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Transformational Organizing Conversations

NEA’s Guide to Recruiting Conversations
This guide will help you start recruitment conversations and connect with educators while highlighting all that NEA has to offer at the local, state and national level.
Published: April 1, 2024
This toolkit originally appeared on

How to use this toolkit

  • Don’t read the scripts in this guide verbatim. The most compelling way to get your colleagues to join is through a one-on-one conversation where you are engaging and listening authentically.  
  • Ask questions about the person and don’t be afraid to share a bit about yourself. Building a personal connection is the best way to recruit new members.  
  • Emphasize personal experience and local wins that your local association has delivered for members.  

Why Transformational Conversations

Thank you for taking the time to help build a stronger union.

When we speak up as part of our local union, we can win improvements to our daily lives, from higher salaries to protected planning time and guaranteed bathroom breaks. Each new member adds another voice to the millions of educators across the country working together to accomplish things one educator, one bus driver, one janitor, or even one district can’t.

One-on-one conversations are the most effective way to share the importance of membership to fellow educators. When members speak about how their local makes a difference in their own work, community, and personal lives, they are an influential force in building power in the union. 

By following the tips shared in this guide, you or your members will be able to communicate the transformational benefits of joining together as a union.

Preparing for Your Organizing Conversation

Preparing for Your Organizing Conversation

You do not have to have all the answers to questions from members and potential members, you can prepare for transformational organizing conversations and typical questions. 

Affirm, answer, and redirect (AAR) when possible. 

  • Affirm: Let them know you’re listening, you understand, and their feelings are valid. Don’t get mad at them—validate and educate them. 
  • Answer: Give a truthful, concise answer to the question. If you don’t know the answer, don’t guess. Tell them you’ll find out and get back to them. 
  • Redirect: Once you’ve answered the question, bring the conversation back to ask them to join membership. 

Facts to have on hand: 

  • Local leader names/association rep. names by worksite.
  • Dues information (per paycheck/month).
  • Committee & volunteer opportunities for members.
  • Resources available (worksite level, local level, state level, national level).
  • Political Action Committee or other electoral/legislative information.
  • Competing organization facts.

Conversation Cheat Sheet

Conversation Cheat Sheet

Starting the Conversation
  • I’m __________________. I’m an educator at ___________________, can I have a few minutes of your time? 
  • I’m here today as a member of _______________________, our local association for educators like you.  
Suggested Questions
  • How long have you been working here? How’s it going this year? 
  • What is one thing that you would change about your job? 
  • Are you familiar with _______________________?  
  • We have _____________________ members right here in _____________________ and are part of a national network with nearly three million members. 
  • Our local association is made up of educators like us, who band together to help give all of us a stronger voice that can be used to improve our daily lives and help you change things like______________________________________________________________. 
  • That starts with advocating for higher salaries and better working conditions for educators right here. 
Share Hope and Urgency

Together, we have worked with school administrators, school boards, and lawmakers from both political parties to: _____________________________________. 

For example: 

  • Improve healthcare benefits.  
  • Expand student loan forgiveness and repayment programs. 
  • Get duty-free lunches for educators.  
  • Improve the daily lives of educators so we are equipped to give students our best. 
Your Call to Action

Ask them to join their union! 

  • Being an educator is one of the hardest jobs in the world and it’s never been harder than right now. With more members like you, we’ll have a stronger collective voice that improves our daily lives so we can give students our best. Will you join ______________________________ as a member? 
Possible Follow Up
  • Do you know much about the benefits of being a member?  
  • In addition to giving us a stronger voice in important decisions that impact our daily lives, ___________________________ members receive comprehensive benefits including: 
  • Liability insurance to protect educators from false or unfair accusations 
  • Discounts on school-related items  
  • Professional learning resources and opportunities 
  • Are these things you could find helpful? 
  • Are these things you could find helpful? 

Sharing Union Wins

Sharing Your Union Wins 

It’s important to highlight the transformational power of union membership. Make sure to prepare several examples of ways educators have won positive changes through their union. If you are having a hard time shaping your stories of success, try using our BRAG formula!

B.R.A.G. Formula for Union Wins

BENEFITS:  What are the advantages of being a union member?  e.g.: collective voice 
RESOURCES:  How can/does the union support me in my work and professional life? 
ACHIEVEMENTS: What have we achieved that makes a difference in my professional life and the lives of the students I work with? What is the local/affiliate proud of? 
GOALS: What are we/should we be working to accomplish that will make a difference in my professional life and the lives of the students I work with? What is the local/affiliate working on? 

If you don’t yet have a concrete win (or can’t think of one), share the issues your union is working on now and how you plan to succeed. Remember, with more members, your union becomes more powerful and is better equipped to create change! 

Effective organizing should result in membership growth, increased engagement, expanding leadership, and real wins in the policies and practices that impact our members, our schools, our students and our communities—grounded in our values of equity, opportunity, and racial justice. 

Be a Better Listener


The majority of your time in an organizing conversation should be spent listening to the other person. Not only does this show them you (and your union) cares about them, it also helps you to understand the issues that they want to get involved in. This will make you more effective at convincing them to join the union and become a leader! 

Be a Better Listener:

Listen 80% of the time and talk 20% of the time.
Ask follow-up questions using “how”, “what”, or “why”.
Practice empathy. If someone is sharing something in their work environment that upsets them, acknowledge and respect their experiences.
Give your recruit time to think about and answer your questions.
Localize the conversation by talking about specific issues in your community and district.

Things to Avoid:

Don’t ask questions that are statements. For example, don’t ask questions like: “Don’t you think smaller class sizes would be better?”
Don’t answer a question if you don’t know the answer. It’s ok to tell your recruit that you don’t know and will get back to them.
Don’t make comprehensive union benefits the focal point of your conversation. Your conversations should be focused on the needs and concerns of the person you are recruiting.
Don’t overwhelm the person you are recruiting by listing all the issues that could be facing educators.

More Resources

You’re ready to get started!

Use the following tools to get more ideas for ways to engage in the transformational conversations that are at the center of growing our union and winning the changes educators need and our students deserve. 
educators at a table for collective bargaining

Let's Talk About Series

Looking for a way to start the conversation around membership? We’ve created tools and explainers about the issues our members care about most.
Two teachers walking down hallway

Year-Round Organizing Framework

NEA members and staff are working together to grow our union. Learn more about NEA's Year-Round Organizing Framework and the four seasonal campaigns.
union and collective bargaining art build

More Recruitment Resources

From sample email language to guides on how to talk about our Early Enrollment organizing, we have the tools you need to continue your recruitment outreach!

Speak Up For Students and Public Schools

When we act together and lift our voices together in unison, we can improve the lives of children.
Broken pencils

Together, we will claim victories for public education

Join thousands of your fellow Oregon educators in contributing monthly to OEA-PAC and make your voice heard!

Keeping the Promise of Quality Public Education

The Oregon Education Association (OEA) is a union committed to the cause of providing the basic right of great public education to every student. OEA represents about 41,000 educators working in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 public schools and community colleges. OEA’s membership includes licensed teachers and specialists, classified/education support professionals (ESPs), community college faculty, retired educators, and student members. OEA members also belong to the 3.2 million members of the National Education Association (NEA).