This Week: LGBT University Apprentices Convene in Philadelphia to Learn Campaign Strategies

By Adam Polaski • April 14, 2016 • 11:34 am

All this week in Philadelphia, Freedom for All Americans is hosting a week-long nondiscrimination campaign training in Philadelphia through LGBT-University. The trainings are part of a year-long apprenticeship program that includes additional in-person sessions and monthly coaching for participants to ensure they build tools, experience, and connections in order to win nondiscrimination campaigns. FFAA launched LGBT-University last year. It is the only innovative training program of its kind that cultivates the next wave of LGBT movement leaders to spearhead nondiscrimination work at the municipal, state, and national levels.


The Program

Two separate cohorts convened in Philadelphia this week. The first cohort of LGBT-U apprentices began the program last summer and are convening for a second time this weekend, Friday through Sunday, for a weekend-long campaign simulation. The new cohort of LGBT-U apprentices arrived on Monday and left on Friday, and they were coached through all areas of LGBT nondiscrimination campaigns, from fundraising to messaging research to communications strategies.

Katie Belanger, Chief Operations Officer at Freedom for All Americans and Director of LGBT-University, said this week:

“With legislative fights on nondiscrimination ramping up in so many states, it’s more important than ever to ensure that the LGBT movement is fully equipped with leaders who are prepared to win. LGBT University provides an important opportunity for the next wave of advocates to gain experience and trainings on the full range of strategies and tactics that it will take to ensure comprehensive nondiscrimination protections. This week’s trainings offer crucial education and intensive preparation in order to move the needle forward on additional victories as soon as possible.”

The sessions covered topics such as a writing a campaign plan, developing and managing a budget, fundraising, messaging and public speaking, policy briefings and lobbying tactics, transgender organizing, field and modeling, managing staff, and more.

The Participants:


The second cohort of LGBT-U Apprentices, who convened this week in Philadelphia, hail from all over the country and are ready for the fight for comprehensive non-discrimination.

The apprentices include current and prospective nondiscrimination campaign managers and organizers who represent racial, geographic, gender and age diversity, many of whom have experience in the LGBT movement in some capacity or on electoral campaigns. Presenters include scholars, lawyers, seasoned campaign managers, political operatives, and LGBT movement leaders.

Read Q&As with some of the first cohort of LGBT University apprentices here:

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On Friday, both cohorts were able to come together for a lunch to share their experiences and broaden the community of LGBT University.


The Practice:

All week, LGBT-U apprentices have been getting hands-on experience in Philadelphia, deepening what they already know and implementing the skills they’re learning about during information sessions and lectures during the day. On Wednesday, for example, after learning about the importance of business voices in the fight for LGBT non-discrimination, the apprentices took to the streets of Philadelphia to canvass for small business support with Pennsylvania Competes, the campaign to win full LGBT non-discrimination in Pennsylvania.

The apprentices were divided into teams.


We followed around two apprentices, Jenn Curtin and Roland Leggett, to see the curriculum in action. Jenn and Roland canvassed the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood of Philadelphia, making contacts with local businesses and asking them to sign on as coalition partners for Pennsylvania Competes. Nearly 1,000 businesses have already done so. They had a strong conversation with a hat store, whose managers expressed strong support for non-discrimination.


Jenn and Roland successfully signed on three businesses – including a frame store, a coffee shop, and a caterer.





At the end of the activity, Jenn and Roland met back up with their other team members. Together, the five team members – who also included Tan Truong, Rebecca Kling, and Steven Morris – signed up six new businesses in an hour.

Learn more about Freedom for All Americans’ LGBT University program by going to

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