Why start a Bastiat Society chapter?
About Our Audience
The Bastiat Society’s target audience is the business community – a highly leveraged, influential, and engaged audience. Apart from being active in the Bastiat Society, our members sit on various boards and government panels, and are often involved with several civic groups, trade associations, and fraternal organizations at the same time. Some of whom will go on to being major philanthropists. Indeed, the lifetime value of a single Bastiat Society participant to the entire “freedom movement” is nearly incalculable.
The problem is, of all the potential audiences, the business community is among the hardest to reach. They have companies to run, employees to take care of, and families who deserve their attention. Therefore, the typical business person has limited spare time and is reluctant to take on additional commitments. Yet, business men and women also have the most to lose if capitalism is undermined and economic freedom is replaced by central planning and more government intervention.
But how can traditional think-tanks and foundations get business people involved in a meaningful way - besides simply asking them for donations? This has been a problem facing the “liberty movement” for nearly 60 years.
The Bastiat Society: A different kind of think-tank
It is extremely hard to engage the business community using the traditional think-tank model. This is because the business community is dispersed around the globe, while most think-tanks are located in Washington, D.C., London, or some other capital city. The average business person is simply not going to travel thousands of miles to attend a weekend conference, book release, or evening lecture at the think-tank or foundation. On the other hand, it’s costly for institutions to take their programs “on the road,” so when they do, their events are normally designed as fundraisers for existing donors with deep pockets. Not exactly the best way to attract new people to our movement.
The Bastiat Society takes a different approach. We looked at how other successful business groups operated, like the: Rotary Club, Stone Masons, Chamber of Commerce, and Exchange Club. These organizations flourish because they are bottom-up, and rely on local stakeholders to execute their mission. With this in mind, we developed a similar, dispersed, operating structure.
In fact, the Bastiat Society is not really a think-tank at all. We do not produce academic articles, books, films, or studies. Those things already exist – in abundance. Instead, we limit ourselves to the difficult task of getting business people together to hear about these ideas and the projects think-tanks are working on. You might say, we are a distribution network for free-market ideas.
Our network of chapters allows academics, authors, and think-tank leaders from around the world to visit with the business community without having to plan remote meetings, find local audiences, and promote events in distant cities. From our point-of-view, our chapter directors can focus on hosting their regular meetings, leaving think-tanks to do what they do best.
How We Help Our Chapters
The Bastiat Society operates like a franchise. Our chapter directors run their chapters independently, designing their own programs, and raising their own funds. However, they benefit from the Bastiat Society’s branding, marketing efforts, media, and exposure. They also have access to a support system aimed at helping them start, operate, and grow their local chapters. Taking advantage of our website, interactive speaker bureau, international directory of free-market think-tanks, a growing list of strategic partnerships, and our pre-designed “SpotLight programs,” new chapters are immediately plugged into the existing (and expansive) free market community. As a chapter leader, you can quickly begin booking speakers, planning meetings, and soliciting memberships with the power of our brand behind you.
Again, our goal is to let our chapter leaders focus on their local meeting only. And while you concentrate on your local effort, the International Office is constantly promoting the Bastiat Society brand, representing the network at conferences and trade-shows around the world, searching for new speakers, making new connections, and negotiating new opportunities for the entire network to take advantage of.
Beyond the resources we provide, the network itself has become an invaluable resource for chapter directors wanting to learn from past experiences and share best-practices and information. To build on this aspect of the Society, we host multiple Director Summits each year for chapter directors to brainstorm, share ideas, and learn how to be a more effective chapter leader.
Will You Take the Lead?
If there is one thing we’ve learned from our explosive growth, it's that our concept works.
Others said the business community was an impossible audience to organize, and they would not be interested in discussing academic ideas - but we continue to prove them wrong. In fact, because of the Bastiat Society, more business people are gathering to discuss capitalism and classical liberalism than ever before. We have accomplished something other, much larger, institutions have not been able to do – that is, enabling thousands of business men and women to gather at over 120 free-market meetings each year. And we continue to grow!
The hope is that, in the near future, there will be a Bastiat Society Chapter in every US city, and in every country around the world - expanding our message in a grassroots manner. We will be a wholesaler of liberty - making the ideas of liberty, the free market, and the morality of capitalism available to the everyday businessperson.
If your city does not already have a Bastiat Society chapter, there is certainly a business community ready and waiting for someone to take the lead. Will you be the person to start a chapter and help your local business community connect with the ideas of liberty?