Start A Chapter

Guiding Principle:  For the LGBT community and our straight allies to be recognized as a critical voting bloc in Democratic politics.

The following should be included as goals of any Stonewall Democrats chapter:

  • Educate Democratic candidates and elected officials on issues important to the LGBT community
  • Educate the LGBT and pro-equality ally community about the vast differences that exist between the two major parties on issues of concern to the LGBT community
  • Encourage the LGBT community and its allies to participate in the campaigns of Democratic candidates and at all levels of the Democratic Party
  • Screen and endorse fair-minded Democratic candidates who are running for public office
  • Financially support pro-equality Democratic campaigns or candidates
  • Maximize LGBT voter turnout in the local community
  • Build coalitions with other progressive groups to give the local chapter a more powerful voice, shared resources and improved legitimacy

Steps to Starting a Chapter

  1. Contact National Stonewall Democrats (NSD), 1325 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Suite 700, Washington, D.C. 20005.  Phone Number:  (202) 625-1382. Website:  www.stonewalldemocrats.org.   Contact NSD Executive Director, Jerame Davis, at jdavis@stonewalldemocrats.org or at the phone number above to let him know of your interest in starting a chapter and how NSD can be of assistance.  Under the new NSD bylaws adopted at the National Stonewall Democrats convention in Denver in late August, 2008, a chapter must consist of at least 25 dues-paying members and contribute an annual $100 affiliation fee to NSD in order to officially become an affiliate chapter of NSD.  However, NSD  is not currently enforcing the annual affiliation fee, and expects each club to share $10 of each member's dues with NSD.   NSD will also grant an exemption to the 25 minimum membes for the first year as the new chapter  seeks to accumulate the minimum 25 members.  There is a guide on how to start a local chapter on the NSD website.
  2. Contact us, Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus (TSDC) for any information and resources you may need to get started by using our contact form.  A Executive Board member may be able to travel to your community and meet with you personally.  In order for a chapter to have representation on the TSDC Executive Board, it must have adopted bylaws, elected officers and have a minimum of 10 dues-paying members ($5 per new and renewing member ($2.50 for Stonewall Young Democrats affiliates) payable to TSDC) and must have registered itself as a general-purpose political committee or PAC with the Texas Ethics Commission.
  3. Form a Steering Committee to start the brainstorming process.  Select 3-7 people to serve on the Steering Committee which functions as the core group, contacting state and local party organizations to let them know of the chapter-in-formation and crafting a mission and goals for your organization.  Do NOT collect funds of $500 or more during this initial stage
  4. Draft Bylaws for your organization.  Do NOT incorporate as a non-profit corporation.  Include dues structure in the Bylaws that will accommodate sending $10 to NSD and $5 (2.50 for Stonewall Young Democrats chapters) to the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus.  Most chapters charge annual dues of $35 to include those dues shares to NSD and TSDC.  Include standing committees on membership, communication, voter registration and mobilization, endorsement, political relations and finance.  Provide for Executive Committee or Board of Directors consisting of officers and committee chairs.
  5. Hold an Organizational Meeting where you adopt your bylaws and elect your first set of officers.  Publicize widely the date and location of your organizational meeting and invite supportive elected officials to attend and verbally offer their support for your new chapter's efforts.   Afterward, notify both NSD and TSDC that you are officially "in business" as a chapter.  Your newly elected President and Vice President (or Co-Chairs) will automatically become members of the TSDC Executive Board.
  6. File Appointment of Campaign Treasurer with the Texas Ethics Commission as a general purpose political committee or state PAC.  This will enable you to begin soliciting contributions in excess of $500 immediately and to make political expenditures of $500 or more after (a) your Appointment of Campaign Treasurer has been on file for 60 days and (b) you have accepted contributions from at least 10 persons.  Visit www.ethics.state.tx.us and click on "Political Committees".  There is legal liability attached to this requirement, particularly for your Treasurer, so please read the Political Committee Guide carefully.
  7. Hold regular monthly meetings, preferably with a guest speaker to attract attendees.  Try and find a local LGBT-friendly restaurant as a place to meet and where attendees can socialize over food.
  8. Publicize your meetings and activities.
  9. Develop Standing Rules or Policies Regarding Endorsement of Candidates.
  10. Set up database of your members that includes contact information and e-mail addresses that can be shared with NSD and TSDC along with payment of dues shares to those organizations.
  11. Invite every new member to get involved as a precinct chair, campaign volunteer or chapter committee member.
  12. Fundraise so that your chapter will have the money to make an impact in terms of campaign contributions, elections, sending out meeting notices, publishing a newsletter and pay other chapter expenses.
  13. Hold at least one free social event each year for your members (e.g., holiday party).
  14. Build relationships and coalitions with other progressive groups (e.g., NAACP, LULAC, women's organizations, other LGBT organizations, environmental groups, local Democratic Party, etc.).  This will add legitimacy to your chapter by taking an interest in "issues" other than our own and getting these groups to "join your cause" when you need them and to share resources.
  15. Develop a media strategy that includes contacts with the local press, both LGBT and straight.  Find someone in your chapter who has the writing skills to draft press releases.
  16. Establish a website for your chapter that includes social networking capabilities (e.g., Facebook).
  17. In all things, strive for diversity in your organization so that your chapter reflects the racial/ethnic, gender and other demographics in your area.