Train Campaign Tools & Materials
This toolkit was developed to help other grassroots rail initiatives. It is a work in progress, and questions and comments are welcome.
First, a note about nonprofit status and pricing. The Barrington Institute is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization and therefore donations to the Train Campaign, its main current project, are tax-deductible, as are many of our purchases. This status sometimes entitles us to a discounted price on services and subscriptions. To establish a nonprofit entity generally requires a lawyer and costs several thousand dollars. It does, however, make it possible to get reduced prices on some equipment and services, and to apply to charitable grants and funds such as Amazon Smile. We have specified when a service we use has nonprofit pricing.
What if you are just thinking about starting a passenger rail campaign? Feel free to use any ideas you glean from our work and history. Here are what we consider the essential first steps, before you start making use of the tools listed below:
- Build an email list of everyone who might possibly be interested and everyone you have a connection with, in Excel or similar: First Name, Last Name, Organization if any, Email, Town.
- Research train service, past and present, in your area. Get some data. The maps on our website will be helpful to you as a starting point, and definitely look at the Open Railway Map to see exactly what’s going on in your region.
- Write an email explaining your idea and providing some background information from your research. Ask them to respond with statements of interest, questions, comments.
- If interest merits it, arrange a meeting and get someone knowledgeable about rail to join (online makes that easier). This is where you’ll begin to put together a working group or committee or board.
- Then you choose a name, set up a website etc. You may be able to piggyback on the Train Campaign in some way, too.
And do sign up for our newsletters and check out our podcasts!
Note: We may receive small commission payments when you click our links and make purchases, but we only recommend products we use ourselves and truly like.
WordPress.com – website services
Like many companies, we use the free open-source website platform WordPress. Our web hosting space is provided by Berkshire Publishing Group, but there is an option to host a site at WordPress.com, too. There are many other options for setting up a website, some of them easier to use, but WordPress gives us a wide variety of options and integrates well with other services we use.
Mailchimp.com – email communication
Mailchimp is a well-known email management system that synchronizes with WordPress and other apps. Nonprofits get a 15% discount, and Mailchimp is free if you have a mailing list under 2,000. (We used the free version for years.)
Canva.com – graphic design tool
This is a terrific online graphic design program that makes it possible for someone with a good eye and reasaonable tech skills, but no graphic design training, to create professional looking graphic elements. We consider it essential, and there is a special nonprofit rate.
Maps are extremely important in communicating about train service. We use the following:
- Google Maps
- GISCorps volunteers
PayPal, Donorbox, Stripe – donation systems
These payment system make it easy for people to support an organization, and they are relatively easy to set up with a bank account number. Nonprofit status means a lower commission charge.
Idealist.org – staff and volunteer recruitment
We have used Idealist to recruit our excellent summer interns. Nonprofit organizations only.
Amazon Smile charity link
Use this link when you purchase from Amazon (if you do – we’ll understand if you do not!): https://smile.amazon.com/ch/20-1670260
Train Campaign Graphics
We’re happy to share design components and the files for our promotional and educational materials. If you use them, we’d appreciate a line of credit on your website.
Click here to access a folder with logos, banners, bumperstickers, mailing labels, and more. They are in various formats, including jpg, png, pdf, and Adobe Illustrator. We will be adding more of the individual elements, and hope be able to share our designs and illustrations on Canva.com for others to adapt.
If you have questions, please drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org