curated email contact. All staff will be involved in the cycle of fundraising, including asking for donations in person, involving donors, and thanking them. We will seize compelling opportunities to address audiences concerning drug policy reform and to engage in public debates.

AMPLIFYing our message.
Through a partnership between SSDP and the music community (the AMPLIFY project), SSDP students will reach out at concerts and music festivals to recruit new supporters, provide on-site harm reduction, and spread the message of drug policy reform.

Speaking truth to power.
A majority of our chapters will meet with an elected or appointed official concerning drug policy reform. Our students will be invited to provide oral or written testimony before local, state or federal legislative committees at least 15 times.

Pushing the policy envelope.
We will provide our membership with timely opportunities to take action on state and federal level legislation. Through our online action center, we will generate thousands of communications to government officials. Our staff will publish and maintain data on campus drug policies and Call 911 Good Samaritan policies to serve as expert resources on these issues. We will mentor and guide our students through the leadership pipeline and encourage them to volunteer or work for state-level drug policy reform campaigns.

Saving lives through harm reduction.
We will encourage students to educate their communities and campuses about harm reduction policies and services. Twenty-five percent of active chapters will work together with campus and community officials towards changing or enacting campus drug and alcohol policies, such as enacting Call 911 Good Samaritan policies.

Educating students.
We will provide students with a rich menu of activities to undertake, including promoting harm reduction/overdose prevention practices, teaching students their constitutional rights, changing marijuana and other drug prohibition policies to be more sensible and less punitive, international drug policy, racial justice, civil rights, human rights and providing evidence-based drug education.

Highlighting our students and their work.
The foundation, our chapters, and students will be positively highlighted in hundreds of media reports.

Executing strategic interventions.
The national staff will leverage high-level contacts within the White House and Congress to assist with legislative strategy, bill drafting, and opportunities for executive branch administrative action when compelling opportunities for change arise.


Bolstering our brand.
We will present a strong, unified, and professional brand to the public. Our website will remain functional and content will be up to date. Our online presence will continue to grow, our Facebook likes will exceed 42,000. Our website will receive more than 145,000 unique visitors and 315,000 pageviews. Additionally, our total YouTube views will surpass 2 million, and Twitter followers will grow from 9,069 to over 12,000.

Growing our capacity.
We will increase our email supporters from 194,716 to over 210,000. Through our membership program, we will enroll more than 33 new monthly donors, resulting in at least $13,330 in total annual revenue. Additionally, online donations will increase from $39,055 (non-conference income) in 2012, to more than $50,000 through strategic fundraising drives including “back to school” and “graduation.” Major individual and foundation grants will increase 20% from $454,000 to $544,800. Each of our student and non-student board members will raise at least $1,000 per year. Board members will seek training in fundraising fundamentals. Our foundation will receive major donations for general operating support from two foundation grantors who have never given to SSDP before. We will aim to diversify our sources of funding so that no more than one third of our funding comes from any single source. Through careful monitoring of data, we will optimize our communication tactics to ensure more meaningful contact with our supporters.

Empowering young people.
We will connect our students and alumni with opportunities for professional development, including employment with allied organizations. In an effort to show SSDP’s broad reach, we will stay engaged with our alumni and publicize a list of where they work.


Defining high-quality activists and chapters.
Overall, a majority of our chapters will be high-quality, meaning the chapter fulfills at least half of the following criteria: (1) recruits at least five students each semester; (2) proactively sends SSDP headquarters their chapter information, such as rosters, at least twice per semester; (3) recruits and trains at least two officers each semester; (4) hosts chapter meetings at least once per month, including at least one educational event per semester; (5) provides harm reduction training and information to their community; (6) conducts tabling outreach at least once per semester; (7) attends at least one SSDP national or regional event per year; (8) maintains an online network (such as a Facebook group) for the SSDP chapter; (9) effectively manages its affairs through communication and delegation; and (10) builds meaningful relationships with at least three other campus organizations and/or administrators.

Managing to change the world.
We will be well managed. The board of directors will hold itself accountable for carrying out their responsibilities. Staff will feel appreciated and will be fairly compensated; salaries and benefits will be competitive with organizations of similar size and scope. Staff will be given regular and prompt feedback about their performance, both regarding what they do well and where they need to improve. Additionally, staff members’ performance will be formally reviewed each quarter. Expectations will be clearly set and understood and deadlines normally met. Staff will proactively communicate and respond promptly to the board. Staff will quantify organizational accomplishments. Conflicting priorities will be addressed and readjusted as needed. Staff will seek to improve their professional abilities and proactively seek new opportunities for growth. SSDP’s supporter data will be up to date on a weekly basis. We will provide a robust and meaningful internship experience, by ensuring interns have ownership over projects, regular feedback, and access to unique opportunities outside of the day-to-day functions of the organization. We will make every effort to capture and maintain institutional knowledge.

Staying sensible.
Our organization will prioritize stability, ensuring that when expansion does occur, it is managed responsibly. Our staff will embody a culture of excellence that emphasizes going above and beyond to reflect the following core values: efficiency, transparency, humility, optimism, inclusiveness, light-heartedness, diligence, objectivity, and consistency.


If you’re as excited as I am to put this plan into action, please consider making a donation to help support our work. And as always, thank you for your support.


Aaron Houston
Executive Director
Students for Sensible Drug Policy


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